American Orders 787s, Defers 737s, And Cancels A350s

Filed Under: American

Earlier I posted about how Boeing briefly updated their website with a banner indicating that American was placing an order for 47 Boeing 787 aircraft. This was clearly a mistake, since the link in the banner didn’t work, suggesting that this may have been published prematurely. My guess is that they probably meant to publish it first thing Monday, since typically announcements like this aren’t made on a Friday afternoon.

However, I guess since the banner was out there already, they’ve moved forward with making the announcement.

American has announced that they have ordered up to 75 Boeing 787s, as follows:

  • 22 Boeing 787-8s, to be delivered starting in 2020, intended to replace Boeing 767-300s
  • 25 Boeing 787-9s, to be delivered starting in 2023, intended to replace Airbus A330s, as well as older Boeing 777-200s (these planes will apparently feature new seats)

On top of that, American’s order comes with a further 28 options for the aircraft. I find it interesting that American’s press release doesn’t say anything about that, while Boeing’s press release does.

American’s current 787 fleet consists of 35 aircraft. Once all is said and done, American will operate a fleet of 89 Boeing 787 aircraft (assuming they don’t take any of their options). That would make them the largest operator of the 787 in the world.

American also announced that they’ve terminated their agreement with Airbus regarding their order of 22 Airbus A350s. This order was originally placed by US Airways, and they’re not going with the A350 as part of a strategy of simplifying their fleet. Just about everyone saw this coming, given that they’ve deferred this order over and over.

Here’s what American’s president had to say about this decision:

“We have two excellent partners in Boeing and Airbus and our relationship with both manufacturers goes back many years. Both offer specific aircraft that provide us with the right lift on specific missions across our global network. This was a difficult decision between the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 and A330neo and we thank both manufacturers for their aggressive efforts to earn more of American’s business. In the end, our goal to simplify our fleet made the 787 a more compelling choice.”

Here’s what American’s CFO had to say:

“Today’s announcement is influenced by our goal to simplify our fleet and reduce the number of aircraft types we operate. Our prior plan would have had us operating five widebody aircraft types, and with today’s announcement we will soon reduce that to three. These new replacement aircraft are consistent with our previous plans for the size of our widebody fleet.”

“We see significant advantages to carrying common fleet types, including creating less friction in our operation when aircraft swaps are necessary, reducing inventory needs, and creating a more consistent service for customers and team members.”

I certainly see the logic for wanting a simpler fleet, and I’m surprised that more airlines don’t take that approach. Look at Qatar Airways, which has A330-200s, A330-300s, A340-600s, 777-200s, 777-300s, 787-8s, 787-9s, A350-900s, A350-1000s, and A380-800s, in their longhaul fleet. On top of that, they have orders for 777-8s and 777-9s.

Interestingly American has also announced that as part of this they’re deferring the delivery of 40 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which were previously scheduled to be delivered between 2020 and 2022. They say that this better aligns with their planned retirement of other narrowbody aircraft. They had 100 of those planes on order, so it sounds like they’ll only have 60 on order going forward.

I’m not sure what exactly they mean by that. American will retire 45 Boeing 737s over the next couple of years, so I’m not sure if American is deciding to keep those 737s for a longer time, or what exactly has changed in their short-haul fleet plan. It sounds to me like their demand forecast has changed more than anything.

So this is all big news from American — there’s a new 787 order, a canceled A350 order, and a mysterious deferment of their 737 MAX order.

What do you make of this news from American?

  1. Southwest hsd business strategy. only 737.

    Now that we have 787, airlines should take out all aircraft and only have 787 and perhaps a few 777 for high yield routes.

    They may save more money.

  2. Obviously Airbus didn’t let go of their A350 order without a fight or huge penalties. I expect those deferred 737 Max to to translate to deliveries of A321neo or A321LR. I really doubt that Airbus was left hanging…

    Those cancelled delivery slots will please other A350 customers.

