Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet

American Airlines retired two widebody types in 2020: the Boeing 767 and Airbus A330s. In addition to the Boeing 757, these aircraft mainly operated international routes for American Airlines.

American B767
The Boeing 767 has exited American’s fleet, and with it, so have some of the more opportunistic routes the airline flew with the jet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In an exclusive webinar with Simple Flying, Vasu Raja, Chief Revenue Officer of American Airlines, discussed how those aircraft allowed the carrier to conduct more opportunistic flying. Here is a look back at how American utilized some of those fleets.

Enabled opportunistic flying

Speaking to Simple Flying, Mr. Raja stated the following on the role of these aircraft in American’s network:

“Through the pandemic, we got rid of some really, really inexpensive airframes, like the 767, the old A330s, and the 757. Those airframes, because they were so cheap, we could be really opportunistic with them. If we could fly to Europe for four and a half months, and make pretty good money out of it, and then pull them down and go fly to the Caribbean and a couple of domestic trips and things like that, where, effectively, they were were almost like managing margins, it was an okay enough thing to go and do. Those things don’t exist in our system anymore.”

Essentially, these three aircraft types came at low enough of a cost that they helped enable some more opportunistic long-haul flying on routes that may not otherwise make sense with a newer, more expensive aircraft. However, these aircraft were largely seasonal in terms of where they were deployed.

The Boeing 767-300ER

The Boeing 767-300ER has been a popular aircraft in the United States, with the big three US airlines all flying the aircraft at some point in their history. According to data from ch-aviation.com, American Airlines operated 67 767-300ER aircraft in its history. The final 767 exited American’s fleet in March 2020.

Using data from Cirium, these are the routes where American Airlines had deployed the Boeing 767-300ER in July of 2019.

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American’s Boeing 767-300ER operations in July 2019. Photo: Cirium

American scheduled the Boeing 767-300ER mainly on transatlantic routes out of Philadelphia and some Latin American routes out of Miami. Many of these are seasonal destinations, including Lisbon, Dubrovnik, Berlin, Bologna, and Budapest. The 767 was also planned to enable new routes to Eastern Europe.

Come December 2019, American shifted where the aircraft was deployed.

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American’s Boeing 767-300ER routes from December 2019. Photo: Cirium

What is abundantly clear is that American pulls the aircraft off of seasonal European flying – save to some critical points in Europe – and positions them on more flights south of the US and more domestic legs.

There are a few of these destinations that American does not plan to fly to in the future, at least for now. This includes Cordoba (COR), Dubrovnik (DBV), Bologna (BLQ), and Budapest (BUD).

On the routes that have stayed, the Boeing 787 is mainly the aircraft that is taking over. This includes Zurich to Philadelphia. Even on some shorter routes, such as to Lima, American has also cycled in the Boeing 787.

American Airlines Boeing 767 Getty
American retired its last 767s in early 2020. Photo: Getty Images

The Airbus A330

After the merger with US Airways, American Airlines inherited a fleet of 15 Airbus A330-200s and nine Airbus A330-300s. The A330-300s exited the fleet earlier in 2020, but the decision on the A330-200s came later in the year after being sent to long-term storage.

Here is where American had flown the Airbus A330 in July of 2019:

American A330
American Airlines mainly flew the Airbus A330 to Europe from Charlotte and Philadelphia. Photo: Cirium

Airbus A330 flying was primarily concentrated out of legacy US Airways hubs of Philadelphia (PHL) and Charlotte (CLT). The Airbus A330-300 flew the following routes:

  • PHL to London (LHR)
  • PHL to Rome (FCO)
  • PHL to Athens (ATH)
  • CLT to LHR
  • CLT to FCO

All of the other routes shown above were flown with the Airbus A330-200. Some of the routes were flown with multiple daily flights, especially flights to London.

Things shifted in December:

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American’s December 2019 Airbus A330 routes. Photo: Cirium

The A330-300 flew the following routes:

  • CLT to LHR
  • CLT to Phoenix (PHX)
  • CLT to Orlando (MCO)
  • CLT to PHL
  • PHL to San Juan (SJU)
  • PHL to LHR
  • PHL to Cancun (CUN)
  • PHX to Honolulu (HNL)

Some routes only saw A330-300 operations on peak-day flying around the holidays, while others saw more sustained flying throughout the month.

The Airbus A330 was moved off of some summer seasonal routes, like Venice, to more leisure routes. However, this plane did continue to service some of the key European destinations, like Rome, Madrid, London, Paris, and others.

Under an international reset from July 2020, American Airlines exited some routes out of Charlotte, formerly operated by the Airbus A330. This includes Barcelona, Rome, and Paris. Philadelphia has preserved its status as a transatlantic connecting hub.

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American Airlines inherited the AIrbus A330 from its merger with US Airways and mainly kept those planes flying out of US Airways hubs. Photo: Getty Images.

The Boeing 757

Though not a widebody, the 757 also had an essential role in American’s fleet. The airline was a massive operator of the type, flying 176 757-200s in its history, according to data from ch-aviation.com.

Here is where American flew the type in July 2019, focusing primarily on the 176-seat international configuration with lie-flat business class seating:

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American’s Boeing 757-200 routes in July 2019 featuring lie-flat seating. Photo: Cirium

The routes that stick out on this schedule are to some of the smaller, skinner destinations. This includes Santa Cruz de la Sierra (VVI), Brasilia (BSB), Reykjavik (KEF), Edinburgh (EDI), and Shannon (SNN). It should also be noted that American planned to fly the 757 to Casablanca, Morocco from Philadelphia, but has pushed that route back due to the crisis.

Come December 2019, this map changes:

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American’s Boeing 757-200 (lie-flat) routes in December 2019. Photo: Cirium

All transatlantic flying is gone in December, and the aircraft is pointed mainly to domestic routes, including the popular ski destination Vail (EGE) and high-demand points in the Caribbean for winter-weary travelers.

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Where American goes from here

American Airlines has consolidated its long-haul international fleet to, for now, the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner. The Airbus A321XLR will also join the fleet in the coming years, enabling a new kind of long-haul network.

While having the Boeing 757 and 767 and Airbus A330 available to conduct some of these flights, American had other problems. For example, the Boeing 767-300ER lacked seatback screens and had a different onboard product than the Airbus A330 or Boeing 787. The 757 had a similar story, with no seatback entertainment and a different business class product onboard.

Opportunistic Flying: The Role Of American’s Retired International Fleet
American Airlines is relying on a streamlined fleet with a focus on efficiency. Photo: Getty Images

With a new fleet of aircraft that is more standardized and is more fuel-efficient, American can offer its customers a more stable product – which is something Mr. Raja wants to do, while also offering having widebodies that earn their keep:

“The way we really envision our international system coming back, is we want to have widebodies that can go work hard through the year, that we can offer a really, really stable product to our customers through the course of the year, much like what we do in markets, such as Heathrow or Tokyo or things like that…if we offer something great to our customers through the course of the year, that should be able to translate itself into earning really great returns through the course of the year.”

Do you have lasting memories of flying an American Airlines Airbus A330, Boeing 757, or 767? Let us know in the comments!