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American proceeds with MD-80 pull-down

American Airlines is still studying how many Boeing MD-80s it will retire in 2009 but says the figure will be consistent with its capacity guidance, which has been revised downward for the year.

The Oneworld alliance member last year retired 28 MD-80s, two fewer than the 30 MD-80s it intended to pull out of the operating fleet.

"We actually retired 28 and kept a couple around for flexibility over the holidays," American CFO Tom Horton said during an earnings conference call last week.

American also retired 10 Airbus A300-600 widebodies in 2008 "and will retire the rest of that fleet this year", says Horton.

The carrier recently revised its 2009 capacity plan, saying mainline available seat miles will decline by more than one percentage point to 6.5% compared to guidance provided in October 2008.

While American intends to take delivery of 29 new Boeing 737-800s in 2009, this represents seven fewer narrowbodies than previously planned due to the airframer's own delivery delays.

Additionally, as a result of "the uncertainty surrounding the economic climate", American says it has decided not to use MD-80s to backfill flying associated with the seven 737s that will no longer be delivered in 2009.

Horton says American hasn't yet nailed down the exact number of MD-80s to be retired, however.

American's leased MD-80s are returned after their leases expire while the carrier's owned MD-80s could be sold or in some cases harvested for parts.

"We haven't provided a precise update of what will happen to each because decisions will be made on a tail-by-tail basis," says an American spokesman.

"Once they are retired they are parked and - on paper at least - they will move from the operating fleet to the non-operating fleet section of our 10k filing [with the US Securities and Exchange Commission]."

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