Why American Airlines Doesn’t Think They Need A Big New Plane Order, Or The 787-10

American Airlines has ordered a lot of aircraft over the past decade. They have more debt than any of their competitors. But they also retired a lot of aircraft during the pandemic – their Boeing 757s and 767s, their Airbus A330s and their Embraer E-190s.

They have Boeing 787s and long range Airbus A321s coming into the fleet, but their Boeing 777-200s are getting old and will eventually start needing replacement or a lot of investment. Meanwhile United Airlines has just taken up a lot of Boeing’s future capacity to deliver new planes.

So where does American Airlines stand? The topic was addressed at a recent meeting between executives and pilots in Dallas (a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing). CEO Robert Isom began by saying they have enough on their plate with current aircraft deliveries.

We have a pretty decent order of aircraft coming in. So we got 78s, then we’ve got the order for the -9s, which I think are going to take care of our needs. But then on top of that we’ve got the 50 XLRs coming in. And that’s again one of those things we’re really pressing on Airbus for because I’d love to have those aircraft here yesterday, but we’ve got to get them through certification. So those are two big things that are out there, but I think it’s important for Brian [Znotins] to talk about the size of the aircraft. While the -10s might be something I think down the road, maybe you know possible replacements for the 777-300s at some point in time, I don’t know if it fits just because of the way our network is set up.

In bringing up Vice President of Network Planning Brian Znotins to speak about this, Isom offered “you might have a different view” and the two then joked about whether Znotins had a future at the company if he disagreed. Isom then declared “looks like we’ll be getting the 10’s! Edit that out. Edit that out. We’re not!”

Znotins explained why they don’t think they want the Boeing 787-10, the stretched version of the aircraft which seats more passengers,

We have the -9s coming, we have the A320XLRs coming, both in fantastic configurations where we have more premium seats on those airplanes than what we have in the fleets we have today.

Furthermore we’re reconfiguring the 777-300s to have more flat beds, more premium economy, and more total seats which is a win-win-win for that airplane. So for us we feel pretty good about the size of our international network for the fleet we have today, but the fleet we have coming gives us more opportunity to get into more business premium-type routes.

Our -8s for example don’t have a very big front cabin right now, so we focus those more on leisure type routes or niche type routes in our network. The -10 looks like a great airplane. It may be for us in the future. We’re happy with the -9s we have coming right now. If the world changes and we need to adjust our order book Boeing is a great partner to work with and we’ve done that multiple times through our history where we’ve shifted, increased orders, changed orders from widebodies to narrows and vice versa. So lots of flexibility there with Boeing.

So we won’t sit here and commit today to a -10 in our network, but if we decide down the road that if we think it’s good for our fleet then we will work with Boeing and we can obviously either add -10s to our order book or adjust -9s to be -10s going forward.

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