American Airlines Retiring Airbus A330 Fleet

Filed Under: American

American Airlines is continuing its fleet simplification strategy, and the airline is now retiring another aircraft type altogether.

American retiring all A330s

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, American Airlines operated a fleet of 24 Airbus A330s, including:

  • 15 A330-200s
  • Nine A330-300s

In late March American revealed it would retire its entire A330-300 fleet, and the airline is now taking a step further — American Airlines will retire its A330-200 fleet effective immediately.

These planes were previously supposed to be stored for the next couple of years, but will now be retired altogether.

These were all former US Airways planes, as the A330 used to be the backbone of US Airways’ long haul fleet. And they were actually pretty cutting-edge at the time. US Airways was the first airline in the world to introduce reverse herringbone seats, and that happened on the A330s back in 2009. This is a seat that has widely been adopted since.

American’s A330 business class (in the US Airways days)

Several months back American Airlines announced it would retire its Boeing 757-200s and Boeing 767-300s, meaning that three long haul aircraft types have now been eliminated.

American has retired all of its 767s

What does American’s long haul fleet look like now?

At this point American Airlines’ long haul fleet consists exclusively of 777s and 787s. The airline has:

  • 47 Boeing 777-200s, which are an average of about 20 years old
  • 20 Boeing 777-300s, which are an average of about six years old
  • 23 Boeing 787-8s, which are an average of about four years old
  • 22 Boeing 787-9s, which are an average of about three years old

American’s smallest long haul aircraft is now the 787-8

On top of that, American has three long haul aircraft types on order:

  • 50 Airbus A321XLRs, to be delivered between 2022 and 2025; this is a long haul narrow body aircraft that will be much needed after American retired the 757 and 767
  • 19 Boeing 787-8s, which will be used to replace some of the 767s and A330s that have been retired
  • 25 Boeing 787-9s, which will be used to replace some 777-200s, given how old they’re getting

American Airlines has ordered 50 A321XLRs

So yeah, American has greatly simplified its long haul fleet at this point, as it goes from having 757s, 767s, 777s, 787s, and A330s, to having just 777s and 787s, and eventually adding A321XLRs.

Only time will tell what happens to American’s delivery schedule for new aircraft, since I imagine the airline is doing everything possible to defer delivery of new planes in order to conserve cash.

Bottom line

American Airlines will be retiring its 15 Airbus A330-200s. The airline announced a few months back it would retire its A330-300s, and you can now add the A330-200s to the list as well.

This ultimately doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given that it’ll likely be several years before international travel demand has recovered. Not only that, but American has a lot of new aircraft on order, so these planes would have eventually been replaced anyway.

American sure has a simple long haul fleet at this point, consisting exclusively of 777s and 787s. The A321XLR will be a great addition to the fleet, though only time will tell what the delivery schedule ends up looking like for those planes.

Are you surprised to see American retire its A330 fleet?

(Featured image courtesy of Aero Pixels)

  1. I remember when US Airways debuted the herringbone lie flat business class seats on this plane, at the time cutting edge for United States airlines. They were the backbone of Philadelphia’s international flights to Europe. So many memories/trips on these birds – Paris, London, Athens….just a sad day in aviation.

  2. Was able to fly on these twice in business class- as @Chris said, in what was cutting edge all-aisle access lie flat seats. Very nice ride overall, but now having flown the 787, can definitely see the improvements, especially from a noise perspective. Gonna miss the espresso available on these planes in business class.

  3. The a330s were so much more comfortable in economy at 8 across then the 9 across B787 and 10 across B777. Will miss these birds sadly. Have many fond memories of flying them both domestically, to the Caribbean, and to Europe. When flying economy I will no longer choose American unless using Systemwide upgrades to Business class on the B787 or B777. I have been an Executive Platinum with American for over 5 years but this change means that I will choose United or Delta or Oneworld partners for longhaul international travel when flying in economy, In premium economy I would still consider American, however.


  5. It is a shame to see the A330’s leave the AA fleet but a potential bargain for Eastern Airlines or Spicejet if they want a ready made product!!! @Lucky have you heard any further news as to whether the rumours of a NYC/BOS/PHL-LCY using the A220 have amounted to anything? Post covid it could be a great option to expand into the translatlantic for very small capital costs.

  6. I gived in philly For years and have many fond memories flying to Europe in J in these back in the 2010s.

    Always great to run into one of these on a domestic transcon to philly as well.

  7. I would be very interested to have some insight on how airlines are managing downgrading all of these presumably senior pilots as they shrink their long-haul capacity significantly for a foreseeable future. And how base assignments play in…?

