American Airlines’ Boeing 767s, 757s among 80 planes that won’t fly again after the pandemic

Apr 30, 2020

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Say “so long” to the Boeing 767s at American Airlines. And its 757s, too.

The early retirements were already acknowledged by the carrier, but now it is official that those planes have seen their last days carrying passengers for American.

Overall, the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has retired 80 Airbus, Boeing and Embraer jets from its fleet as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a harsh toll on air travel. It has bid adieu to not only its 767s and 757s, but also to its Airbus A330-300s and Embraer E190s, American said Thursday. All four types are already parked and will not return to passenger service.

In addition, American is also removing 41 older small regional jets from its feeder fleet. All 19 of its Bombardier CRJ200s are gone, and it is retiring 22 of its 46 Embraer ERJ-140s.

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“The whole point of simplifying fleets is to drive the cost structure [down] to where it needs to be,” said American chief financial officer Derek Kerr during the carrier’s first quarter earning call on Thursday.

The airline reported a $2.9 billion pre-tax loss, or a $2.2 billion net loss, during the three months ending in March. Passenger traffic fell by nearly 18% year-over-year, while the total number of passengers carried dropped by nearly 16%.

Airlines around the globe face an unprecedented cash crunch amid the pandemic. Faced with near zero revenues, carriers are digging into their reserves to pay aircraft mortgages and other fixed costs while they cut capacity and — at least outside of the U.S. — furlough tens of thousands of staff.

The latest data from trade organization Airlines for America (A4A) shows flights in the U.S. carried an average of just 17 people during the week ending April 28. Demand for future travel, measured by new bookings minus refunds, was down 97% year-over-year during the week ending April 19.

Related: American will require masks for flight attendants, unveils other anti-coronavirus measures

Cutting costs is the name of the game for American management during the pandemic. In addition to the fleet changes and related capacity cuts, nearly 39,000 of the airline’s staff have taken early retirement packages, unpaid leave or have reduced their hours.

American has also accepted $5.8 billion in payroll assistance from the federal government, which will cover staff compensation and benefits through at least Sept. 30.

Still, American is burning an average of $70 million in cash daily. The carrier aims to slow the bleeding to just $50 million a day by June.

Related: American accelerates Boeing 757, 767 retirements due to coronavirus

Other airlines face the same dire circumstances. Delta Air Lines also hopes to cut its cash burn to about $50 million a day by May, while Southwest Airlines hopes to staunch it to just $30 million to $35 million a day.

American may cull its fleet further. It is considering retiring older models of the plane types it plans to keep around, which could affect some Airbus A320s and 42 Boeing 737-800s, said Kerr. The airline may also remove its 15 Airbus A330-200s, however, these aircraft are younger and mortgaged complicating any potential retirement decision.

The carrier is moving forward with work adding seats to many of its Airbus A321s and 737-800s, even with its post-pandemic fleet in flux. The effort, dubbed “Project Oasis,” adds up to nine seats for 190 to the A321s, and 12 seats for 172 to the 737s.

“We all expect the recovery will be slow and the demand for air travel will be depressed for some time,” said American CEO Doug Parker during the call. “Difficult decisions lie ahead of all of us.”

Related: I flew one of the last American Airlines 767 flights before its retirement

Featured image by Juha Remes / Getty Images.

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