American and Delta reactivate 300 planes as summer travel plans get a boost

Jun 11, 2020

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Rows upon rows of parked planes are one of the most striking images of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on airlines. Now, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are among carriers returning some of those jets to the sky as they slowly build back their schedules.

American has reactivated 64 stored jets for its June schedule and plans to bring another 141 aircraft back from storage in July, spokesperson Brian Metham told TPG. The planes are being brought back to help support the airline’s plans to boost flying this summer. In July, American will add more flights to account for an uptick in travel, though the carrier’s overall schedule will be just 55% of what it flew in July 2019.

Delta has returned 16 aircraft to service in June on top of 30 that were previously reactivated, according to airline spokesperson Morgan Durrant and a June 3 memo to pilots. The airline plans to bring another 74 planes back in July.

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More aircraft in the skies is a welcome sign for the travel industry. While the number of passengers on flights remains a fraction of where it stood a year ago, airlines see clear signs that people are willing to fly again even as concerns of COVID-19 remain. Travelers are heading to places with open spaces, like the Rocky Mountains, and to beaches in Florida and other coastal states.

In addition, the reopening of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and theme parks like Universal Orlando are attracting people tired of being cooped up at home for months.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening numbers hit a new post-COVID peak of 441,255 people on Sunday, June 7. However, the number remains around 17% of those screened on the same day a year ago.

Related: American to reopen lounges, add flights to Florida, Rockies as flyers return

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
American is bringing 34 737s out of storage and placing them back in service in June. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)


For June, American brought 12 Airbus A320s, 34 Boeing 737-800s, 10 Boeing 777s and 8 Boeing 787s out of storage. The jets are being used for both passenger and cargo flights, said Metham.

American’s U.S. domestic flights are operating on average 62% full this month, said CEO Doug Parker at the carrier’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.

Delta brought back a mix of Airbus A321s and 737-900ERs in June on top of the 30 jets already reactivated, it told pilots. In addition, four new Airbus A350-900s were brought out of storage for planned maintenance,  though they are not slated to return to passenger flying in the immediate future.

Related: A state-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

A Delta A321 (foreground) and MD-88 taking off from Atlanta airport (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)
Delta is returning nine A321s to service this month. (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)


American will still have 153 mainline jets stored come July. Delta will have around 618 mainline and regional aircraft stored by that time, though notably it continues to fly all of the Airbus A220s in its fleet.

At their peak, U.S. carriers had more than 3,000 jets in storage, according to trade group Airlines for America (A4A). That number stood at 2,882 as of June 7.

Both American and Delta were also among the first U.S. carriers to use the crisis to accelerate aircraft retirements. American has permanently removed five types — Airbus A330-300s, Boeing 757s and 767s, Bombardier CRJ200s and Embraer E190s — from its fleet. Delta has retired three types, including the McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s that flew revenue flights for the last time on June 2.

Related: Alaska Airlines is leaning towards an all-Boeing 737 fleet after the coronavirus

Alaska Airlines plans to return 20 of its stored jets to service this summer, president Ben Minicucci told The Seattle Times this week. The carrier has retired 12 jets, all 10 of its Airbus A319s plus two A320s, due to the pandemic.

Southwest Airlines continues to monitor travel demand and will adjust the number of aircraft it has in storage accordingly, spokesperson Brian Parrish told TPG. The airline has 400 aircraft in some form of storage, though only 140 737 jets are in what it considers “long-term” storage.

United Airlines spokesperson Rachael Rivas told TPG that they continue to evaluate their “fleet mix” for the airline’s planned summer schedule.

Related: Delta operates final MD-88 flight amid tough times for airlines

Featured image courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport.

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