American Airlines Finally Unveils Plan to Retire Terrible 767s, Will Retain A330s Instead

Apr 10, 2018

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It’s no secret that American Airlines’ 767s offer one of the worst hard products in the carrier’s long-haul fleet. While the 2-3-2 seating arrangement in economy does provide economy passengers better seat width than other aircraft in the fleet, these aircraft lack power plugs and in-flight entertainment screens in economy. And the airline only just retrofitted these aircraft with streaming entertainment and internet connectivity — which is only useful to passengers who board with enough battery life.

Now, it looks like American Airlines has heard cries to ditch these old birds. In a Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K filed Tuesday morning, the world’s largest airline has quietly unveiled its new 767 retirement schedule — as well as a number of other changes.

Here are the highlights:

Retiring 767: The previous fleet plan had all 24 of these aircraft sticking around through at least end-of-year 2020. The new plan is to retire six of these aircraft in 2019, with another 13 retirements in 2020. That’ll leave just five in the fleet at the end of 2020, which will presumably be phased out in 2021.

Retaining 737-800: As part of the massive Dreamliner purchase, we learned that American Airlines was deferring 737 MAX deliveries. In a podcast about the decision, AA’s Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr explained that the airline would be keeping some older 737-800s around longer to make up for the deferred aircraft. Now we know the details of this: Instead of retiring 12 737-800 in 2019, AA will maintain its entire 737-800 fleet of 304 aircraft through the end of 2019. Retirements will begin in 2020 with 20 aircraft instead of the original plan to retire 33.

Slowing 737 MAX deliveries: We knew that AA would be deferring these new aircraft, but today we have solid numbers. Instead of 20 deliveries in 2020, AA will take just 10 new aircraft.

Keeping the A330-300s: The plan was to retire all nine of AA’s A330-300s in 2020 to help simplify the fleet. Now, those retirement plans are on hold. The airline plans to keep all A330-300 through the end of 2020.

12 new Dreamliners arrive in 2020: The 787 announcement noted that the new order’s deliveries would begin in 2020 with the Boeing 787-8 aircraft type. Now, we learn that 12 of the new order of 47 are expected to be delivered in 2020.

Slight deferral of A321neo: There’s a minor, but previously unreported change to AA’s A321neo schedule. The airline won’t be getting three of the 25 aircraft it expected in 2019, ending 2019 with just 22 and 2020 with 47 instead of 50.

For those that love the numbers, here’s the new fleet plan details. Numbers in parenthesis indicate what has changed since the most recent filing in January:

MAINLINE YE2017 YE2018 YE2019 YE2020
A319 125 125 125 125
A320 48 48 48 48
A321 219 219 219 219
A321 neo 22
A330-200 15 15 15 15
A330-300 9 9 9 9
A350 0
B737-800 304 304 304
B737 Max 8 4 20 40 50
B757 34 34 34 24
B767-300 24 24 18
B777-200ER 47 47 47 47
B777-300ER 20 20 20 20
B787-8 20 20 20 32
B787-9 14 20 22 22
E190 20 20
MD80 45 26
TOTAL 948 951 943
Narrowbody 799 796 792
Widebody 149 155 151

Overall, these changes are a minor net positive for passengers. Eliminating the 767s instead of A330-300s means AA is finally phasing out one of its worst aircraft sooner and keeping one of its mid-tier options instead. While the 767 doesn’t have IFE or power in economy, you’ll find both on the A330. In business class, the A330 has built-in IFE screens instead of the IFE tablet system utilized on the 767.

Keeping the 737-800 longer and deferring 737 MAX is also a slight positive. While the 737 MAX have a very cramped 172 seats, the 737-800 has just 160 seats in the same space. While “Project Oasis” will shove 12 more seats into economy on the 737-800, hopefully this retrofit project will still be moving slowly — giving passengers a better chance at a better experience.

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