American Airlines' Fleet Renewal
A key way to reduce our jet fuel usage — and therefore our carbon footprint — is to replace older, less fuel-efficient aircraft with new, more efficient ones. Since 2013, American has invested more than $24 billion in modernizing our fleet by taking delivery of more than 600 new aircraft. Over the same period, we retired 670 older, less fuel-efficient planes through the end of 2021. The result: American has the youngest mainline fleet among U.S. network carriers, with an average age of 11.3 years old. At the end of 2021, 55% of American’s mainline fleet was 10 years old or less.
New aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A321neo, which incorporate the latest engine and airframe technologies, made up 17% of our total available seat miles (ASMs) in 2021. Approximately $3.6 billion, or 12% of our revenue during the year, stemmed from passengers flying on the market-leading, fuel-efficient aircraft in our fleet. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 reduces fuel use and CO2 emissions by an additional 14% over today’s other most fuel-efficient single-aisle airplanes — and 20% better than the original 737 next generation aircraft when they first entered service.(1) The Airbus A320neo family delivers 20% fuel savings and CO2 reduction compared to previous generation Airbus aircraft.(2)
Largely as a result of flying these more efficient aircraft, American has improved fuel efficiency by 10.2% compared with 2013, based on fuel burn per ASM. That adds up to 1.9 billion gallons of fuel saved and 19 million metric tons of CO2 avoided.
At the end of 2021, American had 42 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in our fleet. In January 2022, we announced our plans to exercise purchase options on an additional 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, bringing our firm order total to 88 additional deliveries through 2026. We also had 44 Airbus A321neo aircraft in our fleet at the end of 2021 and have agreed to purchase an additional 76 for delivery through 2026. Of the firm order for 76 aircraft, 50 are the latest generation and long-range Airbus A321XLR aircraft. By 2026, we expect approximately 34% of our ASMs will be flown by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321neo.
In recent years, we have also made significant investments in updating our regional aircraft fleet. Smaller aircraft and shorter flights — which devote a larger percentage of overall flight time to takeoff and landing — come at a fuel-efficiency cost. However, our regional carriers enable American to serve many smaller communities and low-density markets that don’t have the passenger traffic to support larger jets. This service plays a vital role in connecting members of those communities to other people, places and economic opportunities. American is committed to providing industry-leading regional service, while continuously working to make that service more fuel efficient. This includes retiring a number of small regional jets in recent years and replacing them with large regional jets — such as the Embraer 175 and the Bombardier CRJ900 — which are on average more fuel efficient. We also continue to evaluate emerging low-carbon technologies such as electric- and hydrogen-powered aircraft, which hold promise for use in regional air travel.
American received a CDP Climate Change score of “A–” in 2021 — the highest score among airlines in North America, and one of only two airlines globally to score that high.
Advancing Next-Generation Aircraft
Decarbonizing aviation requires near-term action to improve efficiency and significantly expand the use of SAF, but it will also depend on technological advancements that enable aircraft to be powered by low- and no-carbon fuel sources such as green hydrogen and electricity. American continues to engage with our aircraft suppliers and other key players in the aviation sector to support the advancement of next-generation aircraft.
One initiative that will further this goal is American’s investment in Vertical Aerospace Ltd., which is developing an emissions-free electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Designed for transporting customers quickly both between and within cities, Vertical’s piloted four-passenger VX4 is projected to be capable of traveling distances over 100 miles at speeds over 200mph, while producing minimal noise and zero operating emissions.