Tuesday, August 25, 2009

American Airlines retires Airbus A300 jets after 21 years
09:21 PM CDT on Tuesday, August 25, 2009

American Airlines Inc. has flown its last flights with the Airbus A300, more than 21 years after it began flying the wide-body jet.

The last American flight flown by an Airbus landed shortly after midnight Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, ending the airplane's history with the Fort Worth-based carrier.

American spokesman Tim Smith said a combination of factors led to the decision to take the Airbuses out of American's fleet.

"One, we are in the process of cutting capacity. Two, these airplanes are a likely candidate for retirement, in that they are older than most of the airplanes in our fleet," Smith said Tuesday.
In addition, the A300 requires different training and maintenance from the other airplanes in American's fleet, he said.

All told, "it's a good time to take them out of the fleet," Smith said.

American ordered an initial 25 Airbus A300s in March 1987, to be leased from Airbus, and accepted delivery in 1988 and 1989.

It later bought another 10 that were delivered between 1991 and 1993.

One of the leased airplanes crashed shortly after takeoff from Kennedy in November 2001, leaving American with 34 before it made the decision to ground the Airbus fleet.

American placed an order for 15 Boeing 767-300ERs at the same time it acquired the 25 Airbus jets, and Smith noted that the two aircraft types were very similar, with two engines, two aisles and international range.

Even though American had no Airbus airplanes before the order, "we were in a growth mode," Smith said. "We needed wide-body aircraft for a broad number of missions, and we could not get 767-300ERs as quickly as we liked. All that came together to have us look at the A300."

While the Boeing model for years was the heavy hitter for American's international routes, Smith said, the Airbus "was in one particular way a better aircraft than the Boeing 767-300ER, and that's in its cargo capability."

Its huge cargo hold, combined with a lot of seating, made the A300 the perfect airplane for American's growing Caribbean network. The airplane primarily flew out of Miami and New York Kennedy, plus American's hub in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

American officials announced in July 2008 that they would park the entire Airbus fleet by the end of 2009 as part of its plans to reduce capacity.

Eventually, American plans to replace the Airbus with the Boeing 787, a new aircraft that has faced substantial delays. American expects to take its first 787 in the second half of 2013. American's first A300 jets joined the fleet in the late 1980s. Their huge cargo holds and seating capacity made them perfect for the airline's growing Caribbean network.

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