American Airlines CEO Puts Boeing On Blast: Hasn’t Delivered “For A Number Of Years”

United’s CEO is talking about backing out of its order for hundreds of Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft and has lost confidence in the planemaker, having made calls looking for changes at the top of that company.

American’s CEO, too, is unhappy with Boeing – even though his airline doesn’t operate the MAX 9 which was grounded after an Alaska Airlines flight had a door plug separate from its fuselage inflight, suffering rapid depressurization.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Cabin

In fact, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom put Boeing on blast in response to an employee question at its internal “State of the Airline” meeting following their fourth quarter earnings call on Thursday (a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing).

An employee asked if any there was any impact to American from recent Boeing problems, and Isom declared that recent MAX issues aren’t a new phenomenon: Boeing hasn’t performed well “for a number of years.”

This is a hard business. A lot of what we do is dependent on actually being able to grow the airline and bring aircraft in so, as we’ve talked, everybody’s job around here is hard enough without having to worry about an aircraft manufacturer, an engine manufacturer, so where we’re at right now is Boeing hasn’t performed well for us for a number of years.

We don’t fly the MAX 9, we don’t fly the 737-900s, but that’s no comfort. They actually have to produce a quality product every time they deliver something to us. And we’re going to hold them accountable to it. …They have to get their act together.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Seats

It hasn’t been just issues with the Boeing 737 MAX, with the MAX 8 having been grounded for a year and a half after two crashes. There have been problems with the Boeing 787 program and manufacturing defects. And there have been quality and production snags with both aircraft types, which have delayed deliveries of planes American has had on order. Boeing is years behind delivering its new 777 variant, and still hasn’t gotten certification for its smaller (MAX 7) and larger (MAX 10) planes.

American Airlines Boeing 787

Of course he notes that Airbus has had issues, too. Their A321XLR is delayed and needs to be certified and it’s not yet clear whether that plane – that American has bet a lot on, for domestic premium cross country flights and for short transatlantics – will have the promised range.

American Airlines Airbus A321

American Airlines is working on an order for narrowbody aircraft (which I was first to report). Isom didn’t tip his hand on whether they’d consider Boeing planes for that order. However recent problems suggest Boeing will have to discount further to retain customers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “American is years behind delivering its new 777 variant”


    I think you meant Boeing

  2. I don’t recall American ordering the 777x, unless you were referring to Boeing and not the airline.

  3. I hope the shareholders are happy now that the Boeing powers that be, decided to cater to them.

  4. US and European industrial policy has created a cozy duopoly that are dumb and dumber – Boeing’s pathetic incompetence manages to make the mediocre Airbus look like a superstar in comparison. They don’t have to be good . . . and they are not.

    Boeing was once a great company until it was destroyed by the Pentagon and forced to allow McDonnell-Douglas to acquire them using Boeing’s money. It may or may not be too late for Airbus, but it is certainly too late for Boeing, which stopped innovating long ago and hasn’t been able to produce a new product in two decades and now can’t even deliver an unambitious derivative of a 30+ year old design – the main attraction of which are new engines that were designed and built elsewhere. Boeing is proof that manufacturing and engineering of industrial products in the USA has become absolutely impossible and is never coming back.

    The only hope for real hope for innovation in civilian aviation is now COMAC, which the bureaucrat protectionists in the USA and Europe will do everything they can to stop.

  5. Then fix your typo so it actually says that, Gary. Take a few minutes to proofread before smashing that publish button.


  6. Isom is absolutely right. Boeing has been in a 20 year downhill spiral. American was smart enough to diversify into an Airbus fleet and the percentage of Airbus aircraft grew with the US merger.
    DL followed the same path with the NW merger; both AA and DL were solidly committed to Boeing 20 years ago. AS, UA and WN are just now finding how costly it is to rely just on Boeing.
    AA’s overall fleet growth was modest to begin with so the relative slowdown will not impact them as much as other carriers.

    And, Gary, the only reason you reported that AA would be considering a new narrowbody order is because AA execs said so on earnings calls – before you or your boy wonder sources broke anything.
    It was a given that AA would have to order more narrowbodies just as it was a given that DL would order more widebodies. DL did its part and AA will do its part.
    And Boeing will compete aggressively to win at least a part of AA’s order.
    AA is just not as desperate to get Boeing airplanes as UA is.

  7. The vitriol among commentators is laughable. You’re getting all hung about a typo or whether something was a scoop.

    As others have said, if you don’t like the blog don’t read it.

