American Airlines Announces Largest Aircraft Order in History

New Planes for American Airlines

If you are sick of flying in cramped, dirty, and/or antiquated aircraft, you're going to like this: American Airlines has just announced that it is purchasing 460 new planes with options to buy another 465 in the next couple of decades. Under the new agreements, American plans to acquire narrow-body, single-aisle aircraft from the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families, but don't look for these plane right away. The airline says to expect them beginning in 2013 through 2022.

Among the amenities featured in the new aircraft: larger overhead bin space for carryon bags, ambient lighting and more fuel efficiency (up to 15% more than today's aircraft, according to American).

New Plane Orders Placed with Boeing and Airbus

The big winners are Boeing and the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus; here's what American has ordered from each company:

  • Boeing: 200 aircraft from the 737 family, with options for 100 more plane
  • Airbus: 260 aircraft from the A320 Family with options for 365 more

Rick's Analysis

American has taken it on the chin from the investor community in recent years as the financial performance of the one-time world's largest airline has lagged behind its peers; American slipped to #3 in the wake of the blockbuster mergers of Delta/Northwest and United/Continental, leaving few if any dance partners for American (in the U.S., anyway).

The investment community has wanted something bold and it appears they got the first wave today (7-20-11); American appears to have solidified its aircraft future by securing sweetheart financing from the Boeing/Airbus duopoly (ahead of Delta and United) and spinning off (or potentially selling) their regional airline service American Eagle.

What's next? Could a spin-off of the AAdvantage program be in the cards?

See me dig into more details in a short interview with NBC's Dallas TV affiliate:

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Oldest and Youngest Airline Fleets

I reported earlier that American and other airlines were on an aircraft shopping spree; others said to be pricing new planes include Delta, Frontier, United/Continental and Southwest.

According to American, the new deliveries are expected to "pave the way for American to have the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleet among its U.S. airline peers" in just about five years or so.

As I noted in one of my recent weekly columns for, U.S. airline fleets are aging. According to a report issued by the Associated Press this spring, the average age of the planes in Delta's fleet is 16 years, while American and United are both 15 years; the average age of Southwest's fleet is close to 12, while Allegiant's is 21.5 years.

How is American paying for all these new planes? Part of it comes from all those airline fees you pay, including the more than $3 billion in bag fees that U.S. airlines took in during 2010 alone.

Rick Seaney
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