  3. So what are the likely routes that AA might add given the capabilities of the 787s they just ordered? Any other changes this would bring?

    I assume that pushing frequent flyer members onto British Airways and imposing punishing surcharges on them won’t change…

  4. Only downside is 3-3-3 in economy is going to be more miserable in the 787 than the A350. Of course PE 2-3-2 in the 787 will be nicer than Delta’s 2-4-2 in the A350.

  5. Kudos to Boeing. This is a huge win for them and a massive headache for Airbus. US Airways was an early and significant Airbus A330 operator and they clearly hoped that this would continue under the American label, with the A330NEO or the A350. Well, no, not so much. Given how closely matched the 787, A330NEO and A350 are at various segment lengths, loads and configurations (on some shorter legs the NEO is supposedly more economical than the 787), just what is going on? Are Boeing’s salesmen working harder than Airbus’? Is Boeing cutting margins so thin as to make virtually no profit in order to make sales? Between this and the Hawaiian A330NEO cancellation and 787 order, the folks at Toulouse are certainly looking themselves in the mirror asking the same thing.

  6. Now all they have left is stop accepting EAS money plus a couple of other things, and they can complain about ME3 without making themselves look like a fool

  7. The deferral of 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8s is not a cancellation and as far as I’m aware, they will still take delivery of all 100 aircraft, just they will be taking delivery of those 40 aircraft at a much later date between 2025 and 2026.

  8. Awesome!

    If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.

    I won’t fly on any Scarebus built planes, too spooky for me.

  9. Maybe AA envisions needing more capacity – and will use some of those 787-8s on domestic service – like DFW -LAX for example.

    Recently when AA was flight an evening flight from DFW-LAX – it was always full.

  10. Are the 787-900’s arriving in 2023 replacing AA’s current a330-200’s or a330-300’s? AA announced previously that the 300’s would be phased out by the end of this year. If that’s true, what are they replacing those planes with now? Also, the 200’s will only be ~13 years old in 2023, which would seem like a rather early retirement, especially for an airline that is going to fly the ancient 767’s AA has through 2020.

  11. Bet the A350 penalty was not as great as you’d think. The 2005 order was for an A350 that changed design dramatically. AA could probably get out of the deal relatively easily. AND, the 2005 price was a heck of a lot better than the 2018 price, so Airbus is dropping a 13 year old order at low pricing and likely to replace it with a new order at current (higher) pricing with another buyer.

    The loss for Airbus is more that it lost a long-term widebody customer.

    This reminds me of when United dropped some of their 787-8 orders and took 777-300ER’s. Boeing was GLAD to get rid of that low priced, low-margin 787-8 order.

  12. Bad news for economy passengers – very nasty narrow seating on the 787 designed for 8 across with 9 across shoehorned in. This is a big downgrade for passenger comfort versus the A350, 777 and A330

  13. What AA forgets, they have a huge fleet of A320-family aircrafts by now, so still investing in a mixed fleet/mixed cockpit with 787’s is pretty costly at the end and i’d think that the old orders ex US with Airbus would have been cheaper on the long run for the airline, but maybe AA is making so much $$$ these days, that this is no fact to decide?
    More to think about, maybe loosing clients because of NOT feeling safe in a plane that had/still has soooo much trouble “flying” compared to also a modern and quiet plane like the A350.
    I for myself will NOT get on that plane for sure, no matter what airline and as options do shift, i can say AA on long haul for me is tabu now.
    I’m avoiding old and tight 777 and never flew 787, no matter if C or Y, so good bye AA on long haul from me.

    The airlines mostly forget, a passenger has to feel comfortable when trusting there life on a plane ride, an unknown pilot, an airliner that is in the News and grounded more often then any other in modern time plus the seating comfort too, remember UA on the 777 across the ponds, FIVE seats in the middle?!?! NEVER AGAIN, and for any Economy passenger, that is a joke!