  8. I’m based in CLT and kind of sad I never flew business on these. AA’s business rates out of CLT were just insane. I would just catch a cheap flight to JFK and fly LH or AA flagship first for significantly less.

  9. CLT shows 777s for all international flights next year. I was hoping we’d finally get some dreamliners, especially since LH has a 350 here now

  10. The AA A330 was my first business class flight from Venice to Phily 5 years ago. Since then I flew them one more time from Phily to Athens. The seat was showing its age but I will always remember it fondly.

  11. The upgraded premium economy and economy seats, with in-seat power and entertainment, were decent – quite the contrast to the 767-300 and legacy US A320/321 fleets. Yes the 787/777 is an improvement, but gosh – it’d be nice to see them (quickly) refurb the US A320/321 fleets with a competitive economy product. (The new Oasis refit is… not competitive. It’s painful.)

  12. I’ll second JC’s comments above and say the loss of 7 and 8 across seating in the 767 and A330 is a huge downgrade for economy pax. No matter the airline, pretty much everyone agrees that 9-abreast in the 787 and 10-abrest in the 777 is uncomfortable at best and torture on the longest of routes. Plus, for couples traveling, having the two seats on window/aisle makes a long flight far more pleasant. The focus of this blog is obviously towards premium cabins and AA can remain competitive post-pandemic in J with the 777 and 787, but for the vast majority of pax who are stuck in Y, AA is just another airline to avoid on long-hauls.

  13. I’ve probably taken a hundred flights in this old A330 fleet out of PHL to various cities in Europe in the past decade starting out with US Airways before the merger. I’ve flown them in Economy a few times but mostly in Business Class and they were a great ride in each cabin and I will miss them just as I still miss US Air. And as others have stated, it’s a sad day but the 787s are a nice ride and at this point, we can all only hope that international air travel will return to its glory days, sooner rather than later.

  14. So essentially, with 757s and 767s, just short of a hundred perfectly good planes (admittedly some, but not all, having reached the age of retirement which until now meant being sold to secondary carriers and finding a new life for a decade or so) …

    And this is for ONE airline among dozens of very large ones (e.g Cathay, BA, LH etc..), all this representing ONE field of activity among hundreds constituting human civilization and the World’s activity.

    I am not sure that everybody realizes the enormity of what is happening to us in terms of human regression, like a civilization being destroyed, something far bigger than not only the Big 1929 Depression which in comparison is chicken s**t, but the Two World Wars. We are living an Extinction Level Event which will probably be mentioned in the History book- equivalents 500 years from now. Talks of getting back to 2019 levels in 2021, 22 or 24 are childish dreams.

    Isn’t it time to look for who is responsible and how they must be accountable? (and I do not mean US politicians, this is far bigger).

  15. Had a lovely flight on one of these, with a complimentary upgrade to Envoy from a super-cheap esaver fare (remember those?). No status or anything; I think the checkin agent just liked me.

  16. Really sad to see this. I’ve flown the 332s in Y/Y+/J between CDG-PHL more times than I can count over the years. Always a comfortable flight in every cabin.

  17. and yet the A330-200 and 300 had lower fuel burns than the 777-200ER; American still has 4 dozen of those in the fleet plus the 777-300ERs which are less fuel efficient than United’s 787-10s or Delta’s A350s.
    Fleet age isn’t the whole issue.

  18. They can always replace the 777-200 ER with more 787-9 going forward. Fuel efficiency is one element. Stocking fewer spares and reduced maintenance and training is another side to the picture.

  19. Until American Airlines can learn how to just be KIND consistently across the board, it matters not what kind of new toys they will have!!! I do understand, however, why they are not always kind! TRICKLEDOWN. All AA employees are fighting for their lives because of the vitriolic leaders which manhandle them.
    My money…and RESPECT…will go to Delta and Southwest from here on!!

  20. Will miss the US Airways A330’s as I flew them many times.

    I wonder if Delta tries to pick up some of the A330’s since they are pushing to go to a all A330/A350 widebody fleet and just announced the accelerated retirements of more B763.

  21. I can’t speak so much for the passenger experience, but from the standpoint of the person with the best seat (Captain), the A330 is an extremely nice airplane to fly. I flew over 36 years at old US/AA and was retired early just like the airplane. The 330 flies as good as she looks and exhibits some of the best handling traits of any airliner I ever flew. Tailwinds my big friend.

