American Airlines won’t fly an Airbus A330 again for at least two years

May 6, 2020

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American Airlines is acknowledging the fact that international travel will be slow to return after the coronavirus pandemic with the decision to park the rest of its Airbus A330 fleet.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier will park its 15 A330-200s until at least 2022, American senior vice president of flight operations Kimball Stone told pilots in an internal message Wednesday that was viewed by TPG. The airline will close its only two A330 bases, in Charlotte (CLT) and Philadelphia (PHL), and re-train pilots certified on the type on other aircraft.

“Given the current depressed forecast for international demand and no opportunities to profitably use the fleet domestically, we have made the difficult decision to place all of our A330-200 aircraft in long-term storage,” he said.

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American, like all carriers, expects to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis smaller than when it went in. Analysts at Cowen estimate that the airline may need to shed as many as 283 mainline jets if it shrinks by 30%.

The carrier has already retired four mainline aircraft types — A330-300s, Boeing 757s and 767s, and Embraer E190s — for a total of 80 planes. The decision to park the A330-200s raises the overall number to 95 jets.

“The whole point of simplifying fleets is to drive the cost structure [down] to where it needs to be,” American chief financial officer Derek Kerr said during the carrier’s first-quarter earning call on April 30. He warned that the A330-200s, as well as 42 older Boeing 737-800s, could also be on the chopping block.

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

Post-crisis, American’s wide-body long-haul fleet will consist entirely of Boeing 777s and 787s — half as many aircraft families as before.

Domestic travel is expected to resume before international travel once people feel safe flying again after the pandemic. This means airlines like American will need more of the narrow-body fleets — Airbus A321s and 737s for example — than wide-body fleets that fly long-haul routes over oceans.

American’s capacity cuts into June show this trend. International capacity will be down roughly 80% while U.S. will only be down 70%.

Related: American has ‘no plans’ to close hubs when it shrinks post-coronavirus

The airline recently delayed the resumption of certain international routes by a month. Flights to South America that were due to come back in May are now restarting in June, with other flights also delayed a month.

“We all expect the recovery will be slow and demand for air travel will be suppressed for quite some time,” said American CEO Doug Parker on April 30.

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

More: American Airlines’ most premier domestic route is finally back

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