American Airlines Expected To Announce Game-Changing Aircraft Order March 4, Eyeing Airbus A350s

American Airlines is working on an order for new planes. However it may not just be for narrowbody planes as I and others have reported.

There’s discussion of a widebody order potentially as well – even for the Airbus A350 as a replacement for aging Boeing 777-200s. An announcement, at least for new smaller planes, may come as soon as March 4 which is the airline’s upcoming Investor Day as noted by aviation watchdog JonNYC.

American Airlines A321

I’ve expected a new aircraft order. In fact, I was first to report that American is considering a narrowbody order. CEO Robert Isom told employees in July, “We’re going to need aircraft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we make a commitment to some narrowbody aircraft as we get past 2027.”

I have not been expecting a widebody aircraft order. They’ve deferred delivery of several of the Boeing 787-9s that they already have on order.

While (like everyone else) American Airlines CEO Robert Isom has been unhappy with Boeing I still expect they’ll get a better deal from Boeing on MAX aircraft to replace older Airbus A319, A320, and some 737-800 aircraft. Delivery slots would be harder to come by for Airbus, though American has suggested that for an airline their size airframe manufacturers will figure it out.

As far as widebodies, adding the A350 to the fleet would be a complete reversal of the airline’s strategy over the past 7 years as they’ve tried to reduce the diversity of their operation.

American Airlines retired too many aircraft during the pandemic. At least there was demand for the carrier’s Boeing 767s as freighters. Northern Pacific wanted some 757s. They were even still paying leases on Airbus A330s.

  • With so many planes off the table, they were unable to take advantage of last year’s travel boom to Europe that fueled profits at Delta and United
  • However, they argued that they positioned themselves well for the future by simplifying their widebody fleet – all Boeing, all 787/777.

American Airlines Boeing 787

It would be surreal for the airline, which cancelled its order for the A350 inherited from US Airways in spring 2018, to grow its widebody fleet by adding the complexity of this new aircraft type. Update: American used to have an A350 simulator, but already sold it. Hah.

The airline has also talked down a 787-10 as a replacement for its Boeing 777-300ERs. But the A350 would presumably be opening up destinations that American has been loathe to fly to, doesn’t think would be profitable for them, and would likely require a shift in route strategy.

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. This will simply be a validation that Delta made the right choice with the A350, will have 45 of them in service within a couple years, and will add the A350-1000 which is the most capable and cost efficient widebody and that will create enormous advantages for DL which no US competitor can ignore.

    I am certain that Airbus will do all it can to sell more jets to AA whether narrowbody or widebody.

    and the notion of having just 2 widebody aircraft types is too simple for any of the big 3.

    and let’s remember that the last rumor from who you know has been beat into dust and still hasn’t materialized.
    AA execs specifically said they were shopping for narrowbodies. There is no rumor in that.
    Anyone can create rumors about the rest.
    My rumor is that AA will leave to see another day.

  2. [Delta does something other airlines aren’t doing] Tim Dunn: This is proof that Delta is the best because they’re innovators.

    [Delta does something other airlines are doing] Tim Dunn: This is proof that Delta is the best because it’s validation.

    Must be nice never needing to update your priors.

  3. It’s 1 dumb thing to ground those aircraft. It’s another that they haven’t tried to unload or sell them. There’s plenty of carriers with similar aircraft that would use them to expand their fleet.

  4. Tim, Delta will have 2 widebody types once the 767s go. Unless you’re implying that they’ll order 787s or 777s? But, that would represent a strategy shift and “validate” AA, using your flimsy argument.

    Not everything has to be about Delta. Also, while the a350 might be efficient, Delta running 6 sub-fleets with simulators and each their own management pilots is not.

  5. @ Tim — AA and UA will continue to be superior to DL on the transoceanic routes they serve. Just say no to old crappy 767-300s

  6. AMERICAN AIRLINE SHOULD ORDER AT LEAST A350 – 900 (100) , A 350 – 1000 (100) , A 321 XLR (100) , A 321 NEO (200) . STAY AWAY FROM PRAT AND WHITNEY ENGINES AND BOEING

  7. @Gene: Tim would say that the crappy 767-300s are just validation that DL can run old equipment efficiently instead of wasting money on capex for new frames.

    8-D chess.

