Through 2022, American Airlines has further streamlined its international long-haul fleet. Already, the Airbus A330-300s are on their way out. And, now, American will keep the A330-200s in long-term storage as the airline prepares for reduced demand in the wake of the current crisis.
The A330-200s will not fly through 2022
As we continue to make refinements to our flying schedule and fleet requirements based on this period of decreased demand, we’ve decided to keep our fleet of 15 Airbus A330-200 aircraft in storage into 2022. Going forward, routes previously flown with A330-200 aircraft will be flown by the Boeing 777 and 787. We’re working closely with our union partners to ensure a smooth transition to other fleet types for pilots, flight attendants and other frontline team members whose main body of work is the A330. No crew bases will close and no team members will be furloughed at this time as a result of this extended storage.
American operates Boeing 777-200s, -300s, 787-8s, and -9s. The A330s will likely swap to Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 787-8 flights, although it will vary per route. Prior to sending these planes into storage, American flew the A330-200s out of Charlotte and Philadelphia. The aircraft flew transatlantic routes to cities like Madrid, London, Paris, Munich, Rome, Prague, and others. In addition, the plane has flown some high-demand routes to the Caribbean and select points in the United States.
The 777s will likely fly to key partner hubs like London. There, American can leverage connections on both ends, making filling up the plane easier. Meanwhile, the 787s will likely fly the other routes. Some destinations, like Munich, may see the 787-9 operating.
Newer 787-8s feature an enhanced business class product with a larger footwell and additional privacy. While leisure routes may still see older 787 configurations with rear-facing business class seats, the newer ones will be better suited for business travelers.
Will there be route cuts?
In the last two years, American Airlines has been expanding transatlantic services. Some of those routes were on 767s and A330s. It would not be surprising to see American delay the resumption of some routes until 2022. Or, if demand does not improve significantly until then, the airline could wait for the A321XLR to enter service from 2023 onwards before reinstating some routes.
For now, however, it is not surprising to see American streamline services. The airline industry is in uncharted waters, and there really is no playbook for this. Flying will change, that is a guarantee, but how much is anybody’s best guess. Vasu Raja, American’s SVP of Network Strategy, said in an April 30th earnings call that the airline had no plans to shut down any hubs as a result of this crisis.
This gives the impression that American plans on maintaining a robust route network. The airline has always leveraged its hubs or partner hubs when launching new routes. It would be jarring to see American walk away from its transatlantic network.
Will the A330s return?
It is hard to see the A330s returning if travel in 2022 remains lower than it was in 2019. Retiring the -200s would further the airline’s quest for fleet simplification and reduce overall costs. But, it would also probably come at the expense of some short-term route suspensions.
But, American is very good at planning out its routes and aircraft schedule. The carrier does focus heavily on efficient aircraft utilization and has made significant strides to improve its operational performance.
American does not plan on furloughing any of its employees because of the A330s entering long-term storage until 2022. Instead, it will work with its unions to save those jobs and retrain those employees onto other aircraft.
Will you miss American’s A330-200s? Let us know in the comments!