  22. Sean,
    Delta has scores of new A350s and A330-900s (more fuel efficient than the ones they currently have) and are also retiring their own aircraft, including the 777.
    Their “accelerated retirement” is of the 767-300ERs is for the end of the fleet flying in 2025; that is years away and also pretty close to as long as Delta has kept any widebody aircraft. They announced the early retirement in order to get a tax credit that they can apply for years to come.
    Delta still has a fleet of 767-400s that it has said nothing about; if Delta pursues any purchase of used aircraft, it will be United’s 767-400s if UA wants to sell – and they likely would love to have someone buy them. Delta just doesn’t need any additional aircraft for years so it depends if UA can keep them in a condition that they can be restored if UA chooses to operate them, which they aren’t doing now.
    The A330-900 costs about as much to operate as a 767-300ER, maybe less, but carries dozens more passengers. There is no reason for Delta to take older A330s which burn more fuel than either the 767-300ERs or the newer generation A330s.
    Delta has its own A330-200s and it has to decide what to do with them.

    No, Delta is highly unlikely to take American’s A330s.

    and the full operating costs of American’s 787-8s including ownership costs is higher than Delta’s 767-300ERs. New aircraft cost money; shrink aircraft like the 787-8 and A330-200 have particularly bad economics. Add both of those together and AAL’s international fleet is not as economical as some would like you to believe. Operating cost differences between aircraft types matters a whole lot more on longhaul flights than they do on domestic flights. Delta quit buying used international aircraft a long time ago.

  23. Those US A330s were my first introduction to the FF world in the early 2000s. I have many fond memories of upgrading pretty cheap economy tickets to Row 1 Business class. Those seats were old First Class but sold as Business. 94″ legroom, fully flat and a full 5 windows all to myself.

  24. As @TM notes above, with the legacy US Airways Airbus A330s gone for good, American’s remaining long haul widebody fleet of Boeing 777s & 787s is a significant downgrade in comfort for Main Cabin/Economy class passengers.

    That’s just a fact with the A330s featuring 8-abreast, 2-4-2 cabins & seat widths (per seatguru) 17.8” versus the super narrow & atrocious 17-17.1” width densely packed & horribly overcrowded 10-abreast 3-4-3 configurations found aboard American’s Boeing 777s or the equally detestable 17.2” wide seats aboard AA’s horrid 9-abreast, 3-3-3 Boeing 787 ‘Nightmareliners’ for Main Cabin/Economy class passengers.

    Needless to say, with seats barely wide enough for ‘tweens, AA’s long haul widebody 777s & 787s are planes to avoid like the plague – unless, of course, one is among the fortunate few always sure to have a confirmed seat in Biz or Premium Economy classes.

    As to AA’s future fleet of 50 long haul narrowbody A321XLRs, after spending about 6.5 hours (~75 mins of which was “old school” circling just off the coast of New Jersey due to bad weather at JFK plus 30 mins hold before takeoff) 1-year ago aboard a Boeing 757, even in an extra legroom 34” pitch row, I’ll do my level best to absolutely AVOID ANY flight longer than 5 hours in Main Cabin/Economy aboard any narrowbody, except perhaps a 5-abreast, 18+” wide Airbus A220.

    And again, we’re talking about a crappy Boeing aircraft with their dreadful, 17.2” wide seats – which is preposterous for even an average sized, 5’ 8” adult whose shoulder width at 21” meant constant physical contact with a total stranger unless I was leaning against the sidewall of the cabin to create a separation from the petite passenger who was stuck in the middle seat for those 6.5 hours.

    Progress is about making things better – and yet, for anyone flying long haul aboard American Airlines’ (& others’) densified widebody 777s & 787s, or any narrowbody other than perhaps an Airbus A220 in Main Cabin/Economy class for any flight longer than 5 hours (maximum), at least at AA with its 7-abreast 767s & 8-abreast A330s now gone, this is an airline that’s simply best avoided unless one is assured of being seated in a premium cabin.

    It just is.

  25. Small thing, but something I will definitely not miss. This would drive me insane in economy, and is an absolute user interface/design fail. The flight attendant call and the overhead reading light shared the same button on the in flight entertainment system. One side was the light and one side the FA chime. ALL FLIGHT LONG, every 5-10 seconds, someone in economy who was trying to turn on their reading light would hit the FA chime, which was pretty loud. So for 6-8 hours, as you were trying to sleep, it was DING, DING, DING every ten seconds. It would get to where I was just sitting there with my eyes closed anticipating the next ding. Won’t miss that.

  26. @TEX277 ditto! I was new to the game and flying quite a bit on US Air in the years post-911 (2002ish-4ish) and had several cheap tix cert-upgraded to Envoy row 1. At the time that upgrade was probably the best deal/value in the sky. $249 r/t to Europe in one of the few fully flat seats out there.

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