American Airlines Accelerates 757 & 767 Retirement

Filed Under: American

Update: American Airlines is also retiring all A330-200s and Embraer 190s, as well as select 737-800s.

Airlines are having to act quick to respond to the reduction in demand for travel, and this is coming in different forms. I expect one common theme among airlines will be retiring some old aircraft sooner than expected, as a way of reducing capacity.

As noted by @xJonNYC, American Airlines has just revealed a significant way in which they’ll do this, in order to reduce capacity and avoid unnecessary maintenance and fuel costs. We’ll see American’s 767s retired in the next couple of months, and 757s retired by next year.

American Airlines retiring 767s by May 2020

American Airlines has a fleet of 16 Boeing 767-300s, and American plans to retire all of these by May 2020. Yep, that’s really soon, so these planes will all be taken out of the fleet in the coming weeks.

Prior to this American’s plan was to retire 767s by the end of 2021, so they’ll be leaving the fleet about 18 months earlier than expected. American’s 767s are an average of nearly 20 years old.

In a way I’m happy to see these 767s go — they were really outdated in coach (though relatively comfortable, given the 2-3-2 configuration), and in business class they had staggered seats, which I consider to be the most uncomfortable American business class seats.

Capacity and range wise, this was the only plane that worked for some markets, so in some ways this retirement will be challenging. For example, American will be discontinuing their Miami to Cordoba flight altogether as they retire this plane.

American Airlines will retire 767s by May 2020

American Airlines retiring 757s by fall 2021

American Airlines has a fleet of 34 Boeing 757-200s, and American plans to retire all of these between May 2021 and post-summer 2021 at the latest. These planes are an average of just over 20 years old.

American Airlines will retire all 757s after summer 2021

Personally I would expect most of these to be retired well before then. American’s 757s are internationally configured, with fully flat beds. These are used for some of the long and thin routes where wide body planes don’t otherwise work.

American Airlines 757 business class

American Airlines has placed an order for 50 Airbus A321XLRs which will replace these planes, though they’ll only start to be delivered in 2023 at the earliest. The summer of 2022 will be an interesting long haul schedule for American, as the company’s smallest long range planes will be the A330 and 787.

American A321XLR

How do Delta & United fleets compare?

American Airlines was going to retire both of these aircraft types pretty soon anyway, though they’ve now sped it up even more. We see a lot of 767s in Miami, so it’s weird to think that in a couple of months they’ll no longer be around.

With these planes retired, American’s long haul fleet will consist exclusively of A330s, 777s, and 787s, until (or if?) the A321XLRs join the fleet.

The 787 will be the backbone of American’s long haul fleet

That’s just quite a contrast to both Delta and United, which heavily rely on both 757s and 767s as integral parts of their fleet.

In the case of Delta:

  • They have 127 Boeing 757s, including both the -200 and -300 variant; some of these are used for domestic flights, though they also have some internationally configured ones
  • They have 77 Boeing 767s, including both the -300 and -400 variant; these are the backbone of their transatlantic and premium transcontinental fleet

Delta’s 767-300 business class

In the case of United:

  • They have 73 Boeing 757s, including both the -200 and -300 variant; the -200s are all internationally configured, with fully flat beds up front, and are used for both premium transcontinental and transatlantic flights
  • They have 54 Boeing 767s, including both the -300 and -400 variant; the -300s are used for some key business markets, where they have a very premium configuration

United’s 767-300 business class

All that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Delta and United retire at least some of their 757s and 767s early, though definitely not all of them.

Bottom line

I figured American would accelerate the retirement of their 757s and 767s as a way of reducing capacity. The 767s will be retired within a couple of months, while I’m kind of surprised the 757s are sticking around at least partly until after next summer.

While Delta and United are heavily reliant on the 757 and 767 for their network, American’s long haul fleet will consist of just A330s, 777s, and 787s.

What do you make of American’s 757 & 767 retirement?

  1. Looking at the photo with the missing screens just makes me shake my head. Who would ever want to fly AA?

  2. Really, SullyofDoha? The sky is falling in the airline industry and you’re upset about screens? Wait until United aND Delta eventually get rid of them too because they are a huge cost and post-Corona virus, UAL and Delta airline are going to be on a cost cutting bonanza.

  3. All UA 757-200s all have lie-flat beds (either 16 seats in J, with ETOPS [PMCO], or 28 seats in J [PMUA]). None of the 757-300s from CO have lie-flat seats (24 in J). I really don’t know what UA will retire right now, especially as the 763s have recently undergone retrofit. Maybe the 764s?

  4. Virgin Atlantic just retired their A340 early. All 3 withdrawn from service, last flight landed on Sunday.

  5. This is not at all surprising and you can expect other airlines in the US to do something similar. There have been reports that DL will accelerate the phase out of the MD88 and MD90 fleets.

    One thing to note, the MIA-COR route cut was announced last Fall (in 2019) long before COVID19 was discovered, so the 767 phase out and the route suspension there have no relation. The route was not profitable.

    AA’s 767s are awful. They underwent very minor refurbishments since the early 2000s other than the 9 new builds bought post-TWA merger, one of which I think was written off after the engine fire at ORD. The 757 fleet were equally in bad shape with a subpar product. AA has many 787-8 and -9s coming on line but yes, a number of routes in its network where the 767/757 were the right sized plane and economics will likely face suspensions or cancellations until the A321XLR arrives on property, and that will not be for a while.

  6. @Matthew

    The 764s are some of the most profitable planes in the UA and DL fleets. They won’t be going anywhere for a long time. I could see some moved to domestic, however.

  7. My question is will they move some Dreamliners to Miami finally to replace the capacity lost with the 767’s? Especially after losing LATAM partnership I can’t imagine they will abandon service to that many more S. and C. American destinations out of their MIA hub.

  8. This doesn’t surprise me either as they have been wanting to retire them for some time now but had to extend the life of 10 757s last year due to the ongoing grounding of the Max-8 fleet. I am wondering how they will backfill in some routes in 2022 that only the 757 was able to manage successfully.

    I now think they will either pull a few 757s back out of retirement then -or- they will reconfigure some of their A321neo aircraft with the same lie flat seats (but hopefully with IFE screens), which can more or less handle some of those long/thin routes with possible weight restrictions.

  9. @Ben

    Nothing on the UA 753s though that aren’t layflat and are shuttled around the country on the regular? Just noticed that lacking in the comparison.

  10. While I can see UA and DL retire some hangar queens from their fleet of 757’s, I can’t see them dropping the type any time soon. As you stated, Lucky, they are the backbone of their equipment for certain routes, and they continue to perform that role very well. The added bump in the road (!) of the 737MAX debacle makes me think that they will be needed for the foreseeable future. But hey! Having said that, this beer virus thing is throwing everyone for a loop (or an Immelmann…… 😉

  11. Maybe they’ll use their current A321NEOs on some of the transatlantic routes in 2022. That’d be awful, though, especially in J.

  12. @James s is absolutely right.
    The cuts that AA is making to its international network that aren’t even impacted directly by the virus shows how weak much of it was to being with. They are pushing back a return to China for 6 months.
    Neither CLT or PHL are authorized gateways by the CDC for flight arrivals from continental Europe so they have no choice but to gut their European network at least for a month.

  13. Delta might possibly retire some of these aircraft, but unlike at AA they’re not the oldest type at Delta so I doubt they’re the first priority. Delta has already made noises about retiring MD-80s faster though, so I imagine that will go ahead and is relatively easy for them to do since they have lots of replacement options. They don’t have replacement options as ready to go for the 757 and 767.

  14. Unfortunate. The 767s were not perfect, but upgrades were easy to come by and a lie-flat on a domestic flight (even the bad 767 J seat) is way better than a typical recliner. Coach had terrible overhead bins, but the seats had actual padding, reclined well, and 2-3-2 is the best configuration out there. I’ll miss the 3-4x daily MIA-PHL 767s.

  15. The 767 is in high demand for Cargo flights. All 16 remaining planes already were spoken for before this happened, so the new owners will just be getting them sooner.

  16. Great news. No more need to worry much longer about being stuck on one of these in an equipment swap.

  17. Good move by AA. I suspect the 757 domestic (10) configured planes will be out by this summer and they will use A321 Neos (HUGE IMPROVEMENT) on those routes. Those same planes could fly a few of the 757 internalization routes in 2021 and 2022 before the XLRs allow AA to expand point to point service in Europe.

    AA will also need to drop some additional regional jets so say good bye to CRJ200 and ERJ140s!

  18. Is Delta still flying that 757 that made the hard landing in the Azores? Maybe they should retire that one.

  19. I hadn’t realized how much smaller AA’s 767 fleet was relative to UA/DL

    Will miss the spacious 2-3-2 layout in Economy.

  20. The picture of the AA A321XLR shows black paint around the cockpit windows. This makes American Airlines look like a dishonest thief. Only robbers and thieves were eye masks. They shouldn’t copy Air Canada and do this. Honesty is the best policy, not robbery.

  21. Good riddance to the 767. As a flight attendant working those planes, it was like a throwback to 1988, and embarrassing because we were “Always Apologizing,” our acronym for AA.

  22. I loved the 767 but last flew it ORD-DUB in 2017. It was painful! The return on a 788 was fantastic. Sad to see them leave but they are ready to go.

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