American Airlines Sets Out Boeing 757 Retirement Plans

As part of its fleet renewal, American Airlines has set out plans to retire its Boeing 757. The airline will phase out these aircraft by the end of 2021, and new fuel-efficient models will replace them. We take a look at what could happen…

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American’s 757 will soon be a thing of the past. Photo: Getty Images

Plans to retire the 757 fleet

In pursuit of a more fuel-efficient fleet, American Airlines plans to retire its aging Boeing 757 fleet. The airline currently has 34 of the 757-200 model, which have an average age of just over 20 years. Unlike American’s retirement plan for its 767, the airline hopes to phase out these 34 aircraft starting from May 2020 gradually. This means that by the end of 2021, the airline will no longer operate any 757-200.

The reason for the retirement is that American is looking to make the most of newer aircraft which are more economical on fuel. That way, the airline will save money on refilling its aircraft, but equally important, the airline will also be able to make a more positive contribution to the environment.

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The new models will allow American to run a greener operation. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

New aircraft for a greener operation

On American’s environmental page, the air carrier says that it is making significant changes to overhaul its fleet completely. In the coming years, it means that it will invest in over 600 new aircraft for what it calls “a new American”. The airline continues:

“Our investment in new aircraft is helping us to develop the youngest fleet of any U.S.-based international carrier by retiring older, inefficient models and replacing them with more fuel-efficient upgrades. We’re burning less fuel, reducing emissions and cutting energy costs. The new models are also quieter—inside and out—improving passenger comfort and reducing the impact of noise on communities near airports where we operate.”

This sounds like a great proposal and one that’s in line with the current shift towards newer, environmentally-friendly aircraft fleets. So, what aircraft will replace the aging 757-200?

Replacing the 757

When it comes to replacing the 757, American Airlines has several options. It’s made orders on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner range but also the Airbus A321XLR. Which will it use to replace the 757?

Currently, American has an order of 22 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners and 25 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. However, these aircraft are thought to be better replacements for American’s aging 767 fleet. That said, the 767 fleet numbers just 16, which means that there will be surplus Dreamliners from American’s order. Would a 787-8 or -9 be an adequate replacement for the 757-200?

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Could American replace its 757 fleet with a 787 Dreamliner? Photo: Getty Images

Well, the Boeing 787-8 or 787-9 would do good things for American. While these models are not a direct correlation to the 757-200, there are a lot of benefits. For one, the Dreamliners can go much further. They have a range of 14,530km (787-8) and 15,394km (787-9). Compared to the 757-200s range of 7,222km, that’s quite a drastic difference.

Less dramatic is the additional seating capacity. However, it’s still advantageous. The 787-8 offers 242 seats, compared to the 200 that the 757-200 can seat. The 787-9 offers even more with a capacity of 280 passengers.

But is this the right fit?

Will the A321XLR replace the 757?

Would the A321XLR be better for American? Photo: Airbus

If it’s not the Dreamliner, American could replace its 757 with Airbus A321XLR. American currently has 50 of these on order. Unlike Boeing’s Dreamliners, the A321XLR is certainly more similar to the 757-200 with some additional benefits.

The A321XLR gives nearly 1,500 extra kilometers in range, which could help with developing American’s route network. In addition, the A321XLR has a better seating capacity. Max capacity in the 757-200 is 239 passengers whereas the A321XLR has a maximum capacity of 240. It’s not much, but will these specifications be closer to what American is looking for? A slight disadvantage to this model is that the deliveries on these aircraft are not expected to begin until 2023. That could mean that American will wait for over two years to directly replace its 757 fleet once all of them are retired.

We contacted American Airlines to find out specifically which aircraft would replace the 757 fleet. However, it was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Which aircraft do you think is the more suitable replacement for the 757? Have your say in the comments.