Early in the year American Airlines CEO Doug Parker described his airline’s Boeing 767-300s as a poor customer experience.
It’s certainly true that business class on the plane — while fully flat with direct aisle access — is uncompetitive. It’s a narrow, uncomfortable seat that feels like a coffin. The Thompson Vantage seat is one that many airlines have used for their 767s, but United is putting their Polaris seat in their 767s (which is marginally better) and Delta is putting suites with doors in their 767-400s.
American Boeing 767 Business Class
However it’s actually a good plane as-is,
- In coach where passengers have more room than on American’s other aircraft. They haven’t densified the planes so passengers get at least 31 to 32 inches of space from seat back to seat back compared to the airline’s new standard of 30 inches and with a 2-3-2 configuration in economy there are very few middle seats.
- In business class when flying the plane on the right routes so it’s far better than what American offers on many cross country flights. They’re putting 3-cabin Airbus A321Ts on Boston – Los Angeles but also flying domestic narrowbodies, they could replace those narrowbodies with 767s and have all flat business class on the route. The plane could fly certain European or South Aemrica routes where there isn’t non-stop competition, and it’s a better experience than the 737 MAX to Brazil.
However I understand that American has begun to retire 767s — specifically ships 381 and 389 are leaving the fleet. Used Boeing 767s are popular for cargo.
It’s amazing to me that American would rather retire their 767s than fly them — if not to experiment on European or South American routes they would work for transcons from their Miami or New York JFK hubs (the plan has been for 767s to go to the East Coast to retire). They could fly Chicago – West Coast, or Hawaii routes.
The planes aren’t that costly to operate especially with fuel prices dropping. Instead they’re taking new 787s while they fly 787s Chicago – Cancun and Dallas – Anchorage.
American Boeing 787-8
American’s stock has been a poor performer. They’re supposed to be making $3 billion to $7 billion every year (and “never lose money again”) but even then this isn’t a growth company so you shouldn’t expect AAL to be more than a trading stock. And in fact American isn’t even making money flying passengers, their profit is coming entirely from selling frequent flyer miles.
If they can’t generate a higher return with these 767s than shipping them off for cargo they shouldn’t be in this business. They’re selling 767s and buying new 787s, yet will maintain this is a shrewd financial move.
I’d love to see the airline keep these planes and invest in them, the way that Delta is. However without new seats and even with slow Panasonic internet they could be productively deployed to attract premium business on domestic routes at least.
American Airlines has an opportunity to grow the airline and improve the customer experience, but aren’t taking it. Instead they’re going to show restraint in growing the number of seats in the fleet (even while they add seats to planes) which may be all they can do to appease Wall Street analysts — management can’t get creative or aggressive with an underperforming stock. But that’s a status quo strategy, not a strategy to grow the value of the business.