American Airlines' 787 Dreamliner Deal

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American Airlines has entered into a purchase agreement with Boeing for 42 787-9 Dreamliners (with options for up to 58 more), expecting first deliveries in 2012, but its pilots retain the right to have a say in that. The airline believes the up-to-290-passenger, 8,500-nm cruising jet could theoretically operate on every route it currently serves, while allowing it the flexibility to seek new routes as conditions warrant. American has not yet decided on a preferred cabin configuration for the wide-body, or even its engine type. But provisions in the agreement allow the company to not acquire any number of the 42 aircraft if it has not reached an agreement with its pilots union to operate the aircraft. Until then, American will take delivery of 76 Boeing 737-800 aircraft as it continues to phase out its fleet of narrow-body MD-80s. Once expected to fly for the first time in the spring of 2009, program delays and the current strike by Boeing's machinists could set first flight of the 787 Dreamliner beyond the fall of 2010.

A separate airline already on board with orders for 17 Boeing 787-9s and eight 787-8s, Continental had intended to inaugurate its New York-Shanghai service with the aircraft in March of 2009. No firm plans can now exist for a 787 service launch.