Exclusive: Doug Parker Ups His Forecast for American Airlines Capacity Growth in 2020

During the American Airlines 3rd quarter earnings call in late October a projection for growth in 2020 was shared of 5%. A third of that comes from the expected return of the Boeing 737 MAX, and much of it comes from ‘densification’ – adding seats to Boeing 737-800 aircraft (from 160 up to 172 seats per plane) and Airbus A321s as well.

Each month American Airlines senior executives meet with employees for a question and answer session they call ‘Crew News’. At the latest Crew News session airline CEO Doug Parker opened with his take on the current state of the airline, which was very similar to comments he offered during the earnings call and two weeks ago in his presentation at the Baird 2019 Global Industrial Conference.

However, after talking about getting new gates at Dallas Fort-Worth during 2019 that allowed them to grow their peak day summer schedule to 900 flights (and over 1000 flights the Sunday after Thanksgiving thanks to an additional middle of the night bank of flying) and new gates this coming year in Charlotte, he added:

We’re gonna grow everywhere by the way, it’s not just, as the MAXs come back that results in growth throughout the system. …It should come in at nicely efficient cost because again we’re already paying for a lot of these airplanes, the 737 MAXs. Point one. Point two we’re going to run a better operation. That means fewer cancellations. That’s growth in terms of capacity and it’s very low cost growth because it’s very expensive to cancel flights.

…We said on our call 5% growth into 2020 versus 2019. That number kind of had a worst case scenario on the 737 MAXs. I think it may be a little higher than that. If we were to have that call again today we’d probably say 5 to 6 percent growth. We’ll get the best number we know as the MAXs come back, but higher growth than we’ve seen at American Airlines since the merger.

The higher rate of growth in the airline’s seat capacity next year comes from moving forward when they expect the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again. Parker, of course, has been overly optimistic on the return of the MAX before, suggesting re-certification of the plane was ‘really close’ back in May.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. What a slob. All about the MAX. I love continuing to read about the problems with MAX and hope it never comes back. The MAX represents everything that is wrong with AA.

  2. After 25 years with American you won’t find me on their planes
    The awful CEO the cramped seats and severely damaged FF program with offensive overpricing on most of their awards.Its over
    And H##l no to the 737 Max

  3. A few years ago, when AA was looking to purchase new short and mid. range aircraft, it threatened to change to an all Airbus fleet. This caused Boeing to scrap an all new aircraft to replace the the ageing 737 series which would have been available in the 2019/20’s. It rather quickly put together the 737 Max to counter the A320 Neo series in order to compete with the 2017/18 delivery dates for the Airbus Neo.
    If Boeing stood by the new airplane to replace to ageing 737, that jet would most likely be in service today. Just a thought!

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