NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) - American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) said on Thursday it had deferred the delivery of several wide-body Boeing and Airbus jets, in the latest sign of oversupply in the market for long-distance airliners.
The decision by American to push back some of its Boeing Co (BA.N) and Airbus (AIR.PA) orders comes two weeks after Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) said it was reviewing wide-body jet orders to address excess capacity, noting that reductions were likely over the next several years.
While demand for smaller and more standardized narrowbody aircraft has proved resilient to economic weakness as leasing companies move them to where they are most needed, the market for the more customized widebody jets is more easily saturated as manufacturers bring out competing models simultaneously.
American said alongside its earnings on Thursday that it was delaying first delivery of its Airbus (AIR.PA) A350 jets from 2018 to 2020 and deferring delivery of two Boeing 787-9s to the first quarter of 2019 from second-quarter 2018 to “provide widebody capacity flexibility” in its fleet.
“We have some flexibility in how long we retain some of our other widebodies, so by pushing back the A350 we can keep those other planes longer, or not, in line with demand,” American spokesman Joshua Freed said.
American Airlines has 22 A350-900 passenger jets on order, according to the latest data from Airbus, which was hit by Delta’s decision to discuss delays in wide-body jet deliveries.
Delta has no wide-body Boeing jets on order, but has unfilled orders for more than 50 Airbus wide-body jets including 25 A350-900s, the same number of future A330-900 aircraft and one current A330-300 model.
Airbus Finance Director Harald Wilhelm said earlier he was not worried about signs of weakness because of a cushion of 6,700 unfilled orders.
“What matters is whether the backlog is robust, whether there are any significant movements in there and I can clearly confirm that this is not the case,” he told reporters after posting weaker first-quarter profits.
Boeing said on Wednesday it was seeing “varying levels of near-term demand” for wide-body jets, but predicted a wave of replacement demand at the start of next decade.
Reporting by Alana Wise, Tim Hepher