American Orders Up to 100 787s

787, American

American may have announced a $360 million loss excluding special items yesterday, but that news was overshadowed by the airline’s decision to order up to 100 787 Dreamliners. They join Delta/Northwest and Continental as having 787s on order while United . . . still does not.

So the story is that American has ordered 42 787-9s and kept the rights for 58 more of them. They have not ordered any of the smaller 787-8 aircraft, though I would assume that they could swap for them if they really wanted to at a later date.

The 787-9 will hold 250 to 290 passengers. That’s a decent increase over the 225 seats you’ll find on one of their 58 767-300s today, but it will slot in between those and the 47 777s they’re also flying. My guess is that if they do use this aircraft to replace airplanes instead of grow (as they’ve indicated), they’ll start with some of their older 767-300s (the first of which turn 20 this year).

But, by 2012 when the first plane arrives, they may very well use this plane to focus on expansion. By then there will hopefully be a stronger economy and an increase in global traffic. I would assume that they’ll keep the flexibility to make that decision later on if they can.

Wait, did I say 2012? Pretty interesting that though Boeing was thought to have its 787 line booked solid for years, they still found room for American to start taking deliveries in just four short years. You’ve always gotta take care of your best customers, right? According to the Airline Biz blog, American had actually negotiated in a previous contract that they get early dibs on aircraft if they want them.

Now, American just has to come to terms with its pilots on how much to pay them to fly the plane. If they can’t, they actually built in the right to cancel the order. Nothing like building in some leverage into your negotiations.

And yes, the question I’m sure every airline dork cares about (and nobody else does) . . . will the planes be able to keep the metallic finish that American is known for or will they have to paint the composite planes gray like they originally did with the A300? Well, this artist’s impressions makes it look gray:

08_10_16 aa787

But I think it’s safe to say that this is probably the last thing on their minds. We’ll figure it out down the road.

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12 comments on “American Orders Up to 100 787s

  1. Gray or metallic, that’s one sexy airplane.

    Aren’t American, Delta and Continental the three airlines with gentleman’s agreements to only buy Boeing jets? The order doesn’t surprise me, the size does given the current economic conditions. Sounds like their lawyers got every T crossed and I dotted though.

    As a side note I have to admit that I’m super excited about the 787. While the A380 is impressive because of size the technology of the 787 peaks my interest much more. I’ll probably pony up the $$$ to just fly in this thing once Delta/NW gets their first delivery.

  2. A – I know that American and Continental signed, but I think you’re right about Delta as well. I seem to remember them being struck down as illegal for some reason at the time, but nobody has strayed from it.

  3. Delta will be receiving the Boeing 787 ahead of American Airlines and Continental Airlines for one simple reason. This reason is that Northwest Airlines is first in line to receive the 787 from Boeing.

    Delta originally announced it would purchase up to 125 Boeing 787 in mid-2007, however Delta has recentlt revised this number to purchasing 42 787s.

    Delta has not stated however if these 42 787s are in addition to the 68 787s Northwest Airlines had lined up, or if this is the total number they plan to receive as a combined airline.

    As for a gentleman’s agreement to fly Boeing only, this should be interesting when Northwest’s fleet gets painted over in Delta colours. The A319/A320/A330 are comfortable and efficient aircraft. Delta may eliminate them from the fleet to maintain an all Boeing fleet, however they may choose to retain the A330 within the fleet.

    ……as for colours? AA will most likely chose the colour scheme originally chosen by NWA. This is to pain the aircraft grey.

    Maybe AA will pain them while and toss an ‘eagle’on the tail:0)

    Steven Frischling
    The Travel Strategist

  4. Cranky – the Boeing only deal for 20 years was signed but later retracted under pressure from Airbus after Boeing gobbled up McDonnel Douglas. (Wishing there was still a 3rd major player in the business.) Anyway, none have strayed and why it’s today called the ‘gentlemans’ agreement.

    And yes, NWA will get the first domestic 787’s, although it’ll probably be Delta by then. As for Delta taking over NW’s airbus fleet, to my knowledge NW leases their airbus planes. Their DC-9’s are wholly owned and a big reason they are still in the air. My guess is if Delta needs capacity reduction they’ll nix the Airbus leases…maybe even ahead of retiring their MD-80’s. Only because having known a few airline mechanics a streamlined fleet of one aircraft is a big savings.

  5. Please, please tell me that AA’s first order of business will be to retire their decrepit 767-200’s. Those planes make the 763’s look modern!

  6. A – Thanks for refreshing the memory. Good background stuff. But I wouldn’t be so sure we’ll see those Airbus aircraft go away. There are 130 of them flying, and they aren’t going to get rid of all of them. The DC-9s will be gone soon enough – they’re already being phased out. After that, I would think the MD-80s would be next though it’s possible that a small subfleet like the 16 MD-90s would go. (I absolutely love that airplane, by the way.) That is, of course, assuming they want to keep reducing the fleet. The DC-9s take a good chunk out.

    Buster – This won’t touch the 762s. Those are used solely for domestic flying, mostly transcontinental work. The 787s definitely won’t be used for that.

  7. Cranky, you are not alone, the first thing I noticed was the color of the fuselage. First on the Aviation Week web site and then on videos running on local Dallas news. On the video it even appears to be reflective. Maybe they will wrap it in aluminum foil! The stipulation for pilot agreement is also getting a fair amount of press locally.

  8. To the contrary, Delta has been looking to increase their MD-90 fleet due to the used birds in China being available for very cheap. Haven’t heard anything about this since the DL/NW deal though.

    I can see AA using the 787-9 for routes that the A300 currently flies, which will be underserved with the 757 until 2012. AA will then pull the 757 fleet solely back into domestic flying, retiring more MD-80s. By 2013-2014 a majority of the domestic flying will be 737/757. Estimated counts are 150 737, 120 757, 100 MD80.

    For Delta, I doubt they will get rid of the MD-80s so quickly. It’s a great plane for what they need, and their oldest MD-88 variant is just 15 years old. They would get rid of some of the Airbus first, because Boeing considers the legacy MD product a Boeing, and this move would put DL/NW back to a full Boeing fleet.

  9. Sorry I haven’t responded sooner, but I’ve been busy.

    Dan Webb – Ugh, now I can’t find where it came from, but I believe it was released by Boeing.

    Wes – I would be very surprised to see the 787 on the A300 routes unless it’s just a tag to get more utilization out of the aircraft. This bird is meant for long haul, and I’ll bet that’s what we’ll primarily see. The 757 is actually pretty decent bird for those Caribbean routes, and I imagine we’ll still see that on the most heavily traveled routes.

    I also don’t think that it matters if DL/NW has an all-Boeing fleet. I would have to assume that the gentleman’s agreement between Boeing and Delta would not be violated if Delta acquires an airline with Airbus aircraft. The Airbus and the MD-80s serve different market types anyway. MD-80s are for short to medium stages while the Airbus is great on longer haul routes. The A319 in particular is good for long thin routes. So, which airplanes go will be driven by where Delta wants the route map to go.

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