American Airlines Orders 260 New Planes: Here’s What They’re Getting

Skift Take

The addition of the Boeing 737 Max 10 in American’s order is a vote of confidence in the U.S. manufacturer’s yet-to-be certified plane.

American Airlines has announced a blockbuster new aircraft order, from not one but three different manufacturers.

A total of 260 new jets are on the way, in a deal worth billions of dollars. But which planes has it selected and what does this tell us about the future direction of the Dallas-based carrier?

Boeing 737 Max: 85 Ordered Plus Conversions

American is doubling down on the Boeing 737 Max. The airline has confirmed an additional 85 of the type will be joining its fleet, complementing existing orders for 70 units. 

Notably, American isn’t simply buying more of the 737 Max 8 which it already operates. It has placed its first order for the 737 Max 10. This model, which is the largest single-aisle plane currently produced by Boeing, is yet to be certified to enter commercial service.

Alongside a conversion for 30 planes from an earlier order, a total of 115 Max 10s are now bound for the airline – a major vote of confidence in the troubled program. 

American’s existing Max 8s typically seat 172 passengers in a two-class setup. The new Max 10s could carry up to 230 travelers, however, the company is likely to opt for a less dense configuration.

In related developments, American also confirmed it is acquiring non-binding rights to buy an extra 75 737 10s. These options can be exercised at a later date at a time that suits the airline. The Texas-based operator also has a firm order for 25 more Boeing 787 Dreamliner widebodies.

Airbus A321neo: 85 Ordered

In what could be interpreted as a classic case of boardroom diplomacy, American has placed an order for exactly the same number of Airbus A321neos. A total of 85 extra planes are part of the deal, which sees the airline’s overall orders for the type rise to 219 aircraft. 

To say that American already has experience with the A321 would be an understatement. Even before today’s order, it was the world’s largest operator of the type, flying the classic and new engine (neo) variants. 

The airline accepted delivery of its first A321neo in February 2019, and 70 had joined the fleet by the end of last month. 

American is also due to receive the A321XLR (extra-long range) version, with 50 in the pipeline. Robert Isom, the airline’s CEO, described his expectations for the new Airbus jet at last year’s Skift Aviation Forum.

In other news, the airline also announced Monday that it plans to retrofit its Airbus A319s and A320s in 2025 to accommodate more first class seating as part of a push to meet growing demand for premium travel.

Embraer E175: 90 Ordered 

While they might lack the curb appeal of a long-haul airliner, American’s regional jet fleet is an unsung workhorse. The airline has placed an order for 90 Embraer E175s, with options to buy a further 43 planes for its American Eagle brand. 

To maximize fleet standardization and target higher-yielding premium traffic, the Brazilian manufacturer will supply the new planes in a two-class setup, with a total of 76 seats. The airline is in the process of retiring its 50-seater single-class regional jets, with all of these expected to leave the fleet by the end of the decade. 

Alongside the premium seating, the new E175s will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi and in-seat power.

Devon May, American’s Chief Financial Officer described Monday’s order as a “balanced level of capital investment,” providing a “steady stream of new aircraft” over the coming decade.

Even with this latest announcement, the airline says it expects to remain within its previously announced guidance for capacity and capital expenditure. The company now has 440 aircraft on order.

With American’s narrowbody strategy now clear, industry attention will likely turn to its widebody and long-haul fleet. Only Airbus and Boeing are in the race; will they split the spoils or could one manufacturer sweep the board?

Watch American Airlines CEO Robert Isom at Skift Aviation Forum 2023:

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