Why American Airlines Doesn’t Think They Need A Big New Plane Order, Or The 787-10

American Airlines has ordered a lot of aircraft over the past decade. They have more debt than any of their competitors. But they also retired a lot of aircraft during the pandemic – their Boeing 757s and 767s, their Airbus A330s and their Embraer E-190s.

They have Boeing 787s and long range Airbus A321s coming into the fleet, but their Boeing 777-200s are getting old and will eventually start needing replacement or a lot of investment. Meanwhile United Airlines has just taken up a lot of Boeing’s future capacity to deliver new planes.

So where does American Airlines stand? The topic was addressed at a recent meeting between executives and pilots in Dallas (a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing). CEO Robert Isom began by saying they have enough on their plate with current aircraft deliveries.

We have a pretty decent order of aircraft coming in. So we got 78s, then we’ve got the order for the -9s, which I think are going to take care of our needs. But then on top of that we’ve got the 50 XLRs coming in. And that’s again one of those things we’re really pressing on Airbus for because I’d love to have those aircraft here yesterday, but we’ve got to get them through certification. So those are two big things that are out there, but I think it’s important for Brian [Znotins] to talk about the size of the aircraft. While the -10s might be something I think down the road, maybe you know possible replacements for the 777-300s at some point in time, I don’t know if it fits just because of the way our network is set up.

In bringing up Vice President of Network Planning Brian Znotins to speak about this, Isom offered “you might have a different view” and the two then joked about whether Znotins had a future at the company if he disagreed. Isom then declared “looks like we’ll be getting the 10’s! Edit that out. Edit that out. We’re not!”

Znotins explained why they don’t think they want the Boeing 787-10, the stretched version of the aircraft which seats more passengers,

We have the -9s coming, we have the A320XLRs coming, both in fantastic configurations where we have more premium seats on those airplanes than what we have in the fleets we have today.

Furthermore we’re reconfiguring the 777-300s to have more flat beds, more premium economy, and more total seats which is a win-win-win for that airplane. So for us we feel pretty good about the size of our international network for the fleet we have today, but the fleet we have coming gives us more opportunity to get into more business premium-type routes.

Our -8s for example don’t have a very big front cabin right now, so we focus those more on leisure type routes or niche type routes in our network. The -10 looks like a great airplane. It may be for us in the future. We’re happy with the -9s we have coming right now. If the world changes and we need to adjust our order book Boeing is a great partner to work with and we’ve done that multiple times through our history where we’ve shifted, increased orders, changed orders from widebodies to narrows and vice versa. So lots of flexibility there with Boeing.

So we won’t sit here and commit today to a -10 in our network, but if we decide down the road that if we think it’s good for our fleet then we will work with Boeing and we can obviously either add -10s to our order book or adjust -9s to be -10s going forward.

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. It’s called being broke, Gary, plain and simple. United Airlines is in an expansionary mode, while AA is in a contractionary one. Seems to me you keep prepping yourself mentally for what’s to come. The writing was already on the wall as early as late last year. But the truth is, reality is reality my friend .

  2. AA has the youngest fleet in the industry and was the first to do so.. UA is now playing catch up with their old planes nothing to see here ….. #truth

  3. The “9” is called the Goldilocks 787. Between the 8, 9, and 10, the 9 accounts for roughly 60 percent of all deliveries across all airlines. AA’s decision seems to be in line with that of other airlines.

    Keep in mind, the range of the 10 is significantly less than that of the 9. If you’re talking LAX to Australia or DFW to New Zealand, your only option is the 9 and not the 10. If you want to harmonize your fleet, you’re looking at the 9. Also keep in mind that AA just changed its order book of 787s. In moving from 8s, it could have chosen 10s but instead chose 9s. Nonetheless, as was said in the transcript, if AA wants 10s, it can yet again change its order book from 9s to 10s. So, while AA might well be in financial trouble, I don’t think one can correctly say that AA secretly wants 10s but has to settle for 9s due to that financial trouble.

  4. Of course, while we debate this angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin issue, the real question for the hobbyist is: how does this affect 1) earning points, 2) burning points, and 3) award availability? Ha.

  5. @Tim j, your commentary has nothing to do with the issues I addressed and nor do you stick to the topic. Btw, AA had, repeat had the youngest fleet. It’s surely and consistently being left behind, getting older and older, by newer and better models, great interiors and state of the art AVOD. Again, AA is in a contractionary mode Tim, United in an expansionary one, don’t forget. #TRUTH.

