American Airlines has spurned Airbus and placed a major new order for 47 Boeing 787 Dreamliners to replace many of its older long-haul jets, the airline said late Friday.
In announcing the deal, American said it will “terminate” an order for 22 Airbus A350s placed by US Airways, which merged with American in 2013. The A350 fits more passengers than the two Boeing 787 models American ordered, but the aircraft are relatively similar in technology, range and passenger amenities.
American said it will buy 22 787-8s, a smaller version of the popular jet, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2020. It will also add 25 of the larger 787-9s, and they will begin arriving in 2023. American already flies both jets, and when deliveries are complete the airline said it will have 89 Dreamliners, an aircraft it said consistently receive the highest customer satisfaction scores of any widebody in its fleet.
American’s decision was not unexpected, as executives have said they were considering canceling the A350 order in favor of either the Boeing 787, or the Airbus A330neo. The A330neo is an updated version of an aircraft American already flies.
The deal announced Friday is valued at $12 billion at list prices, but no airline as large as American has ever paid anything close to list price for any order, let alone one of this magnitude. Boeing said the deal will make American the largest Dreamliner customer in the western hemisphere.
The 787-8s will replace American’s Boeing 767-300s, some of which were delivered in the mid-1990s. The 787-9s will replace American’s older Boeing 777-200s, some of which were delivered in the late 1990s, as well as Airbus A330-300s that once belonged to US Airways.
American President Robert Isom and CFO Derek Kerr have made no secret they prefer a streamlined widebody fleet with fewer aircraft types. That creates simplicity, they have said.
Under American’s fleet plan before Friday, the airline expected to fly five types of widebody jets going forward. It now plans to have operate only three.
“We see significant advantages to carrying common fleet types, including creating less friction in our operation when aircraft swaps are necessary, reducing inventory needs, and creating a more consistent service for customers and team members,” Kerr said in a news release.
As part of the agreement, American said it will defer 40 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that were to arrive between 2020 and 2022, to “better align with planned retirements of other narrowbody aircraft.”