  8. Boeing is a basket case!! The A350 is so much nicer to fly on than the Nightmare Liner B787.

    AA would be wise to reduce their risk with Boeing until they sort their house out and come back to the excellent company they were before McDonald Douglas management took over and pushed profits and stock buybacks at the expense of safety and there workforce!

    If it’s Boeing.. I’M NOT GOING!!!

  9. @Dan It sure would be nice to be Tim Dunn. Every piece of news, no matter the content can be analyzed by a few simple decision rules:

    1. This news proves Delta is superior in every way
    2. If in doubt, see rule 1.

    Sometimes I wonder if Tim is some kind of LLM bot in training. It would only take a simple decision rule and ChatGPT to generate his content.

  10. I doubt that AA will order the A350, probably just more 737MAX and A321NEO/XLR. AA has shifted. its international strategy to relying more on BA/JL/QF. As the 77Es are retired they simply wont replace them.

  11. Why does anything related to aviation bring Delta into the equation? I do not Fn get it! I fly them and they are no different than any other airline and those GD 717s are chit and those 757s/767s are old ancient rust buckets. BFD Delta has inseat GD videos… cares!

  12. I concur. All aviation blogs are now getting swamped by this ‘Tim Dunn’ bot with completely irrelevant posts relating everything left and right to DL. And every post and content is the exactly the same thing, some kind of DL worshipping and AA/BA bashing and relating everything that happens in the industry with some random thing that DL does. I thought at first it was a person, but it increasingly seems to be some kind of dedicated bot or contract employee hired to pump up DL stock prices. The same is true in all aviation related forums as well.

  13. Tim Dunn obviously believes that his beloved Delta is not only excellent – but is the world’s only PERFECT airline.

    I know this will be hard for the hardcore Tim Dunn bashers to read, but he does make salient points from time to time. But his constant claim that Delta is PERFECT undermines his credibility,

    It will be interesting to see what American does with its aircraft order. No matter what some may think, American should get a good deal. And good value is not always the lowest price.

  14. Living in northern California, I’m amused about all the talk about Delta. It’s either a foreign carrier for an international flight, or United/AA/WN that anyone I’ve seen hear use.

    I’m guessing that their hubs of SLC and ATL are rarely interesting destinations or useful hubs.

    Their reputation of being friendly to business flyers and hostile to leisure customers doesn’t help.

    Anyway, just a perspective. I’m sure anyone living in Georgia feels same about United/AA.

  15. I’ll be reading Tim Dunn’s posts and start agreeing with him. Then I’ll climb onto one of the crappy Delta 717s and realize he’s probably just a paid shill.

  16. I was daydreaming about an American A350 order all day, so if the order becomes a thing you know who to thank.

    While a A359 still can’t do DFW-SIN, the plane would be a great fit for DFW-Asia. Deciding where to base them is another story…

  17. If AA does go for the a350 (which is only theoretical) they will be playing catch up to Delta and their phenomenal success with the type. It would be interesting, but I doubt that it would help get AA to the bottom, which they strive so hard to achieve.

  18. On my cue, the peanut gallery has turned the conversation from AA to me. I am so honored at the power I exert and how you all are wrapped around my little finger.

    On the topic, AA and UA (has) had longstanding orders for the A350 but they both focused on the B787 which was delayed and grounded multiple times. Delta inherited a 787 order from Northwest, ultimately canned it for 737-900ERs and is within weeks of becoming Airbus’ largest widebody customer and operator.
    Delta ordered the A350 as DL’s fuel efficient new generation aircraft to supplement the B777-200ER/LR but most of the A350s that DL has in its fleet right now are early build and less capable aircraft. Airbus has enhanced the A350 multiple times and DL takes delivery of the newest and most capable A359s in weeks. DL’s order for the A350-1000 did exactly as I expected which is to force AA and UA to look a whole lot more closely at the A350 which is the most capable longhaul aircraft on the market, besting the 787 by hours of flying time. The A350-900 and B787-9 have similar economics but the A35K will give DL a huge advantage not just in capability but also economics.
    AA and UA aren’t run by idiots – they know who their competitors are and know they cannot continue to be uncompetitive. DL’s system fleet efficiency is 7% better than AA and UA’s in part because DL knows how to use its multiple fleets where they are best suited. DL’s longest range flights are operated by fuel efficient A330-900s and A350s. The A330-300, the backbone of DL’s transatlantic fleet now, has a double digit fuel efficiency advantage over the 777-200ER.

