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American Airlines Fuels Rumors of Capacity Constraint as 737s Are Tagged for the Boneyard

AA 737-800 lining up for Runway 6L at Toronto-Pearson. Photo BriYYZ (CC BY-SA 2.0)

American Airlines is overhauling its fleet but doesn’t want to add too much capacity. The Fort Worth based airline has plans to retire 45 Boeing 737s over the next two years, with 12 of the older planes being taken out of service next year and 33 retirements planned for 2020. AA spokesperson Josh Freed says the decision is based on the advanced age of the narrow-body fleet, “It’s strictly an age-based retirement at this point. We have some (planes) that we took back in 1999.” That means American’s oldest 737-800 is 19 years of age.

Some avgeeks speculate that at that age, the planes are getting old but still have life in them and therefore could be picked up by another airline. There is also buzz about the earlier 737s requiring costly inspections and issues with an older HUD that is becoming more difficult to source.

AA says the goal is to maintain a fleet of 950 aircraft, acquiring and retiring planes where appropriate. American is expected to reduce the size of its mainline fleet to 935 by the year 2020. According to a regulatory filing, the carrier will take deliveries of 40 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and 50 Airbus SE A321neos by the end of 2020.

AA’s Fleet Staying Near Flat, Getting Younger Though

Since its merger with US Airways in 2013, American has reduced the average age of its entire fleet from 13 years to 10 and has received 469 new aircraft. The company’s annual report lists the average age of its fleet is only 8.1 years, thanks to recent new plane deliveries. Still, the Boeing 737s still make up almost 1/3 of Boeing’s main fleet.

Photo Bill Abbott (Wikipedia)

304 of the older 737s are still in service, alongside MD-80s that have an average age of 21 years. Mad dogs once made up the majority of AA’s shorthaul fleet. By the end of 2019, the carrier will have retired the last of its MD-80s as well.

Editors note: An earlier version of this article briefly stated that American would reduce the fleet to 835 by 2020.  That was a typo and is incorrect.  We updated the story to 935 and apologize for the error.

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Kim Clark

Written by Kim Clark

Former CNN Radio News Network anchor Kim Clark is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in the aviation industry and financial markets. She currently freelances for S&P Global and works as a club and event Disc Jockey in Atlanta, Georgia, after having held positions doing news on radio morning shows and holding down the position of Music Director of commercial radio stations owned by Cumulus and Clear Channel.

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