    You won’t be missed.

  8. I am not surprised at the deflection comments by Isom
    AA own performance is atrocious. At DFW, the worst baggage handling, long waits at carousel, gate agents lacks skills for the number, attendants on flights are the least motivated, most uncomfortable seats. I have been flying for over 50 years, and of all the airlines I use (AA, Delta, United, SWAir, Emirates, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air France, Qatar and Air India), a flight experience on AA is usually at the bottom. When DJT announced MAGA, I hope he was saying to make American (airlines) great again.

  9. If I were a Boeing Shareholder, I’d be extremely concerned about Boeing. I want them to get their act together because if they don’t, that’s not good for me, my family, friends and the general public flying on defective aircraft which if no loss of life occurs, will result in grounding planes for reasons that are preventable and costing the company unnecessary capital expenditure.

  10. “Further discount prices”. Hmm you want fresh oats you pay a good fair price. You want discount well you get the oats after they have been processed by the horse
    Better choice would be a different supplier. Unfortunately Douglas and Lockheed gone. Airbus which puts money overseas is what’s left.

  11. I am hoping AA buys more 321’s, much more comfortable than the 737’s…use 220’s for smaller volume routes and get on the 350 bandwagon to replace aging 777’s.

  12. Boeing really doesn’t have too much to worry about. Airbus can’t supply the world’s passenger jet needs all by themselves so Boeing will continue to win their share of new purchases.

  13. American Airlines should DITCH Boeing once and for all! I am no longer comfortable flying on ANY Boeing aircraft produced after the 777 program. BOTH the Dreamliner and the MAX are COMPLETE DISASTERS!!! This was all for the name of making more and more money so that the Boeing managment team can make billions of dollars in bonuses! Boeing does not care about passenger safety AT ALL!

  14. To help all the bloggers on this website understand the privileged duopoly situation and the overregulated aircraft business, I challenge anyone to come up with a legitimate reliable, safe, and economically sustainable third party aircraft company that can outdo and compete with all of the performance metrics of Boeing and Airbus. Otherwise zip it up and “live and let die” on the only two choices of major aircraft manufacturers in the world. PS: It doesn’t help that both have unionized employees and have socialism’s based governments sponsor their duopoly. FIN.

  15. @Tim Dunn “Gary, the only reason you reported that AA would be considering a new narrowbody order is because AA execs said so on earnings calls – before you or your boy wonder sources broke anything.”

    False. I was first to report on the order mid-last year, before it was discussed on earnings calls, and I linked to the receipts. I was acknowledged in Bloomberg’s and CNBC’s reporting on the planned order. And my writing on it pre-dated that of JonNYC.

  16. Gary,
    please link to your story and provide your source.
    I can assure you that AA execs discussed it before you.

  17. never mind. I clicked on your link and you simply use an AA exec confab with employees as your source.
    As I stated, AA execs have been talking about the need for another order for quite some time.
    The fact that it came from an employee confab vs. an earnings call doesn’t change that AA execs have said it.
    And it really is not a surprise that AA needs more narrowbodies. They have a pretty small order book and will have to replace aircraft in the late 2020s and early 2030s.
    They aren’t under pressure and that is good for them.

  18. “American is years behind delivering its new 777 variant, and still hasn’t gotten certification for its smaller (MAX 7) and larger (MAX 10) planes.”

    I certainly will be on the lookout for any airplanes that American is delivering or getting certification on.

  19. @Tim Dunn – “I clicked on your link and you simply use an AA exec confab with employees as your source.”

    You said earnings call. I wrote about something nobody else had written about, and it wasn’t yet public. Apology accepted.

  20. Someone educate me on why manufacturing and industrialization for our aircraft is out of the question in America. Seems like outsourcing is a huge mistake for OUR fleets.

  21. If I remember right, it was American’s huge A319neo and A321neo order a decade ago that spooked Boeing into making the MAX with its huge and more efficient engines that didn’t fit under the wing.