    AA and UA have huge widebody fleet replacement bills coming up because their 777-200ERs need to be replaced or they will see their fuel cost disadvantage grow from the $1.5 billion compared to DL to an even higher number.

    AA has long favored a split narrowbody fleet, DL got onboard w/ the NW merger and has only expanded its A320 family fleet. UA finally got around to realizing the superiority of the A320 family and is now begging Airbus to bail UA out of Boeing’s mess w/ the MAX.

    The A350 is simply the best new generation aircraft out there. Neither AA or UA need the 777X which will still not have the range of the A350 and all of the US3 need that range as long as Russian airspace embargoes remain in effect.

    and I believe DL will order the 787-10 as its high capacity transatlantic and S. America plane with a few potentially flying over the Pacific. The 787-10 is the most economical 12 hour plane and it will be mature and w/ increased capabilities by the time Delta orders.

    As for the 767s that Gene loves to bring up, Delta managed to best AA and UA’s international system profits by hundreds of millions of dollars in the first 3 quarters of 2023. DL’s 767-300ER fleet is flying predominantly domestic – where it allowed DL to overtake AA on JFK-LAX as the largest airline – and to Hawaii. DL is also using it to fly to S. America against other carrier narrowbodies. DL’s fleet strategy is part of its industry-leading profitability and will only grow as Delta’s maintenance shops fill up with new generation engine overhauls from other airlines.

    Looking forward to seeing AA and UA become A350 customers just as much as I look forward to seeing the MAX 10 and 787-10 at Delta.

  19. Wouldn’t the A330-900 NEO be a better replacement for the 777-200? Does AA really need the A350 for most of the 777-200 routes? Maybe a mixed order for a few A350-900 for range and 50 or so A330-900?

  20. AA won’t order anything big they are a big ass regional airline now this management like McDonald Douglas destroying Boeing has destroyed AA. These guys have no clue how to do international or compete so they stay domestic if we can’t fit it in CLT or dfw we can’t do it!!!

  21. Facts of the matter : AA is the *worst* mainline carrier in the USA, hands down, full stop. Delta (and JetBlue, if not in a rush) are the best mainline carriers, hands down, full stop.. As far as customer experience goes.

    AA has gotten so friggin’ bad, it would not surprise me to see this headline in the news someday:

    “Spirit Frontier announce takeover of American Airlines”

  22. HP-PHX
    It always puzzled me why AA showed no interest in the 767-400 as CO (later UA) and DL did.
    It has very similar operating costs per passenger to larger widebodies.
    As for the A330-900, it would still be a great compliment to the B787-9 and w/ better economics than the 787-8.
    But the 339 weighs more than either of the 787s because the 339 has a metal fuselage and wing; the converse is that Airbus can build it cheap. Some sites believe DL buys them for about $90 million – millions less than Boeing can charge for a 787.
    The A350 is somewhat bigger but much more capable. If AA wanted to buy the 339, it would make the most sense to use it to Europe and then use 787s to Asia.
    But AA and UA need a larger and more capable long range aircraft than the 787 and the 339 isn’t going to do it; the 350 is the only plane that can best the 787.
    And perhaps the 77X (-9) can beat the 350 in terms of economics but it will take the 777-8 to match or beat the A350 in capability and range and then still might not best it in economics.

    AA and UA are realizing that it makes sense to get on the A350 bandwagon.
    The only real question is how long it will take for them to start receiving aircraft. Airbus has made sales recently with first deliveries in 2-3 years.
    AA and UA are probably looking at the latter part of the decade or early 2030s for most of their A350s – if they take them.
    And by that time, DL will have retired the 767-300ER and the 767-400 retirements will be just around the corner.
    That is when it will make sense for DL to potentially consider the B787-10 where it could end up with 3 widebody types which is where AA would be with the A350, B777 and B787 and where I believe UA will also end up.

    we’ll have 3 recipes for vanilla among the US airlines.

    now, we’ll get to work on your keyboard. 🙂

  23. If AA selects A350 for their 777 replacement, then it wouldn’t really add complexity to their fleet in the long term. Their widebody fleet would go from 777/787 to A350/787 – still two widebody types.

  24. The persistent 777x delays has created a demand for A350 that perhaps wouldn’t have existed before.
    The persistent Max debacle has taught many that reliance on one brand isnt always the best way forward.

