American Slows Fleet Redo as 35 Airbus Jets Delayed to 2020s

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American Airlines Group Inc. pushed delivery of 35 Airbus Group SE jets into the next decade, slowing the overhaul of the fleet at the world’s largest carrier with the second such delay in two months.

The A320neos now will arrive in 2021 through 2023, instead of 2017 and 2018, American said in a U.S. regulatory filing. American’s 2017 schedule had called for 10 deliveries, followed by 25 of the planes the next year. In April, American delayed delivery of five wide-body Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners.

Lower jet-fuel prices have cut operating costs for older planes, possibly persuading American to defer some of the A320neos, said Jeff Straebler, managing director for aerospace in the bonds and corporate finance group at John Hancock Financial Services. The delays don’t reflect weakening travel demand, he said.

“I don’t think it’s a demand issue,” Straebler said in an interview Monday. Airbus also is accelerating output to work off its order backlog, and Straebler said the planemaker may have sought some maneuvering room by giving American incentives to postpone some planes.

Airbus’s A320neo is the newest version of the planemaker’s top-selling single-aisle model, featuring new, more-efficient engines. In April, American pushed delivery of four wide-body Dreamliners to 2017 and one to 2018. All five were originally due to have arrived in 2016.

Narrow-body models such as the A320 and Boeing 737s are typically used on domestic routes, and are the most common aircraft type in American’s fleet.

Delivery Plans

American will receive 120 new aircraft this year and more than 100 in 2016. Even with the deferrals, the airline will take 40 new 737s, 21 Dreamliners and 12 Embraer E175 regional jets in 2017 and 2018, said Casey Norton, director of corporate communications at Fort Worth, Texas-based American.

“The deferrals do provide some more flexibility for us when it comes to adjusting the fleet to match demand in those years,” Norton said in an interview. “Retirement schedules remain unchanged, but the timing can be moved to increase or decrease capacity, if needed.”

American hasn’t released capacity projections for 2016, 2017 or 2018, Norton said. The airline has said it’s been reviewing plans for this year’s second half, with a bias toward reducing growth.