American Airlines will use an Airbus A321neo on its seasonal route to Reykjavik from June 2021. What is interesting, however, is that this route previously saw Boeing 757 service. The A321neo, in comparison, is a bit of a downgrade. But, it does raise the question: Will AA use the A321neo to replace 757s?
Routesonline reports that American will place the A321neo on the PHL to KEF route from June 3rd, 2021. The daily flight will follow traditional transatlantic flight times and depart in the night at 22:15 with a next morning arrival at 08:10. After a couple of hours on the ground, the aircraft will turn around and fly back to PHL at 10:30, arriving in the early afternoon– at 12:45. All times are local. The flight time is just under six hours.
The 757s featured lie-flat seats in business class. Meanwhile, the A321neos do not offer the same amenities. Instead, American has recliner-style seats onboard the newer aircraft.
Why the A321neo makes sense to Iceland
Flights to Iceland are some of the shortest transatlantic hops that airlines fly. It is what makes it an appealing destination to fly narrowbody aircraft to– especially since there is not the same amount of demand as there is to cities like London.
Iceland does not rely on a strong influx of business travelers. Instead, the island is a tourist destination, especially during the summer months. Iceland’s leading carrier, Icelandair, predominantly using narrowbody jets like the 757 and, once the grounding is lifted, the 737 MAX. Now defunct WOW Air previously flew Airbus A320ceo and A320neo family aircraft to destinations in North America. For longer routes, the carrier also operated Airbus A330s.
In terms of competition from the US, Delta Air Lines also flies to Iceland using Boeing 757s. However, instead of 757s with lie-flats, Delta flies the recliner-style domestically configured jets. The seats up front are sold as Premium Select– Delta’s version of premium economy.
Thus, American is more getting rid of its competitive advantage and rather standardizing what the other carriers do. However, this bet will likely pay off due to the fuel savings from operating the newer, more efficient jets.
Will this become a trend at AA?
The current trend at AA is fleet simplification. In the last month, American’s widebody fleet went from the Airbus A330s, Boeing 767s, Boeing 777s, and Boeing 787s down to just the 787s and 777s. Meanwhile, the narrowbody fleet shrunk to just the A320ceos, A320neos, Boeing 737NGs, and 737 MAX with the retirement of the E190s and 757s.
The replacement for the 757s on international routes its a little tough. The A321XLRs are not due at AA until 2023. Meanwhile, the 787s are just far too big. So, that puts American in a bit of a conundrum.
Some shorter international routes, such as from Philadelphia to Iceland and Miami to Brasilia that were previously flown with 757s, will likely see Airbus A321neos and 737 MAXes take over. But, some, such as from Dallas to Lima, are now witnessing widebody jets like the 787s in the schedule.
While the A321neo would be an attractive option on pricing, it just is not right for most routes. On other, longer, 757 routes, for example, from Philadelphia to Casablanca, an A321neo would be stretched to its limits and have to operate with a significantly lower payload.
Furthermore, the A321neo would only be competitive on leisure routes. On routes to more prestigious destinations, American Airlines would definitely want to maintain lie-flat seating for premium customers. Given the current crisis, American is moving full steam ahead with retrofitting aircraft to reduce fleet inefficiencies and cut costs. Thus, it would not make much sense for AA to operate a sub-fleet of A321neos that have lie-flat seating onboard.
In those cases, American could use a widebody like the 787 only a few times per week. And then, once the A321XLRs enter service, swap out the widebodies with daily XLR service. Or, in other cases, American might just put the route on hold until it has the planes to do so. While aviation is starting to see a rebound from its current crisis, it may well take two or three years for demand to build up to the same place where it was in 2019.
Do you think American should use the A321neo to replace 757 routes? Let us know in the comments!