When the pandemic began, American Airlines quickly retired its fleet of Airbus A330 as well as Boeing 757 and 767 jets. In hindsight, that does not appear to have been a wise decision. Facing an aircraft shortage due to extended 787 production delays, American Airlines has just cancelled four longhaul routes and delayed a fifth.
American Airlines Suspends International Routes After 787 Delays
As airline gear up for a busy summer travel season to Europe, American Airlines faces a challenge that is only becoming more difficult: an aircraft shortage.
While United Airlines is ramping up its schedule to Europe to unprecedented levels, American Airlines conservatively loaded only 80% of its 2019 transatlantic schedule for the summer of 2022, blaming its aircraft shortage. Now it will cut four additional routes, including:
- Seattle (SEA) and London (LHR)
- Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Santiago, Chile (SCL)
- Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD)
- Miami (MIA) – Sao Paulo (GRU) – reduced to one flight per day, from two
Furthermore, the launch of American’s new Dallas to Tel Aviv (TLV) service will be delayed.
American calls these delays “temporary” in nature and will load the schedule changes over the weekend. Passengers holding seats on cancelled flights will be automatically rebooked.
In 2021, American Airlines expected to have 13 new 787 jets for its 2022 summer schedule, but by the end of the year it preemptively reduced its summer schedule, predicting only four of the 13 Dreamliners would arrive in time. At that time, it cut 2022 service to:
- Dubrovnik (DBV)
- Edinburgh (EDI)
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Prague (PRG)
- Shannon (SNN)
But with ongoing regulatory issues complicating the 787 program, American Airlines only received one Dreamliner in 2021 and may not receive any more this year.
Why Did American Airlines Retire Airbus A330?
Predicting a sustained drop in demand coupled with plans to modernize its fleet with more 787 jets, American retired its A330, 757, and 767 jets early in the pandemic.
American Airlines inherited its fleet of Airbus A330 aircraft from US Airways, which utilized them for transatlantic and Caribbean operations. These were modern aircraft with reverse herringbone seats in business class and many years of life left.
As easy as it to second-guess AA now, the rush to retire aircraft was not an industry-wide trend. United Airlines, under the direction of former American Airlines President Scott Kirby, took a very different approach to American (and Delta) during the pandemic and did not retire any aircraft type.
Kirby now boasts of this in press interviews and employee memos, as United plans an ambitious transatlantic expansion this summer.
Meanwhile, Boeing has confirmed that it will compensate American Airlines for the delivery day according to The Wall Street Journal.
The decision to retire the A330 is hurting American Airlines as it continues to reduce its summer intercontinental schedule in light of Boeing 787 Dreamliner delays.
Perhaps one macro lesson airlines will learn from the pandemic is that rushing to retire aircraft types may seem logical but ends up costing more in the long run. Production delays for new aircraft are hardly a new phenomenon.