American Airlines Group (AAL 1.73%) is parking its fleet of Airbus (EADSY 0.90%) A330-200s in storage until at least 2022, part of the airline's broader effort to downsize in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like other airlines, American has been scrambling to cut costs and ground aircraft in response to air traffic demand falling 90% year over year. International flying, the A330-200's primary mission, has been cut particularly hard and is expected to take longer to recover than domestic air travel.
Airlines are retiring significant numbers of planes, but for the most part those have tended to be the older, less efficient parts of their fleet. American to date has retired about 80 planes, including its entire fleet of Airbus A330-300s, its Boeing 757 and 767 fleets, and its Embraer E190s.
American's fleet of 15 A330-200s has an average age of 14 years.. American said the A330-200s routes would be flown by Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft, with A330 pilots set to be retrained to fly other airplanes.
The retirements, while costly, make sense for an airline expecting to fly fewer people for the foreseeable future. Airlines can save money on maintenance by pushing entire fleet types out of service, and larger jets like the A330-200s are unlikely to be useful with traffic numbers expected to remain low. Industry trade group Airlines for America is expected to testify before Congress Wednesday that airlines right now are averaging about 17 passengers per flight.
This might not be the last we hear of retirements by American. CFO Derek Kerr during the airline's first quarter call with investors last week mentioned its fleet of A330-200s and its 737-800s as potential cuts as the airline looks to downsize capacity.