I had the opportunity to be in Chicago earlier in the week. And I didn’t have to go any farther than the airport to take part in a significant event not only for Boeing but for our long-time partner, American Airlines.
The occasion was the O’Hare Airport “welcoming,” if you will, of the newest Next-Generation 737-800s to American’s fleet.
A soggy day in Chicago. As I joked at the event, I brought some Seattle weather with me so the airplane would feel at home.
The airline’s news release I think, really says it all in the headline: Despite Challenges, American Continues to Invest for the Long-Term With Fuel- Efficient Aircraft. Right there you get the whole story. An investment for the long-term.
For me, it was exciting to celebrate this with American, at a time when, let’s face it, not all the news is good news every day.
These are the first new 737-800s for American in about 8 years. The first of 76 of these airplanes American plans to add to their fleet over the next several years - part of American’s plan to replace their fleet of approximately 270 MD-80s.
Inspecting the new “big bins” on board American’s new 737-800 in Chicago.
I was struck by the message delivered by American’s executives both in Chicago, and at another event held the same day in Tulsa at their maintenance base.
The message is that even with the significant challenges facing the industry right now, American is focusing on the long-term future, in the form of these Next-Generation airplanes.
As I told one reporter at the event, 76 airplanes is a big deal by any measure.
And it’s a big deal to take delivery of new airplanes in the current business environment. But it’s also clear that as American itself has said, not doing so could be more costly over the long-haul.
American, like other carriers, is having to cut back and find new ways to reduce costs while raising revenues. But replacing older, less efficient airplanes is also good business strategy. I think that U.S. carriers have done an especially good job at managing their business in recent months, and in many cases, proceeding with airplane replacement.
I particularly appreciate how American is characterizing these Next-Generation airplanes as a “vital investment.” An investment that will benefit the airline’s “customers, employees, shareholders, and the communities they serve,” keeping their product “competitive while offering cost, environmental and operational benefits.” I don’t think I could have said that better myself.
Doing a media interview on the airplane with Ann Keeton of Dow Jones.
The two new airplanes will be based out of Chicago – a hub where American employs some 10,000 people. In my remarks there, I stressed that the Next-Generation 737 is the industry leader in schedule reliability. That’s a valuable attribute, since getting where you want to go on-time is a key concern for travelers out of O’Hare and anywhere else.
I also touched on another focus area in Chicago and elsewhere - this airplane is environmentally progressive – cleaner and more efficient – with reductions in carbon emissions and fuel use, as well as being quieter than the newest aircraft noise standards.
At the event in Tulsa, where I’m told the mayor, the Oklahoma Lt. Governor, and other dignitaries turned out, this is also a big deal. American’s Tulsa maintenance base employs several thousand people, and it’s where American maintains and services their 737 fleet.
In the hangar as Tulsa celebrates a shiny new addition to the fleet. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)
My Boeing colleague, Ray Marzullo, our vice president of customer support for the Americas for Commercial Aviation Services, paid tribute to the long-time service of American’s fleet of MD-80s and told the crowd that Boeing stands “ready to work with you and make this transition from Super 80s to 737-800s a smooth process and a tremendous success.”
Employees in Tulsa got a first-hand look at the new interior. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)
At both events, employees and other folks in attendance got a chance to tour the inside of their new airplanes, and clearly American was very excited to show off the features of these Next-Generation 737s and to have their passengers experience it all for themselves beginning this week.
For a closer look, the Sky Talk blog has a pretty good review of the airplanes and some cool photos and discussion of the new passenger and interior features such as increased overhead storage space, and new flip-down LCD monitors for in-flight entertainment.