Delta Air Lines believes it will improve its net debt in the deal to acquire 40 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft and return 60 of its 50-seat CRJ200 jets to the manufacturer, airline executives say.

Delta has not yet decided whether the net result from the deal will go on the balance sheet of Delta or its regional partners, or whether to lease or own the new jets. But even if they are on Delta’s balance sheet, it will improve the net debt position overall, Delta CEO Richard Anderson and President Ed Bastian said Dec. 12 during the airline’s Investor Day.

“It pays for itself within three years, basically,” Bastian says. Anderson cites the “improvement in operating cash flow and the avoidance of all these maintenance overhauls” on the 50-seaters as the reason.

Delta plans to slash its 50-seater fleet to at least 125 aircraft by 2015, a move it says will save the airline $400-$500 million in maintenance costs over the next three years.