Why AA Ditched Its A350 Order in Favor of the Dreamliner
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
In case you missed the news Friday night, American Airlines and Boeing announced that the world’s largest airline would be buying an additional 47 Dreamliners. This massive order is valued at $12.3 billion at list price, but — as with all aircraft purchases — the airline will likely only pay a fraction of that.
As part of this order announcement, AA also stated that it’d cancelled its Airbus A350 order. In all, this announcement is a huge win for Boeing and a sharp blow to Airbus. But, the question many might be asking is “why?”
Could this decision be American Airlines taking an “America First” or “Buy American” stance? Is the airline afraid that an escalating trade war could make Airbus aircraft more expensive? Or, could it be that the Dreamliner provides better reliability and passenger comfort?
All of those may or may not be factors, but they certainly aren’t the primary factor. The simple answer to why AA ditched the A350 and ordered more Dreamliners is: simplicity.
And you don’t have to take my word for it, American Airlines released an internal podcast last night after the announcement was made public speaking to the reason behind the change. “America First,” tariffs, passenger experience… none of that came up in the podcast. Instead, phrases like “[avoiding] adding complexity to the fleet” and “from a commonality standpoint and an operations standpoint” were the reasons given by AA’s Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr.
From a fleet planning perspective, American Airlines management is currently obsessed with one thing: operational simplicity. That’s why AA is about to spend a lot of money on its “Project Oasis” — AA’s euphemism for reducing seat pitch in economy on its Boeing 737 and Airbus A321s.
AA’s goal is clear: the airline wants to have the exact same number of seats on each of its aircraft types. Rather than having 304 Boeing 737-800s with 160 seats and another 100 Boeing 737 MAX with the exact same fuselage but 172 seats, AA would much rather have 400+ Boeing 737s with 172 seats that it could use interchangeably. Ditto with its fleet of 219 Airbus A321s. That way, if a 737 MAX has a mechanical problem, AA can swap in a 737-800 without having to potentially bump 12 passengers.
In addition, AA wants to reduce its total number of sub-fleets. As of Media & Investor Day in late September, AA reported having 52 different aircraft configurations, and that management wanted to drop this number to 30. With that being the goal, bringing on a new aircraft type (such as the A350) just doesn’t make sense, but doubling down on the Dreamliner definitely does.
As of late January, AA’s widebody fleet schedule looked like this:
Hopefully we will get a full update of this schedule soon. However, from what we know so far, here’s the plan for each of these:
- A330-200 (15 aircraft in current fleet): Maintain fleet
- A330-300 (9): Retire in 2020
A350: order cancelled
- B767-300 (24): Retire by 2022
- B777-200 (47): Replacing some older aircraft, but maintain the remainder
- B777-300 (20): Maintain fleet
- B787-8 (20): More than doubling the fleet starting in 2020
- B787-9 (15): More than doubling the fleet starting in 2023
As you can see, the choice to double down on the Dreamliner instead of the taking delivery of A350 or ordering A330neo aircraft simplifies AA’s fleet significantly. By the end of 2022, the current plan would mean AA would have just five types of widebodies: Airbus 330-200, Boeing 777-200, Boeing 777-300, Boeing 787-8 and Boeing 787-9.
But it could get even simpler than that. In the details of yesterday’s massive order, AA also has options to buy more Dreamliners. The airline could do so as replacements for its A330-200s, leaving an all-Boeing widebody fleet.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees