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A Look Back: American Airlines’ History With Boeing Aircraft

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American Airlines has had a long history of flying Boeing aircraft. The carrier traces its roots all the way back to 1926 when Charles Lindbergh flew the first American Airlines flight carrying US mail from St. Louis to Chicago. After starting with Douglas aircraft, once the jet age came around, the airline began its long history with Boeing. Here is a look back at American’s past fleet operations.

American Boeing 787
American Airlines has a long history with Boeing. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

The Boeing 707

In January 2021, American celebrated 62 years since it flew its first Boeing 707. Flown on a transcontinental route, it was the world’s first commercial jetliner.

American Airlines has flown over 100 Boeing 707s in the past, including 707-120 and 707-320. The 707 helped usher in the jet age, and the aircraft was a mainstay of Americans’ fleet throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s.

However, the Boeing 707s were not the only Boeing jet aircraft American flew during the same time.

The Boeing 727

In the 1960s, Boeing introduced a trijet narrowbody called the Boeing 727. American Airlines first took the Boeing 727 in 1964 and did not retire its final 727 until 2002. It flew a total of over 180 Boeing 727s in its history. A report commemorating the final flight of an American Airlines Boeing 727 in Aero-News Network indicates the final flight operated out of Miami.

American flew both the 727-100 and the 727-200. The -200 was configured with room for 138 passengers in a two-class configuration, while the 727-100s had room for 118 passengers in a two-class configuration. These seating capacities are accurate at the point when American retired the jets. The 727-100s were retired by 1994, eight years before the -200s left.

The Boeing 727 made up a large part of American’s narrowbody fleet from the 1960s through the 1990s. Photo: Felix Goetting via Wikimedia Commons

The Boeing 727 allowed American Airlines to further its domestic connections and serve smaller airports and destinations that other jet aircraft like the Boeing 707 could not access. The plane could perform a variety of missions ranging from short-haul commuter flights to medium-haul prestige routes.

The Boeing 747

American Airlines was one of the early airlines to fly the Boeing 747. However, it only flew the earlier models of the aircraft. Through the 1970s and mid-1980s, American flew a total of 18 Boeing 747s, mostly of the -100 variant.

American Boeing 747
American only flew early variants of the Boeing 747. Photo: Ted Quackenbush via Wikimedia Commons

In the later 1980s and through the mid-1990s, American flew two Boeing 747SPs, according to data from Planespotters.net. The airline has not flown a Boeing 747 since.

American Airlines shied away from newer generations of the large widebody jet. The airline focused on smaller aircraft it could more easily fill and, later, twinjets that were more economical.

American Boeing 747SP
American also flew two Boeing 747SPs. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia Commons

The Boeing 767

Next up chronologically is the Boeing 767. The airline took its first 767 in 1982. It would fly the aircraft well into the 2000s on a variety of missions. The airline also briefly operated some Boeing 767-200s after its merger with US Airways, which still flew some of the 767-200s.

The 767 type that stayed the longest in American’s fleet was the Boeing 767-300ER. American took its first of the type in 1988 and flew them through 2020 when it retired the jets because of the crisis.

The Boeing 767-300ERs were, in recent years, used by American on some leisure-focused expansions. The plane flew down to Cordoba in Argentina before American axed the route and plenty of transatlantic jaunts.

AA 767-300ER
American flew the 767 family of jets for over 30 years, with the 767-300ERs being the last in the family to fly with the airline. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

According to data from Planespotters.net, American flew a total of 107 Boeing 767s. This included 40 767-200s and 67 of the larger -300s.

The Boeing 737

Now the backbone of American’s narrowbody fleet, the Boeing 737 first entered American’s fleet indirectly. When American Airlines merged with AirCal in 1987 to gain a better presence in the western US, particularly on the West Coast, the airline also acquired the AirCal fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft.

Data from Planespotters.net shows that American received its first Boeing 737s as part of the merger with AirCal in July of 1987. Additional aircraft joined the airline’s fleet in 1988 and some in 1989.

American Boeing 737
American Airlines’ first Boeing jets were the early 737s, including the 737-200s. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

American decided to move away from the Boeing 737s in the early 1990s and most of its Boeing 737s, including some of the -300s it acquired, found homes elsewhere. Some even went to rival carrier Southwest Airlines, which is also a noted Boeing 737 carrier.

However, the early 1990s was not the end of American’s history with the Boeing 737. In the late 1990s, American placed a large order with Boeing covering Boeing 737 Next Generation jets, 757s, 767s, and 777s.

American Boeing 737
American operates just under 300 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

While American briefly flew some Boeing 737-400s after merging with US Airways, the airline quickly moved to do away with those older jets to focus on newer Boeing 737 aircraft.

In 2011, American Airlines placed an order for 200 Boeing 737 aircraft, including 100 of the yet-to-be-released evolution of the Boeing 737 Next Generation, which ultimately became known as the 737 MAX. American currently expects to fly a total of 100 MAX aircraft when its order backlog is filled, in addition to an active fleet of 282 Boeing 737-800s as of early 2021.

Boeing 737 MAX
The Boeing 737 MAX is part of American’s fleet renewal plan. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The Boeing 757

The Boeing 757 was one of the most important types in American’s history. The airline flew a total of 177 of them in its history, according to Planespotters.net. Comprised entirely of the -200 variant, the first Boeing 757 entered American’s fleet in 1989.

The Boeing 757s were narrowbody aircraft that held a lot of importance for American Airlines. While the planes made up much of the airline’s domestic backbone, the jet also found purpose flying routes to Hawaii, transatlantic routes, and some Latin American services.

American Boeing 757
American retired its final Boeing 757s in early 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The 757s left American’s fleet in 2020 after 31 venerable years of operations. The Boeing 757 was one of the fleets that survived the merger between US Airways and American Airlines, with the 737-400s and 767-200s retired quickly after the merger.

The Boeing 777

American Airlines took its first Boeing 777 in 1999. The first jets to join American’s fleet were 777-200ERs, and they are still flying with the airline today. American currently flies 47 Boeing 777-200ERs.

These aircraft fulfill missions for American across the US, Latin America, Asia, and Europe. For many years, the 777-200ERs were one of the backbones of American’s widebody fleet.

American Boeing 777-200ER
American has 47 Boeing 777-200ERs in its fleet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In 2012, American augmented its Boeing 777 fleet after taking its first of the 777-300ER. A larger version of the Boeing 777, the -300ER is one of American’s flagship aircraft and flies its most prestigious routes, such as from the US to London.

American flies 20 Boeing 777-300ERs, taking its overall 777 fleet to 67 aircraft. Some of these aircraft are approaching retirement age, and some will exit the airline’s fleet through the mid and late 2020s as the airline takes on more of another Boeing widebody.

Boeing 777-300ER
The Boeing 777-300ER is a true international widebody flagship for American. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The Boeing 717

American never placed an order for the small aircraft, nor did it ever have a lot of interest in flying these jets. According to a filing from American from 2002, the airline flew 30 Boeing 717s that came to the airline after a merger with TWA.

For American, the 717s were not an integral part of the fleet, as the airline also flew Fokker 100s that made up the small narrowbody part of the fleet.

TWA 717
American took the 717s after a merger with TWA, but it was not keen on flying the jets. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

These Boeing 717s later found a home with AirTran Airways. After AirTran merged with Southwest Airlines, the newly combined airline only wanted to fly Boeing 737 aircraft. Lucky for them, Delta Air Lines was in the market for a small narrowbody aircraft, and it decided to take on all of the former AirTran 717s in Southwest’s fleet.

So, American’s short-lived Boeing 717 fleet ended up flying for Delta, though some aircraft also went down to Australia with Qantas, according to data from Planespotters.net.

Delta 717 getty
Some of these 717s live on with Delta Air Lines. Photo: Getty Images

The Boeing 787

In 2009, American firmed an order with Boeing for 42 Boeing 787 aircraft. In early 2015, American welcomed its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to the fleet. That plane, a Boeing 787-8 registered as N800AN, marked the start of the future of a transformed American Airlines post-merger with US Airways.

Boeing 787
American’s first Boeing 787, N800AN, in a maintenance hangar. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

Since then, the Boeing 787 has become a significant part of American’s fleet and route plans. Flying both the 787-8 and the 787-9, American loved these planes so much that, in 2018, the airline expanded its order book.

In April 2018, American placed an order for 47 Boeing 787 aircraft. Consisting of 22 787-8s and 25 787-9s, these aircraft marked the start of American’s fleet transition period. The 787s would allow the airline to retire all of its Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s. And, as later deliveries come around, American planned to replace older 777-200s with newer, more fuel-efficient 787s.

Which Boeing plane that American has flown is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!





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