American Airlines is suspending or delaying Seattle – London and Bangalore, Dallas _ Santiago and Tel Aviv, Miami – Sao Paulo, and Los Angeles – Sydney. They’re blaming delays in the delivery of Boeing 787-8s for this, a result of production and regulatory issues faced by the airframe manufacturer.
They’ll get compensation from Boeing – covering money they’d have made with these planes, and they don’t even need to fly! – but the truth is that the lack of available aircraft is at least as much American’s fault, maybe more so than Boeing’s.
American Airlines has already pulled down its China schedule and dropped Hong Kong flying, along with dropping Edinburgh, Shannon, Dubrovnik and Prague.
Two months ago I explained why American’s lack of planes was their own fault.
It isn’t really true that American ‘doesn’t have’ the widebodies to operate the schedule they’d like. They do have the planes. And [any] lack of aircraft is as much their fault as Boeing’s.
During the pandemic they retired their Boeing 757s and 767s. They retired their Embraer E-190s. And they retired their Airbus A330s. This simplified the fleet. It means they don’t have to train pilots on as many planes, or pay for spare parts on all of these aircraft. But it means they have far fewer planes.
Some of the planes they sold, for instance 767s that now fly for Amazon’s delivery service. American is still paying leases, though, on the Airbus A330s they retired. Pilots are no longer current to fly the planes, but there’d be time to get them ready for summer 2022. American has decided it’s too expensive to return the planes to service.
American didn’t have to retire their A330s. Those could have flown routes they were hoping to use the Boeing 787-8 for, obviating the need to cancel flying with Boeing 787-9s to places like Sydney in order to substitute aircraft. But American chose not to ‘remain ready to fly when customers were ready to return’ even though that was the narrative they offered in exchange for $10 billion in taxpayer cash.
They chose not to spend money, for instance, keeping pilots current and ready to fly the planes. They’ve decided not to bring the planes back from the desert and re-train pilots, either, preferring Boeing compensation over transportation passengers where they’d promised to go.
Schedule changes should run overnight tonight. If you want to book mileage awards (likely at inflated prices) on routes that are being suspended, on the expectation that American will reaccommodate you (e.g. if you want to fly to Australia, and get reaccommodated on Qantas) you’d best book those flights today. If things don’t work out as hoped schedule-wise, awards can be cancelled and mileage redeposited at no cost.