American Airlines has agreed to take additional Boeing 777s as part of the wide-ranging deal with the Seattle manufacturer that will permit the carrier to return its entire fleet of leased 717s.

Boeing has agreed with American to take back 24 former TWA 717s which it holds title to, while another six will be returned to owners Pembroke Capital by June. It is understood from industry sources that the airline has also been allowed to reduce its 767-300 orderbook in exchange for firming up options for seven more Rolls-Royce Trent 800-powered 777-200s, along with an unknown number of additional 737s.

"Discussions with American have involved much more than just the 717s - it involved some re-ordering and re-sequencing of orders," says Boeing. The 717s, most of which have already been grounded, will not be physically returned to the manufacturer but remain with American until Boeing can place them with a new operator. Existing 717 operator AirTran and planned future operator Midwest Airlines will likely be among the first to be approached.

According to American: "The 717 retirement is part of a broad fleet-simplification strategy that will see us reduce the total number of basic fleet types from 14 two years ago to seven types by the end of 2002."

As part of the fleet rationalisation, the carrier will continue to expand its fleet of 777s, 40 of which are already in service, as well as 737s. The carrier ordered nine more 767-300ERs last May, but under the new plan, its General Electric CF6-80-powered twinjet fleet will remain unchanged.

Source: Flight International