American Airlines announced recently that it has pulled down some of its schedules due to Boeing 787 delivery delays. The airline has been in communication with Boeing, but until regulators sign off on the proposed fixes from the manufacturer, it will not be able to deliver aircraft to customers. In addition, without clarity on Dreamliner deliveries, the airline cannot necessarily plan out future schedules.
American’s Boeing 787 deliveries are delayed
The delivery schedule for Boeing 787s has changed a few times this year. At the start of 2021, American expected to receive 19 Dreamliners by the end of the year. In April, American and Boeing reached a new agreement to shift five 787-8 aircraft to 787-9s and complete 787-8 deliveries by the end of the first quarter of 2022.
It was not long before it became clear that delivery delays would impact that timeline. On the carrier’s second-quarter earnings call in July, Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr stated the following on 787 deliveries:
“We’re still working with Boeing on those deliveries. Unfortunately, a lot of them were delayed. We don’t quite know when they’ll come in, but we’re working with Boeing to try to get those. And we’d like to get them as soon as possible, but I know they’re having issues trying to get those aircraft out.”
At the time, the airline still had 13 outstanding 787-8s. Eight had been delayed by then, per the airline, but it still was unclear exactly how long delivery delays would last. Now, deliveries remain paused into the fourth quarter of 2021, and the impacts are continuing.
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Voluntarily pulling down schedules
Mr. Kerr provided an update on the 787-8 delivery delays and how American was planning the operations around it with the following, he discussed voluntary schedule reductions for the fourth quarter and beyond:
“As we build back our network, with respect to our widebody aircraft, we continue to work with Boeing to finalize the timing of our delayed 787-8 deliveries were expected to arrive in 2021. In the meantime, due to the continued uncertainty in the delivery schedule, we have proactively removed these aircraft from our winter schedule, minimize potential passenger disruption.”
It is not a large hit, around a point of capacity, measured by available seat miles (ASMs), according to Mr. Kerr. The airline has been adjusting flight schedules with some relative frequency around the delays, so it did not hit all at once, nor did it lead to entire routes dropping off the network.
Will it impact future schedules?
Notably, United Airlines announced some big schedule additions in 2022, including a recent expansion of flying from London-Heathrow. Delta Air Lines also brought put some summer 2022 routes into the schedule, including returning routes from New York and new additions from Boston. American Airlines has not done much in this space.
The Boeing 787 delivery delays are certainly factoring into this. It is not ideal for American to announce an expansion of routes expected to be covered by the incoming 13 787-8s and then have to cut all or most of it if deliveries do not pan out. There are other factors in play, but if American is looking at a more leisure-focused long-haul expansion, the 787-8s are the aircraft for those missions.
There are still some schedule tweaks American needs to do. Dallas to Hong Kong, for example, is still for sale as daily operations starting from the end of March, which is likely a little too optimistic. The same goes for twice daily operations between Los Angeles and Tokyo. Some aircraft will be freed up when American trims down in markets that are still shut and likely to be for some time.
For now, American is taking a cautious approach with the aircraft by keeping them out of schedules. It is certainly hungry for more Dreamliners as it looks to expand its network thanks to new opportunities in plenty of markets.