ANALYSIS: American, US Airways' fleet split at birth

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Merging American Airlines and US Airways will create the world's largest mainline fleet of 944 jets, and also one of its most complex. There will be few over-lapping pieces and a mix-and-match order backlog comprising hundreds of single-aisle and long-haul jets.

It would be hard to find two merging airlines with a more dissimilar historical philosophy for fleet acquisitions. The two airlines share few common preferences in aircraft type, manufacturer, or, for that matter, engine manufacture.

The two notable exceptions are a common and aging fleet of Boeing 757-200s and 767-200ERs. But most of these are marked for retirement within the decade by both airlines anyway.

That is where the similarities end in the in-service fleets of both carriers.

American Airlines

In-Service

Number

Engine

Seat configuration

777-300ER 3 General Electric 350
777-200ER 47 Rolls-Royce 247 (16-37-194)
767-300 58 General Electric 225 (30-195)
767-200ER 12 General Electric 168 (10-30-128)
757-200 103 Rolls-Royce 188 or 182 (22-166/16-166)
737-800 199 CFM International 148 or 166 (16-132/16-148)
MD-80 186 Pratt & Whitney 140 (16-124)
TOTAL 608  

American Airlines

On order

Number

Engine

Seat configuration

777-300ER 12 General Electric 350
787-9 42 General Electric 290
777-200ER 5 Rolls-Royce 247
A321neo 130 Unannounced 180
737 Max 8 100 CFM Unknown
737-800 107 CFM 160
TOTAL 396  

American Airlines has an all-Boeing widebody fleet; US Airways is replacing 767s with A330s. Whereas American is re-equipping with at least 15 777-300ERs and 42 787-8/9s; US Airways' order backlog includes 18 A350-800s and four A350-900s. Both types were ordered to help the carriers increase expand their international network, especially in the Asia market where both are weakest compared to Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

The single-aisle strategy of both carriers shows a similar split in fleet philosophy.

US Airways

In-Service

Number

Engine

Seat configuration

A330-300 9 Pratt & Whitney 291 (28-263)
A330-200 7 Rolls-Royce 258 (20-238)
767-200ER 10 General Electric 204 (18-186)
757-200 24 Rolls-Royce 176 or 193 (8-164 or 14-176)
A321 33 CFM 183 (16-167)
A321 42 International Aero Engines 183 (16-167)
A320 23 CFM 150 (12-138)
A320 49 International Aero Engines 150 (12-138)
737-400 28 CFM 144 (12-132)
A319 54 CFM 124 (12-112)
A319 39 International Aero Engines 124 (12-112)
E190 18 General Electric 99 (11-88)
TOTAL 336  

US Airways

On order

Number

Engine

Seat configuration

A350-900 4 Rolls-Royce 314
A350-800 18 Rolls-Royce 270
A330-200 8 Rolls-Royce 258
A321 4 CFM 183
A321 31 International Aero Engines 183
A320 4 CFM 150
A320 6 International Aero Engines 150
A319 1 International Aero Engines 124
TOTAL 76  

Again, American Airlines has showed a strong preference in Boeing products that has wavered only once.

In July 2011, American ordered 130 re-engined A321neo and 130 total A319s and A321s. The order was removed from the backlog after American entered bankruptcy. Earlier this month, Airbus restored the A320neo order to its backlog. It has not yet added the order for A320s, but American says it has already agreed to re-sign for those aircraft as well.

Otherwise, American's in-service narrowbody fleet is currently filled by 103 757-200s, 199 737-800s and 186 Boeing MD-80s. In addition to the Airbus orders, American has ordered 100 re-engined 737 Max 8s, adding to 107 unfilled orders for 737-800s.

US Airways has not yet ordered the re-engined A320neo, but clearly prefers Airbus on single-aisles. It, too, wavered only once when it ordered Embraer E190s for its mainline operations, but cancelled the majority of the order to buy A321s instead.

The single-aisle fleet also presents an interesting strategic choice for the merged carrier. Boeing offers only the CFM56 engine for all versions of the 737, but Airbus offers a choice on the A320.

US Airways has elected to keep their options open, acquiring both CFM56 and International Aero Engines V2500s to equip the A320 family aircraft on order and in service. On the A320neo family, Pratt & Whitney offers the PW1100G geared turbofan and CFM International offers the Leap-1A.

So far, American Airlines has not announced an engine supplier for the A321neos and A320 family aircraft it has on order.

The merger also does not resolve both carriers' need to replace the international 757-200 fleet at the end of the decade. Last year, US Airways said they expect that no single-aisle aircraft in development can reach London Heathrow from Philadelphia without stopping to refuel.