American Airlines Set To Reactivate 140+ Narrowbody Aircraft

In the wake of its service uptick announcement, it has been revealed today that American Airlines will be bringing back more than 140 narrowbody aircraft from storage over the next few weeks. To cope with a capacity increase that will see the restoration of 55% of its planned domestic flights, the airline will bring back 83 Airbus A320 family aircraft along with 58 Boeing 737s, which had previously been stored around the US.

Grounded American Airlines aircraft
AA is bringing A320s and 737s out of mothballs. Photo: Getty Images

American’s big narrowbody revival

American Airlines has seen a considerable proportion of its fleet grounded as a result of the current pandemic. The carrier has been storing aircraft in a variety of US locations, including Tulsa and Pittsburg. Now, it is making plans to bring back some of these aircraft in a move that will see it returning as many as 141 narrowbody aircraft to service in the next few weeks.

As announced today, AA will bring back a total of 83 Airbus A320 family aircraft along with 58 Boeing 737 jets. This is to support an increase in services during July, following a reactivation of demand that is somewhat faster than previously expected.

Vasu Raja, American’s Senior Vice President of Network Strategy, commented on the announcement, saying,

“We’re seeing a slow but steady rise in domestic demand. After a careful review of data, we’ve built a July schedule to match. Our July schedule includes the smallest year-over-year capacity reduction since March. We’ll continue to look for prudent opportunities to restore service so our customers can travel whenever and wherever they are ready.”

American is in line with Delta and United, all three of which are looking to return more services in July than previously thought. This shows that, contrary to popular opinion, many passengers are ready and willing to fly, at least in the domestic US market.

By historical standard, demand remains weak. However, these figures suggest that we may be over the worst and that demand for travel could pick up in time for carriers to snag a bit of summer leisure traffic. American says that the bookings seen are primarily to beaches, mountain states, and states with major amusement parks.

The restoration of services

American Airlines had parked around 435 aircraft as a result of the pandemic. Along with this, it had permanently retired 105 aircraft, including its Boeing 757s and 767s, as well as older short-haul planes.  However, it has pressed ahead with retrofits of new cabins on its 737-800s and its A321s in preparation for a return to service.

American Airlines project oasis
American 737-800s will now have 172 seats. Photo: AA

Earlier this month, American revealed a massive systemwide capacity increase, aiming for 40% of its previously scheduled capacity to be operational in July. Domestically, 55% of its domestic flights will be restored next month, giving hope of a revival of air travel.

And it’s not just American that is showing signs of recovery. Delta has brought its first 737 out of storage in Victorville and has plans in place to operate twice as many domestic flights in July as it did in May, although the exact shape of recovery is yet to be seen.

Delta Air Lines grounded planes
Delta is also tentatively ramping up services. Photo: Getty Images

United Airlines has been coy on the bounce back of demand, but has already made moves to step up its international flying schedule. Destinations including the Caribbean, Latin America, and a number of routes to Asia are gradually reopening, with the airline saying it expects to be up to 75% of its 2019 capacity by July.  Domestically, 140 routes in the US and Canada will resume next month.

International recovery is slower

While the green shoots of hope are very much appearing in the domestic US market, airlines are cautious about the return to international flying. Although eight international routes have been resumed by American today, some previously announced routes will not take off.

American Airlines grounded planes at Tulsa
With international recovery likely to be slower, American’s widebodies will remain grounded for longer. Photo: American Airlines

American will begin service from Dallas/Fort Worth to Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, as well as from Miami to Antigua, Guayaquil and Quito. A service will also take place from Chicago and New York to London’s Heathrow airport.

However, some international routes, including transatlantic routes from Philadelphia and Charlotte, have been pushed back to August.

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