American Airlines Tells Employees Their Plans For Boeing 777-200s

At an employee meeting last week in Dallas, American Airlines Vice President on Network Planning Brian Znotins was asked at an employee meeting (a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing) about the airline’s plans for their Boeing 777s, in anticipation of United making a huge order for Boeing 787s.

He talked about a wait and see approach to the 777-200s in American’s fleet, whether the new Boeing 787-9s that they’re going to be getting are replacement for existing aircraft or are additive.

It’s further away down the road, but when we have a good mix of new airplanes and old airplanes that gives us a lot of capacity flexibility. So when we take a new [Boeing 787]-9 we can say it’s a replacement airplane for a 777 because the market doesn’t look very good right now, but if the market does look good then it’s an incremental airplane and we can grow.

We’re very happy with the [777]-200s, we think they’re really well-configured. They’ve got great economics. And so unless things were to dramatically change in the long haul network we think that airplane will be in our fleet for a very long time.

American is introducing new business class suites with doors. These will come with new delivery Boeing 787-9s. They’re planning to retrofit Boeing 777-300ERs with these seats (while eliminating first class, and adding seats in total to the aircraft). I’d expect them to retrofit existing 787-9s with these seats. What they’d do with the fleet of 777-200s has been an open question.

To the extent that American keeps the 777-200s over the long-term they may retrofit the interiors of these aircraft. There’s some chance that United’s big order for 100 firm and up to 200 widebody aircraft from Boeing could take delivery slots that leads to American keeping its 777-200s longer. There’s less opportunity for further replacement.

And already American is talking about keeping (at least some of) its Boeing 777-200s over the long term. At the same time, I’d expect some of the fleet to be retired and those aircraft never to be reconfigured.

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. The 787 is significantly smaller than the 777, it is apparent just looking at them on the tarmac or parked at gates side by side. They both serve a purpose much like the 767 did when the next size up plane was a jumbo or tri-jet, the problem I see for AA is if they attempt to make 787 their flagship that will be such a limitation because these aircraft don’t offer the space for super long haul flights. I will choose a partner flight on an A350-900 or better yet an A380 over the smaller craft on the very long haul

  2. 777-200 and 787-9 have similar passenger capacity so they make the perfect replacement aircraft. The A350-900 is slightly larger and brings in a new aircraft type which is why AA cancelled the USAir order post merger.

    AA also has options and slide those in front of some of the UA slots if they want.

  3. That and the fact that AA is technically bankrupt. Whether you like it or not, AA will be lucky enough to receive their future orders for 787-9’s completed, let alone order newer models. You can bet once those aircrafts arrive, they’ll be net replacements not additions. AA is not in an expansion mode right now, it’s in contraction mode instead.

  4. @Mark, While it depends on the seat layout, on United, the 787-10 seats more passengers (318) than the 777-200 (276). These are both high-J configurations, but the 777-200 has a few more J seats than the 787. In the United domestic 777-200, they have 364 passengers, but only 28 in first. The narrower fuselage contributes to lower drag on the 787 than on the 777. The 777-300 seats more. The real issue is that the existing 777-200 have a lower cost structure for the airplane itself, but higher operational costs for fuel. As American said, they have good options with 787-9 to either retire the 777-200s if the market deteriorates, or keep them if the travel industry avoids recession.

  5. I like the 777-200/300. Although definitely from a different era. If kept up, their future looks good. At least the near future. It’s up to the airline to keep them modern inside the cabin. If given proper maintenance of course.

  6. It should be noted that Znotins was let go from United. He was notorious for not growing the airline, the complete opposite of the team they have running the show now. He’s now doing the same for American. United really only has to compete against Delta now, American is competing against themselves.

  7. American execs have said what they did to quell any enthusiasm from their employees about a massive aircraft order from AA in the aftermath of UA’s massive order this week.
    UA’s order book is now more than 3X larger than AA’s – a massive amount of risk for UA and its shareholders that has brought the stock down.
    AA execs have been saying for about 2 years that they have to run a profitable international operation again, something they haven’t done for years while focused on flying routes “because they were strategic”
    AA recognizes it needs to pay down debt and will live with the higher fuel burn of the 777-200ER – which is the highest among US airline widebodies on a per seat basis – but for an airplane that is paid for and still reliable. The 777-300ERs are also not near as fuel efficient as newer generation airplanes but they are too young to think about getting rid of unless AA wants to write them off – which only adds more balance sheet stress.
    They might expand their international network and fleet again but they are rightfully taking a much more cautious approach which doesn’t require buying dozens more new widebodies now.

  8. It would be great to see AA put these into service between ORD and PHX and back. Typically only one widebody daily now that sells out quickly. AA cut back a few daily flights and having a dedicated PE section and a large domestic first class seems a no-brainer.

  9. If AA retains the 777-200ER in the fleet (47 units) for the foreseeable future, at some point, it will either have to spend the money to overhaul them again, nose to tail, as it did in 2013-2015, or choose to have them become the new 767-300ER of their fleet, which in its later years, had a poor dispatch reliability rate, dated interiors that were a mix of old and new. The 77Es were delivered between 1999 and 2002, so the majority still have a 8 to 10 years of service left in them, if they are overhauled again. American’s high debt load and its increasing focus on being a domestic carrier with an intercontinental network that is focused on partner hubs, key routes, and limited growth, also lends itself to seeing the 77Es being replaced with 787s both coming on line and a top up order. A 787-10 order, of around 45 units, maybe 50, could be the 77E replacement and even with the UA order, delivery positions can be assured. The airline though is focused on improving its financials and paring losses while servicing its debt. A huge aircraft order may have been necessary for UA, but it is not for AA.

  10. Another interesting question is whatwil they do with their A320s? I’m not talking about the bigger Oasis’d A321s or their smaller A319s, but I’m talking about the A320s that have the same capacity as the MAX8.

  11. Any thoughts of replacements for their 787-8s? Their business seats are horrendous for flights to Europe.

  12. hi,
    i have booked a flight on april 2021 from Milan (MXP) to New York (JFK)
    i have discovered that operating this route is an 777-200 almost 25 years old
    Is there any chance that will be replaced before my flight ??

Comments are closed.