  25. Austin,
    AA’s 777-300ERs are fairly young so will probably be around for another decade or more.
    AA uses them as their best ultra-long range capable aircraft – did it for DFW-HKG and now for JFK-DEL which sometimes stretches beyond 17 hours westbound in the winter. Otherwise, it is a high premium aircraft esp. for LHR where its economics are better. They have a very low seat count on their 77Ws compared to UA which itself has a fairly premium configuration for a US carrier. The economics of AA’s 77Ws esp. on ultra long routes can’t be great but they are undoubtedly going to ride them out for the rest of their life given the refurb they are currently doing.
    Given the coming high premium 787-9 configuration, AA could switch its DEL and other very long routes to 787-9s.
    The A350 in either form would give AA as much or more range than their premium 787-9s for which Boeing will presumably increase the take-off weight and potentially make more dense 787s just as capable as the A359. The A350 is heavier than the 789 even w/ more range and more capacity

    AA has to decide if it is worth that extra complexity for a few longer range flights vs. ordering the 787-10 which AA could use to S. America and Europe.

    And remember that Airbus is undoubtedly pushing AA and UA to buy the A350 in order to help find narrowbody delivery slots due to the MAX mess.
    DL’s A350-1000s will likely deliver in 2026-2028, they could take some options that push them into 2030 but not much beyond that, and then, DL is likely through w/ A350 orders. Airbus wants to keep some US customers ordering A350s. UA might fill that bill but so might AA.

  26. “and let’s remember that the last rumor from who you know has been beat into dust and still hasn’t materialized.”

    which rumor was that you clueless banchod?

  27. It is sad to the extreme that people waste their time commenting on the Delta dribble oozing out of Tiny Tim’s keyboard. If I see one of his Delta-bot posts, I just scroll right past it. If I wanted to read Delta propaganda, I would go to their website. Nevertheless, I’ll just wait and see what kind of aircraft AA orders before I pass judgement on their decision.

  28. @Jason

    The 787 is probably the most popular commercial airplane with both passengers and pilots. It’s had problems but nothing like the 737 debacle. A350 is the better aircraft for ultra long haul flights but the 787 beats it for things under 14 hours.


    Agreed. Delta is nothing special when it comes to flying overseas. They didn’t even have bread in business class from AMS to JFK other than one brown roll on the food tray. I’ve never been in business class that didn’t have a basket of bread for flight attendants to go around the aisles with. AA and UA are competent flying overseas. I like having the AA option to Japan.

  29. hey tiny x,
    you are so easy to wind up and I do get a kick out of how you respond to any criticism of you.

    and the rumor would be the supposed hub. You do realize that UA is scavenging the earth for anyone to build aircraft that Boeing can’t, don’t you?
    And it might be that begging that forces UA to put some cash down for those A350s UA has had on order for ever and ever.

    I have never been on a Delta flight that didn’t have bread. I suspect it was a catering issue. but regardless of the airline or experience, everyone loves to turn their anecdotal experiences into “how it happens” for everyone.

    And the 787 might be “enough” but if AA sticks solely with the 787 as its new generation widebody, it needs to order the -10

  30. @Tim Dunn – AA earns a tiny percentage of revenue from cargo and also has a “boutique” (to put it kindly) TPAC presence. It has no need for either the range or the extra cargo capacity of the heavier A350 other than to hedge against being reliant on Boeing.

    The US in general is a multi-hub environment which means that it has generally been more profitable to launch a new frequency from a different hub than buy up to the largest example of an airplane model. There are some exceptions (DFW-LHR, etc.) but as much as one can slag AA for a number of bad missteps, complicating their fleet by adding a small fleet type (A350) that doesn’t match their route network isn’t among them. DL’s route network is much more ATL centric and has more TPAC coverage so A350 makes more sense for them. Horses for courses.

  31. Still don’t understand why AA is still paying for the A330 fleet that is just gathering dust. Could’ve reactivated them to help with the 787 delays and domestic widebody coverage which seems to be here to stay.

  32. @Speedbird AA is already deferring wide bodies currently on order due to lack of profitable opportunities. They don’t have anywhere to fly the A330s if they reactivated them. That, plus they don’t have any A330 pilots or mechanics currently certified.

