American Is Retiring 45 Boeing 737s Over The Next Couple Of Years

Filed Under: American

American has done an impressive job modernizing their fleet over the past few years. As far as longhaul aircraft go, they’ve taken delivery of 787-8s, 787-9s, and 777-300ERs. Then for short-haul aircraft they’ve retired a vast majority of their MD-80s, which used to be the backbone of their fleet, and have taken delivery of 737-800s (including some 737MAX aircraft, which haven’t been very popular in terms of the passenger experience).

American Airlines 777-300ER

American plans to retire their last MD-80 next year. In a way I’ll miss the plane, though it’s about time they go. What surprises me is that this isn’t the only short-haul plane they’re retiring.

Bloomberg reports that American will retire 45 of their Boeing 737-800 aircraft over the next couple of years. Specifically, they plan to retire 12 737s in 2019, and then 33 737s in 2020.

At the moment American has 310 Boeing 737s, which comprises about a third of their total mainline fleet. The average age for their 737s is 8.2 years. The 737s that American plans on retiring are ones they took delivery of in 1999, so they’re about 19 years old already.

American took delivery of some 737s between 1999 and 2001, and then they had a big gap, with them taking delivery of their next 737s in 2009. Now American is in the process of taking delivery of 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which are more fuel efficient and longer range, but also have more seats, so they’re quite dense.

American claims that these retirement are strictly age-based, and suggests that older planes tend to require more maintenance than newer planes. That’s certainly true, and in other parts of the world airlines do replace old planes with new planes (just look at Singapore Airlines, which is presently replacing five of their older A380s). However, in the US many airlines take a different approach, and these 737s certainly have some life left in them if American wanted them to (just look at the planes Delta operates). 😉

My real takeaway here is that American is showing some capacity discipline. Sure, they’re taking delivery of more narrowbody aircraft, including 100 737 MAX and eventually 100 A321neo planes, though there’s no reason they couldn’t take delivery of them and also keep their older ones. Clearly American is trying to avoid offering too much capacity. That’s fair enough, especially given the number of new 737s they have joining their fleet soon. However, it surprises me on some level, as I wasn’t aware American was considering retiring 737s anytime soon. American is basically saying “we don’t want our fleet to get that much bigger.”

Are you surprised to see American retiring some 737s?

  1. Where’s your trip report? It’s been over a week with no report yet at all. Stop with these fillers and actually post the trip report.

  2. @malay are you serious?! Do you pay for this content? Lucky doesn’t owe you anything! Be thankful for all the trip reports he does!

  3. Last week on flew on a Delta A320 and a Delta A319 that were 26 and 25 years old, respectively. They had been retrofitted with new IFE systems and lighting and felt fresher than any AA plane I’d flown on in the past two years.

  4. They are adding more seats to the 737 to match the Max at 172 seats and they are adding more seats to the Airbus 321 plane at 190 seats.

  5. @malay rude, lucky does an incredible job at posting all news related to aviation and don’t think this is a filler at all.

  6. @Malay if you need it so badly, take a trip yourself and make your own report. Do not show any disrespect. You are just disdainful.

  7. Personally, I don’t mind articles such as this. However, it’s getting to the point where the gap between reviews is getting to be so big that it’s putting me off visiting the blog, especially when there’s a new or interesting product coming up. It was the same with the new Emirates 1st class review too.

    There’s many days where I look at the daily email and think that there’s nothing to interest me for a few days in a row.

  8. It’s crazy to think how Delta operated Northwest DC-9s for four more years after their merger with Northwest. Their last one was retired in 2014. They even painted them in the Delta livery. American just plans on keeping their MD-80s in their same old livery even though it’s been a couple of years since the new livery was introduced. There is a great difference between airlines.

  9. why can’t they get rid of the awful LUS planes first? These planes have power and IFE you don’t have to “stream” to your device…….if the WiFi is working.

  10. its funny people keep yelling they’ll avoid the 737 MAX like the plague. The only people who should care are the ones flying coach.

    I always fly F or occasionally get a seat in MCE exit rows, so these supposed issues about the MAX are just comical. avoid the last row on the plane and you get as much pitch as any other airline….

