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This is where U.S. airlines are parking their biggest planes during the coronavirus pandemic

April 06, 2020
7 min read
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The coronavirus pandemic is taking a massive toll on the world. It's affecting everyone, including almost all businesses. Perhaps the hardest hit is the travel industry — and specifically the airlines.

As such, we've seen all the major U.S. airlines significantly scale back their flying. American, Delta and United are all expediting route cuts, and have suspended many of flights on incredibly short notice.

For more travel news about the coronavirus, bookmark TPG's coronavirus hub for round-the-clock coverage

This presents a problem for these airlines. What are they supposed to do with all the planes that aren't in the air? While some may go through heavy maintenance checks or other cabin reconfigurations, the airlines are trying to defer as many capital expenditures as possible. Thus, they're choosing to store most of their planes in airports around the country. Sadly, some of the oldest ones are seeing an early retirement and may never again be seen in the skies.

We at TPG tracked every single wide-body jet operated by the big 3 U.S. airlines, so let's take a look at where they're parked.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American's parked planes

As the world's largest airline, American has a ton of planes. It's now suspended all but three long-haul routes, so most of AA's wide-body planes have nowhere to go.

Though the Oneworld-carrier has been keen on using wide-bodies for domestic flights, it's still got a big surplus of these planes.

Our research found that American has so far sent 110 wide-bodies to be stored at the following airports:

AirportAirbus A330-200Airbus A330-300Boeing 767-300Boeing 777-300Boeing 777-200Boeing 787-9 DreamlinerBoeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Mobile, AL (BFM)00002200
Pittsburgh, PA (PIT)6100000
Roswell, NM (ROW)06170200
San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL)3200000
San Antonio, TX (SAT)0000031
Tulsa, OK (TUL)0001114137

As you can see, there's a large number of AA aircraft in Tulsa. This makes sense for the carrier since it has a large maintenance facility there. Pittsburgh might seem a bit random for storing planes but ever since American dropped this legacy US Airways mega-hub, there's been ample space at the airport. There's even a maintenance facility for the Airbus A320 family of jets there.

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There's also 25 planes sitting in Roswell, New Mexico, which is actually quite sad. That's because AA has used the airpark there as a boneyard for aircraft. In fact, last summer, AA retired its remaining fleet of MD-80s in Roswell. (I had the chance to participate in that retirement celebration, so you can read up more about the Roswell plane storage facility here).

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-h5nH_BuyE/

So it's no surprise that the entire fleet of 767s, as well as some A330-300s sitting there. Due to the drop in demand, AA's decided to retire both of those aircraft types (as well as the 757s, E190s and some 737s) much earlier than originally anticipated.

Delta's parked planes

Delta's also been quick to announce dramatic route cuts in response to the decreased demand due to the coronavirus. It's suspended most flying to continental Europe, along with some domestic routes. DL primarily uses the Boeing 767 for its European flying, along with the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777, so there's lots of idle wide-bodies.

(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Currently, there are 134 parked Delta wide-bodies at the following airports:

AirportAirbus A330Airbus A350Boeing 767Boeing 777
Atlanta, GA (ATL)7160
Birmingham, AL (BHM)110174
Blytheville, AR (BYH)0500
Detroit, MI (DTW)2210
Marana, AZ (MZJ)12083
Minneapolis, MN (MSP)3000
New York-JFK1060
Wilmington, OH (ILN)00200
Victorville, CA (VCV)2062

Pinal Airpark in Red Rock, Arizona may seem like a random choice for where to park planes, but there's actually a good reason for planes to sit in the Arizona heat — the low humidity of the high desert helps prevent corrosion. Plus, there's much more space in the Southwest, so there's plenty of room for large planes at these facilities.

That's the same reason why there are ten wide-bodies (and a bunch of smaller planes) sitting in Victorville, California too.

Interestingly, while many Delta Boeing 767s are in storage, four of the longer -400 variety are sitting in Guangzhou, China (CAN) undergoing cabin reconfigurations.

Watch: How airplanes are put into storage because of the coronavirus

United's parked planes

Like American and Delta, United's also made massive route cuts, leaving the airline with lots of spare planes. Unlike the other carriers, UA's taking a different strategy with its parked planes. Instead of sending a large chunk to the desert, many of its 148 stored wide-bodies are sitting at hub airports across the country.

AirportBoeing 767-300Boeing 767-400Boeing 777-200Boeing 777-300Boeing 787-8 DreamlinerBoeing 787-9 DreamlinerBoeing 787-10 Dreamliner
Chicago, IL (ORD)10121000
Denver, CO (DEN)0020540
Hong Kong (HKG)1152000
Houston, TX (IAH)18090000
Los Angeles, CA (LAX)0000041
Newark, NJ (EWR)3040112
Roswell, NM (ROW)415110000
San Francisco, CA (SFO)0052211
Washington D.C. (IAD)60120320

Though most of the international fleet is sitting in major hub airports, there's a lone exception — the Boeing 767-400. That aircraft type hasn't yet received a Polaris reconfiguration, and it's going to be sitting in storage in Roswell for at least a year or two. Time will tell if the 16 jets will ever return to active service.

There are also some UA wide-bodies in Xiamen undergoing Polaris and Premium Plus retrofits, but those were already out-of-service before the massive route cuts.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9W2YNalfmR/

Bottom line

This is a time of great uncertainty across the country. Though people and businesses everywhere are suffering, the airlines are particularly in trouble.

With barely any demand (or government permission) for many international routes, the airlines are cutting their losses and suspending routes. But there's no room to just keep hundreds of planes sitting at the nation's largest airports. Therefore, American, Delta and United are all scrambling to find places to park their jets, including in the desert.

This story was accurate as of time of reporting, and it will be updated with new information as it becomes available. Airports with less than four total parked planes were omitted from the tables.

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images

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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees