American Airlines Plans To Fly A321neo To Iceland

Filed Under: American

While this is way in the future, it does represent an interesting precedent that I suspect we’ll see more of from American.

American’s new long haul fleet gap

As a result of the current pandemic, American Airlines is greatly simplifying their long haul fleet. American has:

  • Retired 757-200s effective immediately
  • Retired 767-300s effective immediately
  • Retired A330-300s effective immediately
  • Stored A330-200s for at least the next couple of years

Therefore American’s long haul fleet will exclusively consist of 787-8s, 787-9s, 777-200s, and 777-300s.

Arguably the biggest gap created by these decisions comes from the retirement of the 757. The plane is a narrow body that is also pretty long range, so it’s ideal for “long and thin” routes from the US to Europe, South America, etc. That includes routes like Philadelphia to Edinburgh, Dallas to Reykjavik, Miami to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, etc.

American 757-200

While American’s 757s didn’t have a great onboard product, they did at least have fully flat beds in business class (though no personal televisions).

American’s 757-200 business class

American’s 757-200 business class

American doesn’t currently have a replacement for the 757-200, as the new smallest plane in American’s long haul fleet is the 787-8, which is significantly bigger.

American’s 787-8

American is supposed to take delivery of the A321XLR as of 2023, which was intended to replace the 757-200. The A321XLR is even longer range than the 757-200, and American has 50 of these on order. Not only that, but American plans to make these planes pretty premium, with direct aisle access business class, premium economy, and economy.

Of course with everything going on, let’s see if the delivery timeline for these planes sticks.

Rendering of American A321XLR

American will fly A321neo to Reykjavik

Until at least 2023 there will be a gap when it comes to capacity for long haul flying, given the absence of the 757-200. It looks like we now have a clue of how American might try to tackle that.

American plans to launch flights between Philadelphia and Reykjavik as of June 3, 2021 (the route was pushed back by a year due to the current situation), and as of now American intends to use an A321neo for the route, per Routes Online.

The route is only ~2,700 miles, so in reality it’s only marginally longer than a transcon flight.

What are the implications of this? Well, this is currently the only planned domestically configured aircraft that American will use for transatlantic flights. The plane has a total of 196 seats, including 20 business class seats and 176 economy seats.

The catch is that the business class seats aren’t fully flat, but rather are just standard domestic first class seats.

American’s domestic first class seats

Expect more of this

Since this is still over a year away there’s a chance plans will change. Assuming American does fly to Iceland next summer I do think they’ll use the A321neo. For that matter, I expect we’ll see other “thin” leisure routes to South America and maybe even Europe operated by the A321neo, at least as much as the plane’s range allows.

This isn’t the first time that American had this type of concept. Back before the 737 MAX was grounded, American was going to start flying it from Miami to Brasilia, which is even longer than this route.

In my opinion American should really be selling the forward cabin on these flights as premium economy rather than business class, since domestic first class seats are a far cry from what people expect on transatlantic flights.

American’s premium economy, similar to domestic first class

Delta has done the same for flights to Iceland, the Azores, etc., where they’ve used domestically configured 757s, and have marketed the forward cabin as premium economy rather than business class.

Bottom line

While the situation can still change, American plans to fly A321neos from Philadelphia to Keflavik, which is the first time we’re seeing a domestically configured plane from American on a route like this.

Ultimately this makes perfect sense with the retirement of the 757, at least until American gets the A321XLR in 2023. Once the 737 MAX is flying again, expect similar routes on that plane.

Iceland is a leisure destination, and doesn’t have the demand for a 787. I wonder on how many other routes we’ll see a similar strategy.

Are you surprised to see American planning to fly A321neos to Iceland?

Comments
  1. Makes me wonder about the 737Max and its future. One would assume that it might be the choice going forward for long and thin given the 757 being retired and the A321XLR not coming until 2023 at the earliest.

    Seriously, this leads me to believe that the future of the MAX is very much in doubt.

  2. You reference Miami to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. AA terminated that flight way before covid. Maybe more than a year ago.

  3. I thought the BA-AA-IB-AY joint venture required full lie-flat seats on transatlantic flights? Maybe a carve-out here, unless KEF isn’t covered by the JV (but I think it is).

  4. I’m mildly curious about this unimportant question – you reference this flight as being transatlantic. But Both Keflavik and Reykjavik are on the North American plate, geologically speaking. So can a flight be transoceanic if it arrives on the same continent it just departed from?

  5. American should just cancel their remaining MAX orders now and return all delivered planes back to Boeing!! One more MAX goes down and the company flying it, no matter who it is will be out of business!

  6. HappyPrime23 beat me to it. They can argue this is a North American route because of the continental lines.

    Same way flying to Mexico in business doesn’t include lounge access even though it’s international

  7. HappyPrime

    As a practical matter nobody considers Iceland to be in North America. It is in Europe culturally and politically. Ditto Greenland which is much closer to North America but is technically part of Denmark.

  8. This isn’t really a novel concept. Delta operated domestic configured 757s to KEF from JFK alternating between the 757-300 and -200 in the past. AA I think also flew BOS-DUB a few years back on a domestic 757. The use of a domestic aircraft for a short TATL flight is not something revolutionary. The question in 2021 will be if there is demand for Iceland flights.

  9. Lucky – The 321 NEOs actually have 196 seats with 20J not 16. They currently only sell 16 in case of equipment swaps

  10. This is not particularly noteworthy.

    DFW-ANC: Currently operated with a A321, longer flight in both time and distance (3,043 mi) than PHL-KEF.
    ORD-ANC: Operated by domestic F-configured narrowbodies on several airlines, longer flight than PHL-KEF.
    MIA-SEA: Operated by domestic F-configured narrowbodies, longer flight than PHL-KEF.

    etc…

    And then there’s all the US-Hawaii routes than have been operating with domestic F-configured narrowbodies on several airlines, many of these routes the same distance or longer than PHL-KEF.

    It’s a mid-length route dominated by leisure travel. Not having lie-flat seats is not remarkable. At all.

  11. I do think AA should at least consider redoing a handful of the A321neos with a lie-flat business class concept. I think they could do well on LAX-BOS and LAX-MIA as well as some of these smaller market international routes.

  12. Isn’t the AA 321neo configured with 20 front cabin seats not 16? Is there plan to have 4 saved for crew rest?

  13. Tom, true. No argument from me about Iceland being much more European centric than North American. But the transatlantic label just made me wonder if there is any flight one could take that crosses an ocean and still lands on the same continent (geologically) it departed from. I can’t really think where this would happen.

  14. Flew this plane earlier this year. The seats are terrible uncomfortable. Really wish AA would reevaluate the slimline seats. Oasis is a garbage product.

  15. “The launch of our Premium Basic Business Economy product is transformational – offering customers comfortable and reliable travel experience across our unmatched network of destinations.”

  16. Why doesn’t American target a US city that Icelandair does not service. Maybe Phoenix or Las Vegas would be an option.

  17. @AdamH -I agree that a reconfigured 321neo with lie-flat biz seats would be an ideal solution to help fill part of this gap, albeit the range/weight limitation. I’m curious if they could use this on the PHL-EDI route they flew previously using the 752 (looking at the schedule I see a 788 on this route starting next spring). Another option for them to consider is seeing if they could swap out some of their upcoming neo deliveries with the LR model…

  18. This is ridiculous. Imagine 7+ hours on other routes (miami- bsb or mia-lim) on an OASIS A321 overnight flight. Wont work sorry, I will fly the competition LATAM or DELTA, United.

  19. Not surprising. I had a flight on AA this August to Iceland thru Philly up front. Lie flat on an overnight flight. I’ll be looking for another carrier, most likely for next summer.

  20. Those Oasis j seats look awful. I can’t imagine sitting on that for 5+ hours to iceland. No thanks. I rather fly BA F to heathrow and then backtrack to Iceland.

  21. Life-long AA supporter. Rethinking loyalty and if we get these small, long-haul flights I don’t want to fly them and will stay home or pick another carrier or destination. I’m willing to pay business class fares but not for an inferior premium economy type service.

  22. At this point I’ll just fly Iceland air as it’s cheaper for the same shitty Business product. We routinely flew through London to KEF just for the nights rest, if the was a day time flight I’d be fine with it, but obviously it can’t come back the next morning and sit there, so I’ll fly someone else

  23. Article correction: This is not “the first domestically configured aircraft that American will use for transatlantic flights.” That happened in the 2000s with domestically-configured 757s to the UK. It was not a particularly comfortable overnight in the domestic F recliners.

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