How American is Planning to Use Their Boeing 787s, in Philadelphia and Beyond

Last month American said that they’ve got too much Boeing 787 capacity because Europe is seasonal, they cancelled 787 flights out of Chicago, and because they keep waiting for their joint venture with Qantas to be approved which would allow them to deploy more 787s on South Pacific routes.

Last year though American ordered 47 more Boeing 787. So what are they going to do with them?

American is going to start flying Boeing 787s from Philadelphia starting early next year. Boeing 767s will continue to retire and be replaced by 787s.

American’s Boeing 787-8 in Chicago

The airline’s Vice President – Planning, Vasu Raja, explained to employees last week that,

The 788 will take out the 767-300. The first big wave of that will start to happen in January 2020. We’ll have 3 787s that go into Philadelphia. By the end of 2020 the 78 will have replaced the 767 in Philadelphia and after that it take out the 767s that remain in Miami.

As part of our recent Boeing order we aren’t just taking 788s we’re taking 789s too. The 789s are very much there to provide future international growth to the airline. That’ll come in any number of our hubs. Over time, and this is going far into the future, the 787 will realistically fly in any of our widebody hubs today and maybe a few others.

American Boeing 787-9 in Los Angeles

A big problem with replacing Boeing 767s with Boeing 787-8s is that American has been taking business class seats out of their 787-8s. The 767 has 28 seats up front, while the 787-8 will have just 20. In fact that’s why they’re having to take 787-8s off of premium routes like Chicago – London.

Meanwhile United is reconfiguring a subset of their 767s to offer 47 Polaris business class seats, while Delta reconfigures Boeing 767-400s to offer suites with doors, both carriers seeing premium cabin demand as key to their revenue growth.

It’s interesting to hear Raja describe the order for 25 Boeing 787-9s as being for ‘future international growth’ since American described the purchase as being to replacing existing Airbus A330-300 and older Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

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. It’s also strange to have him keep repeating that the 787s are going to, “take out,” the 767s. That phrase makes the whole process feel more like a mob hit than a fleet upgrade.

  2. What’s the surprise? AA leadership is a complete mess. No vision. Parker is way out of his league at this point.

    Delta and United have quietly eroded American’s dominance in South America. JFK is a shell of what it once was. Asia is neglected and without any vision. They are focusing on Philly for Europe…far from being a gateway strength given the weak origination traffic from there compared to DC or New York. Chicago is heavily served by regional jets given their inability to compete with United or SouthWest (at Midway). Delta is well on the way to kicking butt in LA. And, they completely screwed up their most lucrative alliance with BA in comparison to that of Delta with Air France, KLM, and Virgin. I mean what’s left?

    DFW (Delta has started to make in-roads using A220’s). Charlotte ( Southwest will expand). And a good MIA base for seasonal flights to the Caribbean (JetBlue is giving many a FLL alternative). This is the largest airline in the world. It’s like an MMA Champion with all the belts who has reached his final fight and getting pummeled.

    Parker must go.

  3. Any idea if the new 788’s will also get the horrible Zodiac business class seats?
    Still no idea why they don’t remove the Zodiac seats from the small amount of 789’s with them (and also remove them from the 788 fleet). These Zodiac seats are the main reason I don’t fly AA internationally. You are either guaranteed to get the Zodiac on the 788 or have a chance of getting them on the 789.
    Parker is a pound wise and penny foolish CEO that needs to go.

  4. @CirrusFlyer – new 788s get the Super Diamond seat, AA terminated their contract with Zodiac but doesn’t want to spend money to replace those seats.

  5. @Gary Leff – Thanks for the confirmation.

    But talk about a dumb decision from AA. Now they have two plane types with mixed business class seats. Doesn’t AA realize people expect consistency. It’s business 101. And AA wonders why I’ve taken my premium business elsewhere.

  6. @CirrusFlyer you can imagine my total shock when I was answering one of those AA online surveys after my most recent flight and the last 2 questions where, #25- Do you know Cirrus Flyer and #26- If so, can you please as him why he wont return our phone calls.

  7. love all the armchair quarterbacking here. it’s so easy!! Since you all have all the solutions, why don’t you go and get jobs with American and fix it? I mean, it’s so easy, and you know better.

  8. @gary
    They can shove them up Jason’s ass….since he knows everything he will know what to do with them

  9. @ stuart

    i don’t care if AA is screwing up, as long as they don’t make AAdvantage as bad as SkyMiles

  10. AA is a mess
    Still flying NY JFK to Paris CDG with old planes and ceiling screens instead of individual entertainment.
    Their frequent flyer program is terrible since they modified it 3 years ago.
    Their gate agent are nasty if you are flying on award tickets.
    I have taken my 5 transcontinental round trip a year elsewhere.
    Parker has to go

  11. How is AA a mess with this change. DL and UA are keeping very old 767 in operation while AA is modernizing with a much better product in the 787. Okay, they have fewer Business Class seats, but they have PE and MCE in spades which is fine for a 7 – 8 hour international flight. Also, these 787 can do some transcon domestic service to LA and PHX from PHL and MIA and eventually CLT. AA will be a 787 and 777 international fleet and a a321/319 and 737 domestic fleet in 5 years, that will be a huge operational efficiency advantage over the DL and UA fleet. AA did this back in the 80’s and 90’s, limiting the number of planes as did USAir. This isn’t a mess, it makes business sense.

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