Major carriers in the USA added at least 181 additional aircraft to their mainline fleets in 2013, with many aircraft replacing older, smaller models in favour of larger, more efficient variants.
American Airlines led the pack with 59 deliveries during the year, including 15 Airbus A319s, five Airbus A321s in its transcontinental configuration, 31 Boeing 737-800s and eight Boeing 777-300ERs, according to a recent employee newsletter. These numbers do not include US Airways, which it merged with on 9 December.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier took its last new aircraft of the year, an A321, on 20 December.
The majority of American’s new aircraft were used as replacements with its mainline fleet count expected to rise by only nine airframes during the year, according to its estimates at the end of the third quarter.
Delta Air Lines added 39 aircraft to its fleet in 2013, including 12 new 737-900ERs as well as 12 used Boeing 717-200s and 15 used Boeing MD-90s, the Atlanta-based carrier says. The last, a 717 coming from Southwest Airlines, is scheduled to join the fleet on 30 December.
Delta Air Lines
All of the aircraft are understood to be replacing older models, both in its mainline and regional fleets.
United Airlines took delivery of 26 new aircraft, including 24 737-900ERs and two Boeing 787-8s, according to a recent employee newsletter. The last delivery of a 737 occurred on 19 December.
All of the aircraft replaced others in the Chicago-based carrier’s fleet, including Boeing 757-200s and Boeing 767-200ERs.
United anticipates deliveries of 30 737-900ER, four 787-8 and two 787-9 aircraft in 2014.
US Airways added 23 aircraft in 2013, split between deliveries of 16 A321s and five Airbus A330-200s, as well as two Embraer 190s it bought from Republic Airlines, says the subsidiary of American. It took delivery of one A321 and one A330 during December.
The aircraft were used to replace 737-400 aircraft, and allow for the planned retirement of 767-200ER aircraft in 2014.
Southwest took delivery of 20 new aircraft, including 18 737-800s and two 737-700s, says the Dallas-based low-fare carrier. The last delivery of a 737-800 occurred on 19 December.
The airline is using the new aircraft to replace 717s, which it is removing from its AirTran Airways subsidiary fleet and leasing to Delta.
Alaska Airlines added nine new 737-900ER aircraft in 2013, it says. The last delivery occurred in November.
The Seattle-based carrier has used the aircraft to increase available seat miles (ASMs) by about 7% this year compared to 2012. It also used one aircraft to replace a 737-700 that was removed from the fleet.
Hawaiian Airlines took delivery of five A330-200 aircraft with the last delivery on 18 November, it says.
The Honolulu-based airline used the aircraft for growth as well as to replace four outgoing 767-300ERs.
The fleet changes come as the country’s carriers are focused on improving per seat revenue while simultaneously reducing per seat costs, a goal that many carriers are targeting through more new larger aircraft.
Delta is arguably the leader in this with its plan to remove more than 200 50-seat regional jets and replace them with a mix of 88 110-seat 717-200s and 70 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900s, the latter operated by its regional affiliate Endeavor Air, by 2015. Other airlines are slowly following Delta’s lead but with less ambitious replacement programmes.
Despite all the new aircraft, available seat kilometres (ASKs) in North America are only expected to increase by 1.6% in 2013 compared to a year earlier, according to IATA’s forecast from this December.