  11. I’d rather fly a 737-MAX than any of the poxy rear-engined planes that AA and DL insist on using.

  12. @Tony: If you haven’t noticed, the majority of passengers on a commercial flight ARE SITTING IN COACH. So yes, AA’s sardine-canning affects a lot of people. Some of us do get stuck in the suck seat in coach due to last minute travel plans, company travel policies, and clients not willing to pay the difference.

    I do wonder if we’ll see these at Delta. It’d be nice replacement for the Mad Dogs and 19 isn’t that old for an aircraft. Nothing wrong with flying an older AC; if anything maintenance is easier as the inherent problems and weaknesses of the AC become well-known and easily solved.

    /They’re still running 16-20 year old servers & networking gear at my office, and it’s pretty darn reliable. When it goes down every 1-2 years, they usually have everything back up in under 10 minutes.

  13. AA’s strategy is not a strategy…who knows what they’re thinking. Replace 19 year old 737s they already own while begging for someone to sell them used A319s. Other than greater capacity on the 737 why do this?

  14. The only older DL plane I’ve hated to fly on was the 727, but that was more the plane than anything DL did to it.

  15. I always pay for First Class – – no freeloading
    (the kids get my miles and points so I can be “the Greatest Grandpa”)
    Honestly, I have liked the MD-80’s best for comfort and feel
    but, the entertainment screens on the 737MAX distract enough as a novelty.

  16. I too miss my favorite…’Mad Dog’ MD-80
    Which provided me a modicum of comfort in its 2-3 configuration…
    It was my regular mode of transport to SJD for the past several years…until 2017 when replaced by the “Xenen Warrior” 737-800…
    In which ‘comfort’ is an afterthought…
    I will surely attempt to Avoid The MAX…..
    Before my upgrades run out……

  17. Economics aside, I, for one, will miss the MD-80’s (and 767’s). We always travel as a couple and much prefer not having to share our row with a third person. We avoid as much as we can 737’s, 757’s, 777’s, and any other aircraft that doesn’t allow that in coach. Some, I know, do have the rare 2 seats at the rear by the bathrooms.

  18. “The only people who should care are the ones flying coach”…or who might need to use the bathroom in flight. 😉

  19. I think the flight variables can have more effect on the trip than the plane. In Jan, enroute to an event in Vegas, I came off an ancient Club World BA744 (cue Lucky’s ‘best premium economy in the sky’ jibe) and, after a horrendous DFW immigration/transfer in which only 5 of 9 made the transfer, collapsed into the middle seat in steerage on either an AA A320 or 737.

    Plane was immaculate, WiFi worked, courteous and friendly seatmates (no one reclining into another’s face), really happy, friendly cabin crew and decent snack service with full product availability mid-cabin. Just adequate pitch but it all added up to a bearable couple hours.

    Get bad seatmates, grumpy crew, out of stock snacks and WiFi on the fritz and it would be 2 hours of misery. Unlike the elites on here, I have flown mostly coach for decades; it’s very much luck of the draw how an economy flight goes.

  20. Everyone here probably knows about AA’s massive fleet upgrade over the past couple and next couple years. As an Advantage member I’ve used them for travel domestically and to Europe.

    My wife and I use them for a 3hr flight a couple times a year to TX where she’s from, along with family, and AA has in my opinion taken a very routine flight and made it nicer by flying new 737-800’s it took delivery of in the past couple years. These newer planes have entertainment screens on each seat and the seats aren’t all that bad either. I’ve flown in worse (like a 20+ year old AA 757 from Glasgow to Philly, for example).

    Unfortunately the MAX doesn’t have these screens, and safety issues aside, it appears to be just another excuse to squeeze as many passengers as possible in an aluminum can. Apparently American is getting rid of these screens across its entire 737 fleet eventually so passengers will have to use their own devices to squeeze as many people as possible into all the 737’s so the seating configuration is the same across the entire 737 fleet. I don’t want to use my own device when I fly – I want the airline to provide it. I’ve flown Southwest on these same flights and it’s so much nicer having an in-flight entertainment system to use. And AA, I’ve found, is cheaper than Southwest for us.

    I can’t think of another airline that takes routine, 3 hr and under (on the way to DFW at least) flights from CA to TX like this and provides these kinds of amenities that you’d only expect to find on longer flights nowadays. Then again, maybe AA realizes that those of us that frequently travel back and forth from snobby Orange County/SNA to DFW demand these kinds of amenities all the time, lol.

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