  14. From a consumer perspective, just another reason to avoid American. The 787 family is just inferior to the A350, and I can’t believe anyone would order 787s in 2022. But then again it’s not like American is a competitive airline.

  15. @Ethflyier i cant believe someone wouldnt order a 787 nowadays, since its an amazing plane.
    How about that?

  16. Sad to hear this. A350 is so much better in passenger experience than 787. I almost intentionally avoid 787s these days.

  17. @Steffl no serious commentator has questioned the safety of the 787 design. Due to the fact that it is a far more advanced design than the A350, it had a few teething problems with batteries, which have now been fixed. Fleet commonality between A320 and A350 is irrelevant they do not share a type certificate so a pilot still has to retrain to move from one to the other.

    In just about every other way the 787 is a superior plane to the A350 with larger windows, lower cabin altitude, similar noise levels (I have never found the A350 to be quieter) and a substantially faster cruising speed. It also has a completely separate electrically run a/c system that keeps the air cleaner on board than the A350, which still uses engine bleed air.

    I agree that squeezing 9 abreast makes it uncomfortable in coach but in PE it is a far better ride (7-across seating rather than 8 abreast on the A350). In business class I always prefer the passenger experience in the 787.

  18. Flew a 787 once on Norwegian a few months ago. Lovely experience in economy. I guess I have to fly the A350 to compare but as of now, I don’t understand the comments that the 787 provides a bad experience and should be avoided.

  19. Airbus or Boeing seems irrelevant from a customer perspective. What matters so much more is to have 30, 31 or 32″ pitch… or maybe even 33″ or 34″ like some of the Asian airlines. It also matters if your seat is 17.1″ or 18.5″ wide… and if you´re being fed with clearfilm wrapped junk or something that is more like food. If all this happens in a Boeing plane or an Airbus… Come on.

    Not that AA would be anywhere on the better side of things here. Just saying…

  20. @Jay
    Boeing originally intended the 787 to have 8 across in economy. Every airline has gone with 9 with the exception of JAL resulting in narrower aisles and reduced seat width. If you’re a larger person or are sitting next to a good sized person, you’ll notice it. That loss of 1” makes a difference.

    A 2-4-2 configuratio in the A330 is superior as is 2-3-2 in the 767.

  21. @EthFlyer Let’s be real honest, is there really a single US carrier that can compare with their counterparts, particularly in Asia and the Middle East?

  22. Guys, starting to do some workouts in case you can’t fit in 3-3-3 on 787, slave ship of the hell

  23. @Jay They’re blaming Boeing for the airline’s decision about pitch and total number of seats and config.

  24. @Matthew they dont because they both transport and treat their passengers as cattle, and then they wonder why the ME3 have better service than them, when they get a proportionate service compared to the fare.

  25. @Ethflyer,

    Emirates had an order for quite a number of A350 and eventually has cancelled it altogether while the one they had for the 787 it’s still in place and on the way. Emirates is definitely a competitive airline. KLM went for 787. Same BA. As per my knowledge the Dreamliner is topping the sales of wide body commercial planes since 2016. Only Qatar Airways has balanced the orders between A350 and B787.

  26. I do enjoy flying on the Airbus A321 … but a company called “American Airlines” should be purchasing American made planes if the difference in performance and price is minimal. Go Boeing.

  27. Great news to those of us long suffering
    BIS MM’s …
    I actually preferred the Mad Dogs over the
    737 xxx…call me Olde fashioned, but those of us ‘Elites’ much prefer the 787xxx due to its more spacious appointments..
    Someone in upper echelon was listening…
    Or at least experienced flying in cramped style in Econ…

  28. This line caught my eye: “Our prior plan would have had us operating five widebody aircraft types, and with today’s announcement we will soon reduce that to three”.

    They currently have 787 800’s and 900’s, 777 200’s and 300’s, 767 200’s (I believe they have retired the 300?) and A330’s. What do you think the three types will be? 787/777/A330?

