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American Airlines to Freeze Hiring and Expedite Aircraft Retirements Following COVID-19 Outbreak

An American Airlines Boeing 767-300 departing Berlin-Tegel Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

As COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus that appeared months ago continues to slow down travel around the world, American Airlines has announced that it will halt pilot recruitment and expedite the retirement of its older Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft.

“As you are aware, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our flight loads,” said a note to American’s pilots, per CNBC. “The impact is substantial, and unfortunately, the decision has been made to temporarily suspend new hire pilot hiring beyond our March 17, 2020 class.”

In addition to the suspension of hiring, American will also accelerate the retirement of some of its oldest aircraft, especially after European travel was restricted by the US Federal Government, American will have greater flexibility to phase out its 17 Boeing 767s. At the moment the fleet is currently set to be retired in 2021, although the airline may completely retire them as early as May 2020. The carrier is also considering retiring its Boeing 757s early.

American says it will cut 10% of its summer international capacity, making a clear statement on how long the airline expects Coronavirus worries to last. The carrier will cut as much as 55% of its trans-Pacific capacity as demand for flights to Asia plummets.

As domestic bookings plunge in response to new reports of Coronavirus cases in the U.S., American will cut 7.5% of its domestic capacity in April.

Collectively, airlines are facing the biggest drop in demand since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Multiple carriers, including American Airlines, have taken various steps in addition to slashing capacity, like offering staff voluntary unpaid leave, to cut costs.

The International Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, says that the Coronavirus outbreak could remove between $65 billion and $113 billion from worldwide airline revenue depending on how long the pandemic continues. In comparison, the Sept. 11 attacks cut $20 billion from worldwide airline revenue.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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