The Important Role Of The Airbus A330 At American Airlines

American Airlines retired its 24-strong fleet of A330s last year, accelerating a decision that had already been made. The type was used almost exclusively from former US Airways hubs of Charlotte and Philadelphia, with 36 routes in 2019, the last full year of service.

The Important Role Of The Airbus A330 At American Airlines
American Airlines retired the A330 in 2020. Photo: Getty Images.

The retirement of American Airlines’ A330-200s and -300s was part of a broader range of cuts, which saw all its B757s and B767s and some older B737-800s go, along with the Embraer 190s and CRJ-200s with regional airlines. Simple Flying recently examined the key role played by the 757 in its fleet.

American’s widebodies are now all-Boeing, comprising as they do the B787-8 and -9 along with the B777-200ER and B777-300ER. Yet, its A330s – inherited from US Airways – had an important role to play, almost exclusively at ex-US Airways hubs of Charlotte and Philadelphia.

The Important Role Of The Airbus A330 At American Airlines
Charlotte to Heathrow was the #1 route for American’s A330s. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia.

American’s A330s

The figure, below, charts the development of the A330 with US Airways and then American. In 2019, American had just under 3.8 million seats by the aircraft, of which over six in ten (62%) were by the -200 and the remainder by the larger -300.

The twin-engine A330 had an 18% share of American’s total widebody capacity in 2019, down from 21% in 2016. Capacity across all of American’s widebodies rose by almost 11% in this period, driven by the B787, while the A330 fell by 6%.

The Important Role Of The Airbus A330 At American Airlines
The A330 had less than a one-fifth share of American’s widebody capacity in 2019. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

All about Philadelphia and Charlotte

Between 2016 and 2019, all but two of American’s A330-operated routes were to/from Philadelphia and Charlotte.

The two exceptions were Phoenix – another former US Airways hub – to Honolulu between 2017 and 2019, normally routing from Charlotte, and Chicago O’Hare to Dublin in summer 2016. Charlotte-Honolulu launched non-stop on May 6th, 2021.

Philadelphia was American’s most important airport for the A330, with nearly six in ten seats. Still, the dominance of the aircraft at the Pennsylvania airport had been declining as a result of the greater use of B767-300ERs. In 2016, the 763 had just a 6% share of capacity; come 2019, that had risen to 38%.

The Important Role Of The Airbus A330 At American Airlines
The B777-200ER has replaced the A330 at Charlotte. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

As one increased, the other went down

The reducing use of the A330 at Philadelphia meant that American instead expanded it at Charlotte. Indeed, the carrier’s widebody use at its North Carolina hub has been almost entirely about the aircraft, although now, in 2021, it revolves around the B777-200ER. Simple Flying examined American’s Charlotte hub and found it had 160 routes in mid-April.

When all aircraft are considered, American’s widebody use at Philadelphia grew by one-third between 2016 and 2019 against just 9% at Charlotte. The carrier had also planned multiple new routes from Philadelphia before coronavirus struck, including Dubrovnik and Casablanca, in a push to grow the hub’s transatlantic connectivity.

The Important Role Of The Airbus A330 At American Airlines
American’s A330 network in 2019, the final full year of operation. Image: OAG.

36 routes by the A330

Some 36 routes saw the A330 in 2019, of which 24 were international while 12 were domestic. The latter included hub-to-hub flying, such as Charlotte-Philadelphia and Charlotte-Phoenix, along with the likes of Los Angeles, Orlando, and San Juan. Yet it was Heathrow that took the top-two spots, as identified below.

  1. Charlotte-Heathrow: 403,326 seats
  2. Philadelphia-Heathrow: 381,501
  3. Philadelphia-Rome Fiumicino: 187,000
  4. Philadelphia-Los Angeles: 183,376
  5. Charlotte-Frankfurt: 179,322
  6. Philadelphia-Madrid: 178,334
  7. Philadelphia-Paris CDG: 175,370
  8. Philadelphia-Dublin: 173,641
  9. Charlotte-Munich: 135,603
  10. Charlotte-Philadelphia: 133,106

What are your memories of American’s A330s? Comment below!