  6. I have read that Boeing is working on a longer range 10 with increased MTOW. That might be the play here when it comes time to replace the 777’s.

  7. Gary, yiu do realize AA Placed the “world’s largest aircraft” order several years ago!
    And has taken delivery and more on the way as we speak!
    AA HAS MANY 777’S

  8. Tim

    You think UA ordered new planes to “catch up” on new planes with AA?

    Or is it simply when the newer CEO came a few years ago as he stated the airline was undersized domestically in relation to its peers and ordered hundreds of narrow body planes to right size the domestic operation?

    Next the new CEO had to replace the old 757/767 fleet as normally planned, as these aircraft are approaching the 30 year mark where the big 3 normally start getting rid of the planes.

    Finally he will soon have to decide what to do with the 777s as they are next to reach the 30 year mark.

    Sounds like facts based on timing and size to me, not some “my neighbor got a new car, so I need to keep up” attitude.

    But I could be wrong , I’ve only been in this business for 40 plus years.

  9. Y’all AA loyalists are clowns. You have a dying airline that Scott Kirby is going to destroy even more than it already is.

    Should’ve kept Kirby! Doug Parker ran that airline into the ground. AA has surrendered pretty much every important market to UA and DL. NYC, LA, Europe, Asia, the list goes on and on.

  10. this conversation is deteriorating fast.-
    UA doesn’t have anything in its fleet that AA doesn’t already have other than the MAX 10.

    AA and UA BOTH bought very similarly sized 777-300ERs at a time when new generation aircraft were already readily available. The 77W is capable of flying 16-17 hour flights – as much as the 787-9 can do now; perhaps the enhanced 787 can push out further but the A350 is alerady doing that. AA is wise not to commit to a new generation widebody until A and B have reached the stable limits of their current and under-development airframes.

    The 787-10’s shorter range takes away a huge part of its usefulness.
    It is a low CASM replacement but if AA wants a larger long-range plane it needs either to go with either version of the A350 (unlikely) or wait for the 777X – which United will ultimately have to do unless it takes the A350-1000 as Delta is expected to do.

    And JL,
    Delta’s international fleet is more fuel efficient including its 767s. DL will retire its 767s when they have reached their life limits and are no longer economical to operate = but that day has not yet come.
    And DL’s higher fuel efficiency is before the fuel cost per gallon benefit that Delta gets because of its refinery – which makes DL’s fuel cost per gallon better than AA and UA.

    DL also maintains its fleet at lower costs per seat mile than AA or UA and that advantage will grow as the new engine contracts from P&W and RR start to deliver revenue – which DL just said will grow from $1 billion to $5 billion/year.

    AA is doing the right thing.

  11. I mean the 787-10
    obviously UA itself doesn’t even have the MAX 10 yet – but is praying Boeing will someday be available to deliver it

  12. Why am I thinking these discussions can turn on a dime? I imagine seeing A350s in AA livery in a few years.

  13. For all the bashing AA gets, it would be good to remember that it placed what was then one of the largest ever orders for new planes when it went with the split Airbus/Boeing order for 321s,/319s and 737s. It had no choice. The backbone of the domestic fleet was the MD80, which, at over 300 were long in the tooth. It was an expensive undertaking, yes, and it represents the bulk of why the AA debt load is so high.

    UA has the dual necessity to replace its oldest 777s, the 767 fleet, and 150+ A319/A320s and has to do it at roughly the same time. UA is rolling the dice as well, with its massive order but it needs to do it.

    AA will end up ordering more 787s if an IGW version of the -10 comes out, with better range. The 772s can fly up to another 5-8 years (they are younger than many PMUA 77Es) but will need more overhauls to keep them going.

    DL seems to replace jets in batches, never placing massive orders, and opting instead to do it piecemeal, with the occasional 100 order (739ER and A321).

    The AA intercontinental network is big, but isn’t focused on secondary and tertiary markets the way UA and DL are and so AA needs fewer widebodies for the network it wants to fly.

  14. The new contract is needed too. They will build Doeing will build new Boeing 787-10 twin engine air linner is bigest of all twin engine jet with two engines plane to give people jobs too. We must keep up with air bus air linner co. Over seas too. We must build those 787-10 largest air linner of 2 engines air linner will carried 400 passengers too. Or maybe 500 passengers too. This is bigger plane too. More powerful engines to carried 500 passengers too. Agree!sir?or mam?

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