American Airlines Places Massive 260 Aircraft Order: Will Retire Small Regional Jets, Add First Class Seats

A week ago I wrote that American Airlines would announce a big order for new planes on March 4th. Now they have done just that, placing an order for 260 planes.

  • 85 Airbus A321neo
  • 85 Boeing 737 MAX 10
  • 90 Embraer E175 aircraft

American Airlines Airbus A321

In addition, they’re taking “options and purchase rights for an additional 193 aircraft.” And since these orders are always confusing and insufficiently transparent, “as part of the Boeing order, American has upgauged 30 existing 737 MAX 8 orders to 737 MAX 10 aircraft.”

I was the first to report on American’s planning for a narrowbody order back in July. The plan to bring it to fruition on March 4 was first reported by @JonNYC.

The airline’s plan is to upgauge domestic and short haul international routes, flying larger planes than before (the A321 and 737 MAX 10 are large narrowbody planes) and also to increase the number of premium seats on some of their smaller aircraft.

American also plans to retrofit its Airbus A319 and A320 fleets starting next year, adding 4 first class seats to both aircraft. That will bring the A319 to 12 first class seats (as I’ve previously reported) and the Airbus A320 to 16.

American Airlines Airbus A320 First Class Cabin

American Airlines Airbus A320 First Class Cabin

I’ve been writing for two years that American would add first class seats to its Airbus A319s but first needed to make progress on retrofits of its other aircraft. I wrote a month ago that this would finally happen. And I’ve been harping on the need to refresh or retire the Airbus A320s.

Meanwhile, the Embraer E-175 order will help American retire all of its 50 seat regional jets by 2030.

American says they’re staying within their capacity and capital expenditure guidance with this order, though it seems like out-year impacts may be greater. Deliveries will extend into the 2030s.

It’s a bit of an odd time to place a Boeing order, and for a MAX 10 which hasn’t even been certified yet, except that given Boeing’s current troubles the opportunity for the airframe manufacturer to secure a major order no doubt was worth huge discounting. While United’s CEO has been public about removing the MAX 10 from its planning, American’s CEO has said they should never spend a dollar they don’t have to.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Interior

In addition to Boeing 737 MAX 8s already on order, American has Boeing 787-9s coming (though some have been deferred several years) and Airbus A321XLRs meant to fly cross country and transatlantic, though that new variant is delayed.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Listening to Isom interview on CNBC. Dude is a clown. Nothing he said would get me on one of his flights. Telling me raising bag fees is a great value is ludicrous. Just say we want to make money and be upfront about it.

  2. This seems more like a hidden cancelation/pause in the deliveries by pushing out the order into uncertainty, more so on the Boeing side but Airbus has different delivery problems of their own.

    Have to imagine at this point we will start to see some widebodies on Tcon routes, especially to LAX as the strategy there seems broken with the replacements lacking a clear timeline. UA has obviously figured out how to handle this mix.

  3. Looking forward to the comments, at first glance it appears that AA wants to give everyone a Participation Trophy… Amazing that such a complex order is split almost perfectly 3-ways between 3 different airlines.

  4. I feel like we’ve heard for at least 10 years that they would be getting rid of the small regional jets yet here we are. I’ll beleive it when I see it.

  5. So they buy the dumped Boeing Boing Max which sucks
    And my two favorite airbus planes that get me to book and pay more A350 and A380 nowhere on the list (sigh)
    Why can’t American ever think premium just talk the talk 🙁

  6. The biggest part of this is that American joins Delta and United in ordering the MAX 10, signaling with Southwest the importance of keeping Boeing moving with the two unapproved versions of the MAX.
    While UAL is restless, AAL and DAL appear to be committed to the MAX 10 and willing to wait for it while shuffling their other orders including with Airbus and in-service aircraft to bridge the gap until the MAX 10 comes.

  7. I’m a 32-year AA flight attendant. Once again, USAir management shows no vision whatsoever. Zero. Zip. Nada. Rather than compete with actual international carriers they choose to delay 787 deliveries and add a ton of narrow body planes – just so they can say they have the most flights and routes. The continued degradation of the American Airlines is depressing, exasperating for us actual AA employees, and a shameful business decision. And by the way, if they can afford this many new planes, give us a damn contract.

  8. Okay. . AA will be all 787 with the -10 evenutally replacing the 773 in the late 2030s and the -9 replacing 772s over the next 10 years (more options to become orders later in the decade). These planes will be used for international and Hawaii long haul only.

    XLRs will help expand AAs Europe and SA routes that hare long and thin and replace the A321TT with much better experience, cost and utilization. Meanwhile AA’s domestic and close in international (Mex, Can, Caribbean) will continue to challenge the other Big 3 and SW. Investment in more domestic and better international Flagship and remodeling of lounges (yes it’s coming) will keep them in the game. UA will have to do a LOT of international flying to fill up all the widebodies they are getting and hopefully the slow down in International doesn’t happen anytime soon. DL has the same issue.

    Read the room folks, they are going to make money, improve business class (already better domestically then UA and on par with DL) and looking at better fleet utilization then DL or UA. Things are looking up, just need to the rid of the USAirs FAs. Still there downfall.

