American Airlines Fleet Gets Bigger While It Gets Smaller

It also gets a bit more contemporary.

American Airlines is actually scheduled to shrink the size of the fleet slightly (30 planes out of the mainline fleet of close to 1,000) but is shrinking it in the right areas while adding strategic aircraft for the future.  As usual, Terry Maxon at the Dallas Morning News provides us all the salient details.

The biggest drop is in the MD-80s, which are the planes people generally like the least.  I’ve actually never minded the planes myself other than the lack of standard power outlets in first class.  The plane is a rare 2-3 configuration in coach which means there are less middle seats overall.  But, they are older and have less bin space than the new 737-800s that are generally filling in the wholes from departing MD-80s (I’ve also seen an Airbus A319 pop up a time or two).

The MD-80 used to be the workhorse of the fleet, outnumbering any other plane type.  The size of the fleet has shrunk considerably, and will shrink another 30% in 2015 to under 100 planes total.  The 737-800 fleet continues to grow into the new domestic workhorse.  It’s a good plane, 3-3 configuration in coach and plenty of overhead bin space.

The 757 and 767-300 fleets will also see reductions.  Again on the 757s, I’m somewhat ambivalent.  I don’t like the concept of them being used for trans-Atlantic flights but I’ve never found myself in that situation.  The 767-300 retirements make sense in that they’ll probably use the incoming 787-8s to fill some of those slots with much higher fuel efficiency.  Here’s a full breakdown on the mainline fleet changes:

American Airlines

Overall, the changes to the mainline fleet are encouraging.

The regional fleet is something that makes me even more optimistic.  The planes I like the least in the fleet are the smaller CRJ-200 and Embraer 140/145s.  There’s less overhead space, shorter ceilings, smaller and fewer bathrooms.  Collectively, they make up just about half of the existing regional jet fleet.

In 2015, we’ll see roughly a 2:1 replacement on about 10% of that number, retiring 21 ERJ-140s and bringing in 29 E-175s and 21 CRJ-900s.  That’s good news all around, considering all of those planes should come with a small first class cabin, making those US Airways short-haul flights up and down the East coast a bit more tolerable.  They’re a 2-2 configuration in coach versus the 1-2 configuration in the 140/145s, but the seats feel the same to me.  You get more cabin height (though not a ton) and a little better overhead bin space.  Additionally, I believe they plan to outfit all the 175s with wifi.  The full fleet snapshot:

American Airlines

In both the mainline and regional fleet the airline is swapping up to bigger planes for the future (737-8s in place of MD-80s and ERJ-175s in place of ERJ-140/145s).  That’s a good thing for customers as long as it doesn’t lead to less frequency.

I’m enthused by all of the updates to the fleet and excited to chalk up a ride on an American Airlines 787.  Can’t wait to hear what routes they launch it on!


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2 Comments

  1. I flew an AA 757 from SXM to MIA in Dec 2013 and it was awful. The plane felt like it was 30 years old with overhead CRT tv screens. So I’d say they badly need to get rid of most if not all of those!

    1. Jeremy, there are some older 757s left in the fleet, but a decent number have been renovated. I’m guessing they’re retiring the old ones and keeping the renovated ones, which I’m fine with. The 757 is relatively fuel efficient given it’s length as a narrow-body, so new seats can make it a viable (and comfortable) plane.

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