Update: American Airlines’ Fleet
It’s been nearly 5 years since American Airlines filed for bankruptcy leading to their eventual merge with US Airways. It’s been over 3 years since American announced plans to modernize their preexisting fleet. Since American’s bankruptcy, a move that marked a massive turning point in the airlines’ recent history, the airline has taken delivery of hundreds of brand new aircraft including the Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787-8. Additionally, American plans on taking delivery of the Airbus a350 and Boeing 787-9. American has been aggressively promoting its modern fleet and stressing an importance on the passenger experience.
Still, many passengers and frequent flyers have expressed their concerns for what’s proven to be a slow (and messy) process. It’s been roughly five years since American first announced plans to completely overhaul their in-flight product and roughly three years since they reaffirmed their plans. Yet, years later, American has yet to announce plans regarding ex-US Airways a321s, a320s, and a330s. Additionally, retirements for many aircraft have been prolonged. Other areas of concern include a very inconsistent onboard product with three cabin configurations for the Boeing 777.
I’m here to do my best to clear up any concerns or rumors regarding Americans’ fleet restoration.
American Airlines’ has been very clear on their intentions with regards to their fleet. They plan on having the youngest fleet in North America while offering an enjoyable and updated passenger experience in each and every cabin. Of course, that sounds great. Unfortunately, American hasn’t done a stellar job actually following up on that promise.
So, in order to effectively answer any questions you might have, I’m going to ask five very common questions regarding American’s fleet and then go ahead and answer those questions.
Q and A; American’s Fleet
#1 What’s going to happen with American’s inconsistent widebody product?
As shown in the chart above, even when American’s fleet modernization is completed, the widebody fleet will have many inconsistencies, the main inconstancy being the fairly wide array of business class seats. There will be five business class products once fleet modernization is completed; American’s Zodiac Seat, American’s B/E Aerospace Business Suite, American’s Reverse Herringbone Seat, American’s Thompson Vantage Seat, US Airways’ Reverse Herringbone Seat. All seats are fully lie-flat and (with the exception of the Boeing 767) will feature personal in-flight entertainment.
There are a few remaining Boeing 777-200s and 767-300s that yet to receive their new cabins, however, once these aircraft are completed the widebody restoration will be complete. Additionally, expect American’s 767-300 (which will be the only widebody to lack entertainment and power outlets in the main cabin) to be phased-out entirely within the next four years.
#2 Will all Boeing 737-800s receive the new interior with personal in-flight?
No. Only new aircraft that were delivered with the new interiors will see this interior. Older aircraft that did not receive the new interior and in-flight entertainment will be fitted with new leather seat covers and new carpet. Some aircraft will also receive new cabin panels and updates to the lavatory.
Other than minor cabin updates, American hasn’t made any announcements regarding older 737s. This means that only a fraction of 737s will feature personal in-flight entertainment and new interior.
#3 What will happen to all US Airways narrowbodies; the Airbus a319, a320, a321?
All Airbus a319s have been retrofitted with a new cabin interior. This new interior includes power outlets at every seat and a brand new first class cabin with eight seats instead of the original twelve. A few Airbus a320s will receive an updated cabin including brand new seat covers in both cabins, new carpet and new cabin panels.
American has yet to announce any changes to former US Airways’ Airbus a321s. It’s likely that a handful will receive American’s new cabin interior and other will receive minor updates.
Eventually, American will phase-out the Airbus a320.
#4 What will American do with the Boeing 757? Any hopes of in-flight entertainment?
American has been phasing out the Boeing 757 for years now and plans to phase-out all 757s except for roughly 25 to 28 internationally configured aircraft. These aircraft are all ETOPS certified and feature angled lie-flat seats. Once American has phased out the remaining non-internationally configured aircraft, the remaining 25ish will be fitted with fully lie-flat business class seats (similar to those found on the a321T) and in-flight entertainment in both the business class and main cabin.
If you’re scheduled on a Boeing 757 to Europe or South America in the next year, don’t expect to be watching blockbuster hits or sleeping in your own lie-flat bed. American won’t begin retrofitting the international 757s until sometime in 2017.
#5 So should I just learn to expect an inconsistent experience on the “New American”?
I wouldn’t go that far. American is just like any other airline in the world, however, American went to extremes when it announced plans to modernize their fleet. American would frequently advertise their new cabins with in-flight entertainment and new lie-flat seats while neglecting their older fleet. But again, Delta and United are in the same boat as American; all three airlines lack a consistent onboard product. All three airlines, most notably Delta and American are on their way to some sort of consistency.
No, don’t expect inconsistencies when flying the New American but understand that certain routes will lack certain amenities. However, by the end of the decade, all of American’s mainline aircraft will feature two very important amenities; Wi-Fi and in-seat power outlets.
It’s going to be a few years before American’s operating with a consistent onboard product. By 2018, all MD-80s will be phased out and widebody modernization will be complete. By 2020, the Boeing 767-300 is expected to be phased out and the new Boeing 737MAX aircraft will have made their way into American’s fleet. Also expected within the next year or two is an announcement regarding the US Airways Airbus a321s.