  33. Andrew,
    I don’t disagree w/ your first point about AA’s network but it comes down to how much Airbus is willing to create delivery slots for AA.
    and, of the big 3, it is far more likely that UA will become an A350 customer and also will put it to good use.
    Interesting thing is that they had the A350-1000 on order, switched to the -900, and now could probably use the -1000 more.
    in typical UA fashion, though, if they order the A350, it will be for far more copies than they have on their very postponed order.
    problem is that UA’s balance sheet cannot handle more capex unless they push it way out or push back some of their Boeing spending.

    and I am certain that Boeing is trying desperately to get UA onboard with the 777X

  34. DL went with the A350 because they got a deal from Airbus is they bought a combo package. Truth is DL need the 787 to replace the 767, not the A350-900 or -1000. The A350 are just too big for DL long term and if the economy goes south and international travel declines, they are screwed.

    AA and even UA going to one type with mutliple sizes makes the most sense. AA will replace 777-2 with 787-9 and teh 777-300 are only 10 years old so they aren’t worried about them for another 5-7 years. The need to drop the A320 and A319s which will be more Maxes (7 and 8s). BTW, AA will get a deal from Boeing on thoses too 🙂

  35. viking,
    you are right that DL got a deal from Airbus that not only included the 339 and 359 with Airbus practically giving the 339s away to keep the A330 line open. the second part of the deal is the very generous MRO agreement DL got from Rolls-Royce for engines on the 339 and 359, the former of which allowed DL to service the Trent 1000s on the 787 which ended up being a very beneficial agreement to DL. DL wanted the MRO agreement on the Trent 97 that powers the A350-1000 as part of an order for the A350-1000, RR balked at first, and DL ended up getting it after negotiating for a year, including getting an MRO offer from GE for the GEnx on the 787. The 787 is still a larger platform than the Trent XWB which is why I still think DL wants into the GEnx program for MRO revenue. DL didn’t order a replacement for the 764s or the last part of the 763s and still has time to do so which is why I believe the 787-10 is still in play for DL.

    as for the international market, US carriers are in a very good place and UA’s CEO is right in that regard. DL doesn’t make near as much noise as UA but is growing internationally.

    The A350-900 is not that much larger than the 787-9 but is more capable. The A350-1000 is simply a much more capable version with more capability and DL’s fleet of those will be similar sized to AA and UA’s 77W’s. If international falls apart, DL will be in a far better position using A35Ks than AA and UA will be with 77Ws. and UA will be the most vulnerable w/ a larger international network relative to its domestic network and they still think they have to keep growing it.

    AA is likely missing opportunities internationally and has higher costs because of the 777-200ER fleet. They need an efficient aircraft as a replacement for the 777-200ER but also need some growth capacity. If the goal is primary 772ER replacement, the 787-10 will serve the purpose well and they should roll over as many of their remaining 787 orders to the – 10. They do need some of the most capable 787-9s which Boeing will eventually deliver so need to hold some of their orders for those high performance 787-9s.

  36. I doubt AA will go A350, they really want the cost benefit of single fleet types. I can see an order for more 787-9 and 787-10 if even that. AA has shifted their strategy to be more of a domestic carrier and let one world partners handle long haul international. Not to mention AA still has over $70billion in debt, more than any other airline. May not be able to secure financing as they are already way over leveraged.

  37. News sources say that this is to be a narrowbody order for about 100 aircraft- which AA execs have said they would be pursuing – and that Airbus is likely to get the majority of the order and it is because of the A321NEO’s larger size and capability.
    The 737-8MAX will fill out the order for Boeing.
    AA operates both types so this isn’t earth-shattering if it develops this way.

  38. It would be a complete turnaround from AA fleet policy.
    They have cancelled their A350 order, for 20 of them.
    Probably for a great price, which they won`t get again.

    I can`t imagine AA doing that.
    But if you want to replace B772ERs, there`s no way around the A350.
    The B789 is smaller, the 10 doesn`t have the range, and the B779 is way bigger.

    AA had plenty of A330, so i don`t understand why they didn`t retire them and move the crews over to the incoming A350.

    If you look at modern fleets, most flag carriers are based around B789 and A350.
    Delta has choosen the A33N over the B787, United has choosen the B787 in large numbers.
    SIA, Qatar, LH, AF, KLM, BA – all of them have A350 and B787.

    So i would say to replace AA B772ER, an A350 order would make sense.

  39. Ironic that AA reverses their bonehead decision on the 350’s.
    Us Airways was the USA launch customer on the 350, at a tremendous discount. No way with AA’s superior mindset could they allow this decision to stand.
    I also bet they regret the decision to park the 330’s, of course it will never be admitted.

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