  9. I was a buyer and whenever the I was on sales calls our salesman would talk it up to the point they have “potential” orders worth millions only to find out later it was just inquiries trying to better position themselves with their current supplier. I called them “intent to PO”
    There is no way at cash starved AA, that is still on a downhill slope, will ever be able to PAY for these planes. Most likely they spread the orders around in order to get some line of credit at 3 manufactures instead of getting cutoff by their only source.
    Simple buyers strategy to at least get some new aircraft and to leverage one manufacture against the other. It’s a good time to beat up Boeing while Airbus will probably call these intent to PO.

  10. paul,
    aircraft are tangible, valuable assets which support financing.
    AAL’s balance sheet is moving more in the right direction than UAL’s with its massive fleet orders.

  11. This is strictly speculation on my part, but I’m guessing there’s going to be a substantial order for A220s in American’s future. The Legacy US A319s and A320s are quite old, and will need a direct replacement at some point. Even the world’s only PERFECT airline has mainline aircraft smaller than the 737-800/MAX8. The order may include the long rumored A220-500 which I read that American expressed some interest in. American has roughly 180 older A319/320s now (although about 30 of those are relatively newer American orders made before the bankruptcy filing). But those can be replaced last. American has no need for the A220-100 as its number of allowed 76-seat RJs isn’t tied to the number of 100 seat aircraft.

  12. We shall see how this all plays out. To me, the most significant thing in this post is;

    “American’s CEO has said they should never spend a dollar they don’t have to.”

    I am not holding my breath for US Air management to do anything to upgrade this airline.

  13. Gary, would be a really interesting article (or even regular series) to talk about aircraft deliveries with AA and others. I for one and SO CONFUSED on what planes AA is actually getting in 2024 (and when). I know they pushed off some Max-9’s and some 787-9’s as well. But I “thought” they were getting something like 6 or 8 787-8’s this year and even more A-XLR’s. Is that not happening now? Been REALLY looking forward to better seats and more international routes for the last 2-4 years and again, “thought” this was “the year”….

  14. Ummmmm……so these commenter realize that this was strictly a NARROWBODY order….right? Seeing people be “disappointed” that no A350 or A380 (not even made anymore…) were mentioned. And then one of these gawd awful FA’s whine about getting a new plane to work in while not having a contract. TALK TO YOUR UNION OFFICERS! THEY got a BIG raise and have been hanging Y’all put to dry for years. Along with many of your comrades at work. No pre-departure bevs, rude attitudes, no greetings, slanging credit cards harder than you pick up trash, and beating that next level of candy crush instead of doing your job. Y’all FA’s seriously wonder why the public has been behind every other group of workers in the last few years BUT AA FA’s (UPS had public support, Film workers has public support, Auto Workers had public support, Rail workers had public support). Y’all have had a GREAT offer from AA corporate for many, MANY months now. Take the offer before you get locked put and retired early.

  15. AA is positioned to be #1 by a longshot, if they just wake up. They have the largest domestic network of the big 3, just waiting to feed an international network that could make DL and UA envious, but for now DL and UA are making more than AA…..BECAUSE THEY HAVE BETTER INT’L NETWORKS. DUHHHH!! This is a no-brainer! I thought AA’s decision to defer 787-9 deliveries, which will provide premium-rich, long haul efficient planes, was an April Fools joke! But it’s true. They should back off the 787-9 deferrals and add more, not less! Combined with the A321XLR they could kill it! And finally, I actually get it trying to push people to get registered for their FF program. Why give away benefits to people who don’t even bother to sign up for free, which takes 5 minutes while sitting at the gate waiting for their flight?!? Actually a good move! The final blunder: they spend tens of billions on the best fleet, then throw those billions in the trash by skimping on wi-fi, in-flight entertainment, and amenities already offered by their competitors: seat-back entertainment has come way down in price, weight, and complexity. Why not offer that, along with free wi-fi for frequent flier members? And don’t skimp on food for first class, offer a nice snack to coach fliers such as a tasty snack mix like you get on DL and WN, rather than just pretzels? We’re talking about a few million dollars, chicken feed when compared to the billions spent on the airplanes themselves, then AA wonders why their revenue per passenger is way below UA and especially DL. This isn’t rocket science!

  16. A lot of people say “American is coming!” “It’s on the rise!”

    Well I’ve been hearing that statement since the merger in 2013. It’s been over a decade and they’re still promising the same things. Power in every seat! Bigger domestic airplanes! Better revenue! No more 50 seat regionals! Everyone’s first choice airline!!

    But in reality they still lose money flying planes. Their debt load is still massive. Stock is down despite millions in buy backs. Their product has gone down, not up. Food is inedible or microwave ramen cups. Staff are more unhappy than ever. Losing in New York, Chicago, LA, Seattle. No airline is perfect, but United and Delta are trying. American feels like it’s just been given up on. I think it’s due to the America west management.

    Anyway, I’ll believe it when I see it. You can scream that things are changing until you’re blue in the face, but I’ve heard it all before.

Comments are closed.