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American Airlines Swaps Boeing 787s For More 737 Maxes

Edward Russell
February 2nd, 2022 at 11:27 AM EST

American Airlines is adding 30 additional Boeing 737 Max aircraft to its order book as it juggles Boeing 787 deliveries amid lengthy delivery delays of the widebody jet.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has exercised 23 737-8 options and plans to exercise another seven this year, American disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Wednesday. In addition, it delayed some of the 11 787-9s due in 2023 from early that year to the fourth quarter of 2023 through 2027. American now expects four 787-9s next year.

The orderbook changes come amid widebody challenges for American. The airline still is waiting for 13 787-8s that were due in 2021 and slated to replace some of the Airbus A330s and Boeing 767s that it retired during the coronavirus pandemic. And while it expects that deliveries begin in April, American already has slashed its summer longhaul schedule on the expectation that it will have fewer widebody jets than previously planned.

Boeing “will compensate us for the losses that we’ve had for the delay of those aircraft,” said American Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr on the delays in January. The carrier anticipates having four of the 787-8s by summer and taking the rest by year-end.

Boeing has not said when 787 deliveries will resume. Speaking in January, the Chicago-based airframer’s Chief Financial Officer Brian West said it “can’t predict when deliveries will restart,” but that the company had “made meaningful strides in addressing many of the non-conformances we identified.” Boeing only delivered 14 787s in 2021 due to U.S. FAA concerns about production quality. The delays resulted in a $3.5 billion one-time charge for the airframer in the fourth quarter.

The 787 delivery delays prompted American’s decision to postpone the 787-9s and convert Max options to orders, an airline spokesperson said. Being “mindful” of capital expenditures, American delayed the 787s to meter widebody growth in 2023, which allowed it to take the additional Maxes, the spokesperson added. American did not comment on whether the Max conversions were part of Boeing’s compensation package to the carrier.

The Max deal will see American take zero 737s this year; 27 in 2023; 21 in 2024; and 40 thereafter, according to an October fleet plan. Its Max fleet and firm commitments now stand at 130 aircraft. American has 43 outstanding orders for the 787, including the 13 -8s and 30 -9s.

The additional mainline aircraft also come as American struggles with pilot staffing at its regional affiliates. The carrier has extended and expanded select route suspensions into May from April in order to mitigate the disruption, according to Cirium schedules and a spokesperson. Affected routes include ones between Chicago O’Hare and Akron-Canton, Colorado Springs, and Manchester, N.H.; and Philadelphia and Charlottesville, Va., and Daytona Beach, Fla. Sources indicate that the disruptions are likely to continue into June and potentially through American’s summer schedule.

American plans to fly roughly 95 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2022.

Edward Russell
February 2nd, 2022 at 11:27 AM EST

Photo credit: American has delayed some 787-9 deliveries in favor of more 737 Maxes. Flickr / Gerard van der Schaaf

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