  29. Posting this paragraph: Look at Qatar Airways, which has A330-200s, A330-300s, A340-600s, 777-200s, 777-300s, 787-8s, 787-9s, A350-900s, A350-1000s, and A380-800s, in their longhaul fleet. On top of that, they have orders for 777-8s and 777-9s.

    Shows that you do not understand very much about aviation and its technical, structural and financial issues!
    Please note: The A330’s are one family, they use the same crews, same technical staff, its just different aircraft size, identical to the A320 family, consisting of the A318/19/20/21. Specifically on the 320 family, something new might be the P&W engines for the “neo” generation, but thats it.
    Also, in that context, the 346, are easily compatible with the 330 family, with the exception of the engines and other structural details, but for flight deck operations there are no differences!!! Many airlines have same crews for the 330/340 families, e.g. LH/LX/TG – in the past/AF, just to name a few. As to the 777 family, all are the same type of aircraft, the only difference may be the engines, but to my knowledge, QR uses the GE90 for all their aircraft (its standard for the 777-300 ER anyway). 787-8, 787-9 = identical, only difference, the size of the aircraft!!! A350-900/1000, identical, only difference, size of the aircraft!!!! A380 – thats something different, but to my knowledge (pls correct if I’m wrong), A340 qualified crews can fly it as well, so it can be partly be considered as an extended part of the 330/340 family, except for the structural and technical differences.

  30. @JPT afaik 330 and 340 dont have the same type rating, and as such they need to retrain, not too much, but still a considerable training iirc.

  31. Hi Lucky.

    Having worked for a international carrier there is no doubt having numerious aircraft fleet types without the same type ratings adds extra complexity and cost. Including flight deck and cabin crew compatability, engineering costs and disruption management (specifically the ability to swap a/c when there is a technical issue).

    Qatar airways don’t operate 340-600 though, never have unlike EK and EY who have operated various 340 types.

  32. Glad to see that more of these birds will be in the skies – the 787 is the only breakthrough in modern aviation since the launch of the 747. Frankly, I find the 787 to be quieter and more comfortable up front compared to the SQ and LH 350s.

  33. @dca … Sure, they have a manufacturing plant here … just like Toyota, Mercedes, BMW, etc build cars here too. I worked for a German software company 17 years ago that today has an American CEO. But at the end of the day, a percentage of dollars earned goes back to the corporate office in Germany. The global economy blurs the lines where the money goes and is allocated, but at the end of the day, Boeing is an American company, and Airbus is French/European.

  34. The truth is, a company that already operates the 777 and 787 has no financial interest to buy any wide body Airbus aircraft. Airbus’ bet on the A380 being the largest and most efficient aircraft airlines actually want was a bad one. The 380 is too big, too inefficient and carries too little cargo in comparison to a 777-10 that Boring is fielding and the A350 range is then too large to be the only wide-body operating. That means companies woukd need to supplement with A330NEO, which aren’t all that great on long-hauls compared to the 787.

    The boeing coverage seems much better. The 787-8 is now really cheap because most orders have been filled, is small enough and efficient enough to take over all 767-200/300 routes and some 757 routes. The -9 fills perfectly for 767-400 and 777-200 and the 777-300ER fills in the rest, up to old 747 routes (with high density 10-across seating.) The next gen 777s fit into that perfectly, allowing for just 2 airframes to fill in ALL of the wide-body needs with great efficiency of 2 engines and large cargo ops. This is also great during IRROPS as aircraft substitutions would be simpler and more predictable. Then you have savings in cabin outfitters as you can place larger orders with seat manufacturers, wifi providers and PTV manufacturers. MX processes are more streamlined and heavy maintenance facilities can be consolidated. American has the largest fleet in the world. All these savings will turn into hundreds of millions each year.

    I don’t hate Boeing or Airbus and I’m talking strictly from the airline operations side here, not customer comfort.

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