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Revamping the Skies: American Airlines Plans to Replace 255 Aging Planes

The carrier wants to purchase up to 200 narrowbody jets from Airbus and Boeing to replace its aging aircraft

by Lauren Smith

August 3, 2023

Photo: American Airlines, Boeing 737 MAX 8. Courtesy of Sachin Amjhad / Unsplash

As reported by Bloomberg News, American Airlines is looking to replace its fleet’s oldest single-aisle aircraft by ordering up to 200 narrowbody jets. They are considering the 737 MAX from Boeing and the A321neo from Airbus.

American Airlines plans to replace its aging Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A319s and A320s with new jets on its domestic routes. Currently, 255 of these planes are over 20 years old, which increases the cost of aircraft maintenance significantly.

To refresh its short-haul fleet and limit maintenance costs, American Airlines could purchase at least 100 and up to 200 next-generation single-aisle planes later this decade, a deal worth up to $6 billion.

Photo: Courtesy of American Airlines


American Airlines executives have teased these plans in recent weeks. In an investor call last month, Chief Financial Officer Devon May said: “Looking beyond 2024, we continually review our medium and long-term fleet plans. Due to the young age of our aircraft, our fleet replacement needs are very limited. Therefore, we expect aircraft CapEx [capital expenditure] for the next several years and likely through the end of the decade to average approximately $3.5 billion per year.”

At a town hall, the airline’s CEO, Robert Isom, added, “Look, we’re going to need aircraft. At some point, I wouldn’t be surprised if we make a commitment to some narrowbody aircraft as we get past 2027.”

American Airlines is currently in the process of receiving the final batch of 460 narrowbody jets that were ordered from Airbus and Boeing back in 2011. This significant deal was influential in convincing Boeing to produce the 737 MAX. Additionally, the airline has placed subsequent orders and is set to receive 148 new single-aisle jets over the next six years.

Photo: American Airlines gates. Courtesy of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

However, with travel riding a post-pandemic boom and manufacturers reporting lengthy delivery delays and order backlogs, American Airlines is likely eager to get its orders for the end of the decade now.

Other airlines, including European budget carrier Ryanair, U.S. competitor United Airlines, and India’s dominant airline IndiGo, have already lodged huge orders for narrowbody jets in recent months, jockeying for delivery slots. IndiGo’s order of 500 single-aisle jets from Airbus is the largest aircraft order placed by an airline at one time.

With 1,000 new orders placed in 2023, Airbus has a backlog of 8,000 planes, including 4,000 orders for the A321neo.

The first Airbus A321XLR on final assembly at the main Airbus factory in Toulouse, France / Photo: Courtesy of Airbus S.A.S./Stefan Kruijer

But Isom said his carrier isn’t worried about queues for new planes. “I do expect that we get appropriate regard in terms of their attention,” he said.

But manufacturers continue stymied by post-pandemic supply chain issues, and deliveries in 2022 remained well below 2019 levels. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun recently said that these supply chain issues will continue to bite through 2024.