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AA’s Huge Aircraft Order Claims 35% Gain in Fuel Efficiency

Bill DiBenedetto headshotWords by Bill DiBenedetto
Leadership & Transparency

American Airlines’ blockbuster narrowbody aircraft order this month places a huge emphasis on achieving major gains in fuel efficiency over a short period of time.

AA says that the order for 460 jets—with options and purchase rights for an additional 465—from Airbus and Boeing will “replace and transform” its fleet within about five years. The new aircraft will be about 35 percent more fuel efficient than the narrowbodies currently in American’s fleet, by adopting new engine technology and upturned wing tips, called winglets or sharklets. Then in 2017, American will begin taking delivery of "next generation" narrowbody aircraft that are expected to further increase fuel-efficiency by another 15-20 percent.

If the options are exercised, which is likely, the transformation in terms of major operating and fuel cost reductions will continue through 2025.

Here’s the breakdown on what is regarded as the largest aircraft order in aviation history:

  • Airbus is the overall winner in this long-rumored deal, with a total of 260 A320 aircraft and options for 365 more. American will take delivery of 130 current-generation A320s beginning in 2013. Beginning in 2017 American will begin taking delivery of another 130 aircraft from the A320neo (new engine option) Family that features next-generation engine technology. The new aircraft are approximately 15 percent more fuel efficient than today’s models. American will be the first network airline in the U.S. to deploy this new-technology aircraft.

  • Under the agreement with Boeing, American will acquire a total of 200 additional aircraft from the 737 family, with options for another 100 aircrafts. American will take delivery of 100 aircraft from Boeing's current 737NG family starting in 2013, including three 737-800 options that had been exercised as of July 1, 2011. American also intends to order 100 of Boeing's expected “re-engine” version of the 737NG, with a new engine that will offer significant fuel-efficiency gains over today's models. This airplane will be powered by CFM International's LEAP-X engine.


Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the 737 and A320 families offer a 35 percent reduction in fuel cost per seat versus the MD-80 and a 12 percent and 15 percent fuel cost reduction per seat, respectively, versus the 757 and 767-200, American said.

The agreements with Boeing and Airbus will continue American's fleet simplification efforts, allowing American to transition from four fleet types (MD-80, 737-800, 757 and 767-200) to two: the 737 and the A320 families, "which offer significant commonality efficiency and operational benefits within each family," American says.

American has arranged approximately $13 billion of committed financing provided by the manufacturers through lease transactions that will “help maximize balance sheet flexibility and reduce risk,” American says. The financing covers the first 230 deliveries.

Airbus’s NEO technology for next generation engines and sharklets will provide these benefits compared to the current version A320, according to American, including:

- 15 percent reduced fuel burn, which is equivalent to 3,600 tons of CO2 savings per year per A320neo

- Two tons of additional payload or up to 500 nautical miles more range

- Significant noise reduction

American’s commitment to two basic narrowbody types is a bold and transformational move that will eventually get rid of older fuel-guzzling and polluting models. It almost forces other carriers to follow suit. It’s also noteworthy that the two major manufacturers are so willing to help with major financing, another reason for other airlines to climb aboard.


[Image Credit: Airbus A320 computer rendering by FIXION-GWLNSD on American Airlines website]

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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