American Airlines will grow its international network through various aircraft and scheduling efficiencies, and not through ordering the latest large widebodies.
Neither the Boeing 777X nor the Boeing 787-10 are in the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier's fleet plan currently, says Vasu Raja, vice-president of network & schedule planning at American, in response to a question about widebody fleet growth in an employee newsletter on 24 May.
"There is definitely some growth built into our fleet plan," he says. "Buying new planes is just one way to achieve that growth. Others include using larger aircraft, flying them farther… or using our aircraft throughout more of the day, meaning scheduling them more efficiently."
The question referred to American's order for 47 787s, including 22 -8s and 25 -9s, in April. The airline emphasised at the time that the deal was to replace its Airbus A330-300, Boeing 767-300ER and some of its 777-200 fleets, and not for growth.
For example, the 787-8s, which arrive from 2020 to 2022, replace the carrier's 767-300ERs on a one-for-one basis.
The 787-8 and 787-9 are medium-sized widebody aircraft, with American configuring the former with 226 seats and the latter with 285 seats. The largest aircraft in its fleet, the 777-300ER, has 310 seats.
The 777-8X, the smallest of the two variants, will seat 350-375 passengers in a two-class configuration, and the 787-10 seats 330 passengers in a two-class configuration, Boeing's website shows.
American has a strong preference for fleet commonality suggesting that if in the future it decided to take a more serious look at the 777X and 787-10, the latter would likely have a leg up due to its large fleet of 787s.
The airline likely will be able to grow international flying with a streamlined fleet of new 787s, compared to its motley pairing of small fleets of A330s and 767s today. It will likely get higher levels of utilisation from Dreamliners than the older aircraft, and be able to simplify its scheduling reducing the need for spares.
Boeing has firm orders for 10 777Xs with no variant selected, 53 777-8s, 263 777-9s and 167 787-10s, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows. In addition, there are four 787-10s in service with Singapore Airlines.
No US carrier has ordered either 777X variant, while United Airlines has orders for 14 787-10s, the database shows.
Raja, in typical airline management style, adds in his note that American is "always looking out into the future to evaluate our long-term needs" when it comes to aircraft.