What American Airlines' major plane purchase means for Boeing

July 20, 2011

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(AP File, Ted S. Warren)

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines is claiming to have made the largest purchase of airplanes in aviation history Wednesday. But it's raising some questions over how the purchase will affect American's relationship with the Chicago-based Boeing company.

American has had an almost exclusive relationship buying planes from Boeing, or companies Boeing bought out, for years. But that all changed when American announced today that it's buying 200 new planes from Boeing and 260 planes from Boeing's rival, Airbus.

"I think it's hurtful to Boeing," said Aaron Gellman, who follows the airline industry at Northwestern University.

He said the higher ups at Boeing should be raising questions about how Airbus struck such a lucrative deal with American Airlines.

But Florida-based aviation consultant Stuart Klaskin says the order doesn't mean there's a broken relationship between American and Boeing.

"There's no way they can say they're disappointed," Klaskin said. "They just sold 200 airplanes to American Airlines. I mean, God. It's a massive - by any other standard it's a massive order."

Klaskin said if anything, American caught up with other airline companies by diversifying its fleet of planes so as to not have all its eggs in the Boeing basket.

Meanwhile, Joe Schwieterman, who follows the aviation industry at Chicago’s DePaul University, said, "This is really making a statement that they’re going to have an equal mix of Airbus and Boeing and I think it’s a bit of a wake up call for Boeing, as well, that they shouldn’t count on the majority of orders from the big guys here in the U.S."

Schwieterman said there’s no need for Boeing to panic. Buying 200 planes is still a huge order and it should give Boeing confidence to make further improvements to its aircraft.