  22. Gary
    thank you and I do apologize for not acknowledging that your source was AA exec comments to employees which you frequently do have access to.
    I appreciate that you share that info under your real name and not the made-up names that some of your sources use.
    but I’m not a fan of anonymous opinions either.

    yes, AA, not WN was the big driver that pushed Boeing to develop the MAX. Supposedly a combination of AA’s need for lots of aircraft at reasonable prices fairly quickly and Airbus’ development of the A320NEO family.
    you do have to wonder at what point Boeing will build an all-new aircraft but they have said – and it is accurate -that there is not a big enough technology jump to justify building an all-new narrowbody right now.
    That principle is precisely why DL bought a bunch of end of production line A321CEOs and B737-900ERs at substantial discounts compared to the NEO and MAX. and the CEO and NG are proven and the bugs have generally been worked out. and then they doubled down during covid by buying 3 dozen or so ex-Lion Air 900ERs.
    Not only is the A220 the most modern and comfortable narrowbody but Airbus has the potential to kill the MAX and the A320NEO if a further stretch of the A220 is built and produced in large enough quantities.

  23. AA is an Airbus operator because USAir was an Airbus operator. They’ll big order was essentially an order of as much Airbus as AA could strategically or delivery wise could order, then AA bought Boeing second. I strongly prefer Airbus aircraft. I would rather fly in an old beaten up A320 than a “new” 737 on AA.

  24. I’m surprised United’s Scott Kirby is concerned about aircraft safety and not asking how diverse the production crew was.

  25. Joseph,
    AA even pre-merger split Airbus and Boeing orders including for the A300 vs the B767. AA has long tried to play both sides of the Atlantic.
    Airbus saw an opening w/ US just as it did with NW and Eastern in supplying what was the “lower tier” carriers while AA, DL and UA were largely loyal to Boeing.
    Post megamerger cycle, AA and DL bought more Airbus than Boeing but only recently both swung predominantly Airbus
    Let’s not forget that Delta has repeatedly asked Boeing to build an all-new aircraft that would replace the 757 and 767 and even Boeing’s original proposals included trying to make a new aircraft go all the way from being a narrowbody to a small widebody.
    On the heels of the problems w/ the 787 and the development of the MAX, Delta switched its orders exclusively to Airbus for almost two decades minus the 737-900ER order which was really a cleanup order to get the ex-NW 787 order off DL’s books.
    AA bought Airbus aircraft that were heavily proven while DL jumped in fairly early on the A350, pushed the A330NEO, bought 150 or so end of production line A321CEOs, and then a similar amount of A321NEOs. The A220 was really a Bombardier product but DL will have similarly sized fleets of 737-900ERs, A321CEOs, A321NEOs, and A220s. They recently ordered the MAX10 but mostly so they could get the engine maintenance contract on the LEAP engines which power the MAX – which they have for every other aircraft DL has on order.
    AA was the largest Airbus operator in the world but DL has taken that title. in just a few months with its next A350/330NEO deliveries, DL will also take the title of largest operator of Airbus widebodies (a title Emirates holds with its A380 fleet), and the A350-1000 order ensures DL will hold that title for most of the rest of the decade if not longer.

    AA, DL and UA were all loyal to Boeing and had most favored nation contracts w/ Boeing until the US government said those contracts were illegal as part of the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas merger.

  26. Joanie Adams – it is not out of the question to manufacture aircraft in the USA, Boeing, Airbus, Gulfstream, Cessna, and Cirrus all do that. Outsourcing happens for several reasons;
    1) Placing content in nations that are major customers so that nations airlines buy from you (why Boeing has substantial souring to Japan)
    2) The best operation for making a component is not here, and that company wont come to the USA (think German suppliers)
    3) Cost

    The issue isn’t the outsourcing per se, but managing a complex supply chain is a unique skill, automakers excel at it and Boeing thougth it was easy, it’s not. Keep in mind that Spirit Aero Systems was Boeing, until Boeing spun it off. And just as GM and Ford learned in the Delphi and Visteon spin-offs the parent company doesnt actually have the skills to repalce the spin offs with other suppliers, and once those units have their own Profit Margins to manage it’s even harder.

  27. What American needs is a New CEO that has a vision for the longterm international growth and one that truly values his workforce of this Iconic airline.

    The Boeing 737 Max is not a comfortable aircraft and certainly even worse without entertainment. The perfect fit is the 321 XLR and Neo. The old 319’s can be replaced with the new A220’s

    A good aircraft to replace the again 777s would be A350-1000. Being needs to get a run for its money. Airbus should step in and offer American an incredible deal with aircraft’s with latest technology and entertainment in every seat.

    Robert Isom is dragging that airline down and should be ashamed of himself. Take your money and go. American should take in a new board of directors that has its success at heart.
    It’s time and the time is now.

    American needs to drop being completely for now. The 777xxx might be a great option in the future. The latest technology is a must !

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