American Is Sending Planes To Cancun Without Rafts

American Airlines is currently operated six peak day departures between Dallas Fort-Worth and Cancun. They’re operated with a mix of Boeing 737 and Airbus A321 aircraft.

Four of these flights are on Airbus A321s. And depending on which A321 you get, the length of the flight will be very different. It turns out that the old US Airways A321s don’t have life rafts, and have to hug the coastline the whole way. That takes an extra 45-50 minutes of flying each way.

Here’s what a standard routing looks like for a legacy American Airlines A321.

Used by permission of FlightAware LLC

However here’s what the flight path looks like when they send an old US Airways A321 on the route, without rafts:

Used by permission of FlightAware LLC

I asked American Airlines whether, when they rip out seats and put in the new ‘Oasis’ interior, they’d finally invest in rafts for these planes and American did not respond.

In the meantime customers find themselves with more time stuck in a metal tube than they’ve bargained for. And although American says they’re investing to be more sensitive to environmental concerns they continue to burn more fuel than necessary on these trips due to their failure to invest in rafts.

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. A good comparison would be how much extra fuel burn there would be with the weight of rafts and current fuel burn.

  2. @jack

    the maximum take-off weight of an A321 is roughly 200k lbs. The life raft better not weigh more than 200lbs or it will be unmanageable in an emergency. The weigh of the rafts would be immaterial to the fuel burn.

  3. Thanks for bringing up some of the duplicity in airlines that proclaim to care about minimizing emissions with current technology but then basically fail to do so out of convenience or trivial economic benefit such as United’s earlier decision (now reversed) to order brand new 737-700s to basically use as regional jets or the completed CRJ 550.

  4. based on the title, i thought this was based around an illegal flight plan being flown. aircraft utilization issues. nothing new here. theres nothing illegal, theres nothing unsafe. the airline loses out more than the extra 45 mins the passengers do.

  5. What an absolutely ridiculous article. What if the original plane was out of service for some reason? They substitute a similar plane and get the passengers to their destination. Do you think the pax would rather wait hours and hours for a different plane or go and be 30 minutes late with a slightly longer flightplan? Do you know how much all those rafts weigh? If they put them in every plane, they’d be carrying them around on countless legs for no reason. How much fuel would that burn over time compared to 1 flight that went 45 minutes longer. Me thinks you don’t really know much about airline operations, unless it involves bashing American and glorifying Delta. American isn’t perfect by any means, but your bias is!

  6. And these are the same ex-US Airways A321s with no power ports. Either retrofit these planes with life rafts and plug ins or replace them with new planes that do.

  7. How often have liferafts been used on a ditching. If you go down in the sea then usually sadly that’s it

  8. The title of this would lead someone to believe AA is doing something illegal when really they aren’t.
    This is another example of when the blogger doesn’t have full expertise of the subject matter. If the flight time is longer because it clings to the coast, it seems it is scheduled with accurate duration. People typically know departure and arrival time when booking flights so it’s a bit of a stretch to say “customers will have more time stuck In a metal tube than they bargained for.”
    And it’s also important to note that legacy US Airways received some new 321s from their order book, post merger signing. So the inference “old” may or may not be accurate but of course serves the agenda for sensationalism.

  9. @Amapas – not illegal, just dumb. And no – it is no (eg AA1190 which gets LUS A321s), it is not being scheduled with the correct flight time.

  10. @K – the passengers on board care, and anyone concerned about environmental impact. so YOU may not care but you asked who would and I’ve answered.

  11. @Eric – even if American based mileage earning based on distance flown (and since they don’t what you earn really shouldn’t be called miles), the answer was no even back in the day..

  12. This is just another example of penny-wise, pound-foolish. US management went on this well-known crusade to cut every possible ounce from plane weight, without the slightest consideration of how that might affect revenue (or long-run costs). Obviously the mentality followed them to AA. It’s rather telling that WN has the same RASM than AA despite operating a single class of service!

  13. Gary,

    before you conclude it to be dumb, did you research the circumstances that resulted in the flight being scheduled with such equipment? What additional investigative questions other than ripping out seats to put in “oasis” interior did you enquire? Please share with the forum.Or do you believe they just did it out of plain and blatant stupidity?

    Not having 24 plus planes available due to max grounding could be a contributing factor here. No? Would you prefer they eliminate the flight instead?

    Your headline and article reek tones of sensationalism and pure unequivocal bias and downright hatred of AA as is the case with 97.8% of your submissions toward them.

    Cranky Flier, Runway Girl even the Points Guy come across as credible, objective and more informative compared to the daily diatribe I read here.


  14. Thank you for bringing to light this utter stupidity.

    Not sure why all the negative comments (OK, I will admit that the post’s title is idiotic), but a travel blogger unearthing these type of issues is a good thing.

  15. @ryby


    SimpleFlying is also better.

    @Gary, since you seem to care so much about the passengers caring, can you outline all examples with this other airlines as well?

  16. Pretty sure American isn’t the only airline to hug the coast on various routes. I know Southwest did a few years ago (and may still) on flights from south Florida to assorted cities such as Houston & New Orleans.
    While the weight of the raft isn’t significant, the time the plane is out of service (and generating zero revenue) while installing the rafts is important, especially if that specific plane spends most of its flights on inland routes where the raft is useless.

  17. @k

    “@Gary, since you seem to care so much about the passengers caring, can you outline all examples with this other airlines as well?”

    Seriously. This is a blog. You get to read it or not. But no author of any blog is your research assistant.

  18. GET A LIFE!

  19. Constantly bashing American… you may be an expert on points, and that’s about it! No i do not follow you and this is the last time I read your colom. You are clueless regarding the airline industry. Other than ways to dis one airline and praise another for your points for freebee travel, that is what you are expert on.

  20. The airspace over the gulf of Mexico is very congested. Flights often elect to route over Brownsville Texas to avoid lengthy delays. CUN measures airline arrival delay performance and those who are often late are given lower priority for arrival slot awards. Rafts or no rafts there these flights will still route over Brownsville. You should better research this before publishing

  21. What a scaremongering clickbaity headline.

    AA flying longer coastal routing from DFW to CUN because aircraft not equipped for over water flight.

    Fixed that for ya.

  22. You are amazing …always criticizing in a very negative and pessimistic way about AA .. i got to the point to think that delta is giving you bonuses or money under the table for you to write all these crap.. why don’t you do yourself a favor and just stop flying with AA and go freeking delta.. You are very pessimistic and negative in all aspect.. I flown with AA in the last never had issues to the contrary personnel as flight attendants were very friendly and nice.. maybe it is the way you come out to them or your negative that drains you in the environment!! I typical drama, i further keep the rest of my comments better. Mmmm.. have a bless day..

  23. The FAA “should be” (yeah right) jumping all over this by levying heavy fines on AA for operating flights over water with no rafts. AA, you should have your operating license stripped from you ever doing business again. Talk about greed. This is despicable beyond measure!! (P.S. I’m a former flight attendant of 24 years. Life vests aren’t enough in open seas.) Learn the lesson: don’t patronize American Airlines.

  24. Dear Gary,

    I’m curious: what source did you use for the two map images used to illustrate your article?

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