American Airlines Announces Record Jet Order with Airbus and Boeing

By Paul Riegler on 20 July 2011
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At a press conference in Dallas, American Airlines announced it will order 200 Boeing 737 aircraft and 260 Airbus A320 aircraft and will take delivery over the course of the next five years. The new aircraft will give American the industry’s newest and most fuel efficient fleet and will make American the first U.S. network carrier to put the Airbus A320neo family of aircraft into service. American will also be the first to commit to Boeing’s planned new 737 family of offerings.

American will replace four fleet types, namely the MD-80, 737-800, 757, and 767-200, with two (B737 and the A320 families). The new aircraft share more common cockpits, engines and parts and, according to the company, will streamline pilot and flight attendant training as well as maintenance.

American will begin to take delivery of the 460 narrowbody, single-aisle aircraft starting in 2013 and continuing through 2022. Starting in 2017, American will become the first network U.S. airline to fly Boeing’s “next generation” narrowbody aircraft, which promise to be more efficient than the current offering.

American currently has an all-Boeing fleet and hasn’t ordered Airbus jets since 1987. The new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing will replace American’s 216 Boeing MD-80 aircraft, which is the most prevalent model in American’s 613-jet mainline fleet. The typical MD-80 (which American refers to as a Super 80) is over 20 years old and the type was last produced in 1999.

Two years ago, American placed an order and began to take delivery of 130 737-800NG (next generation) aircraft. That order will be completed in 2013. The 737s are 25% more fuel efficient than the MD-80s. The most recent 737s come with 160 seats and the new Boeing Sky Interior, which offers larger overhead bins and is evocative of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners in terms of spaciousness and ambience.

The new order with Boeing is for 100 of the current 737-800NG and 100 of the next evolution of the 737NG, an updated 737 that features a new engine that will be significantly more fuel-efficient. American also has an option for 100 additional 737 aircraft with the ability to choose between the 737-700, 737-800, and 737-900ER.

Airbus gets an order for 130 current-generation A320s and 130 A320neo (new engine option) aircraft. The deal includes options for an additional 365 planes from the A320 family, including the A319, A320, and A321. American last flew Airbus jets in 2009, when it parked its A300 wide-bodies.

According to the airline, the new aircraft order will provide a 35% reduction in fuel cost per seat versus the MD-80 and a 12% and 15% fuel cost reduction per seat, respectively, versus the 757 and 767-200.  When the MD-80s were introduced in the 1980s, they promised similar savings in fuel usage over the outgoing Boeing 727 aircraft.

In addition to the new order, American plans to take delivery of 42 787 Dreamliners starting in 2014. The company has an option for 58 additional 787s. American also has orders pending for seven 777-200 widebody aircraft. These are scheduled for delivery in the period 2013 through 2016.

The first 230 jets will be leased from Airbus and Boeing, in a financing deal worth $13 billion. This will keep them off American’s balance sheet, giving the airline greater financial flexibility. The total value of the order is in excess of $400 billion, based on average retail pricing.

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