MIAMI — With a tip of the cap to a.net, the answer is plenty, though it certainly pales in comparison to the heyday. American Airlines’ once massive fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft is rapidly being retired in favor of more efficient Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A319/A321 narrowbody aircraft.
As recently as 2008, the subfleet consisted of more than 300 airframes (336 in March 2008). But that figure has steadily been whittled down and today the fleet consists of 162 aircraft. There are no longer any MD-80 flights from American’s cornerstone hubs at Miami, New York JFK, and New York La Guardia. Chicago O’Hare has seen most of its MD-80 operations evaporate, and Los Angeles has a couple of token flights to St. Louis and Austin.
As a result the bulk of the MD-80s are based out of Dallas Fort Worth. Which makes sense. As the least efficient aircraft in American’s fleet with a sub-optimal range, the MD-80 is best used at Dallas Fort Worth, an airport dominated by American, because the lack of competition sustains profitability. Moreover, for an aging type such as the MD-80, it makes sense to consolidate operations at one major base for spare and maintenance purposes (United followed the same tactic with their Boeing 747-400 fleet and San Francisco). Still, American has an extensive MD-80 operation even today.
The following is a list of the 157 routes (counting roundtrip flights such as Los Angeles – St. – Louis – Los Angeles as two routes) operated by American’s MD-80, the number of peak day departures on the route, and the number of those departures which are operated by the heavier and longer-ranged MD-83 (the rest are standard MD-82s).
All figures are for mid-February 2014, the week of the 15th. These aircraft are used to fly 334 flights per day, and while I didn’t calculate it, their average daily utilization falls somewhere between 5-7 hours per day, on the low end for narrowbody aircraft at US carriers.
With Delta’s recent retirement of the DC-9, and Biman’s upcoming retirement of the DC-10, the last remnants of the storied McDonnell-Douglas lineup are fading away. As a lover of aviation, this is certainly cause for nostalgia, but also for optimism. These old planes are being retired, because newer, cleaner, and better airplanes are taking their place. Still, I highly recommend that if at all possible you go out of your way to book onto one of those flights listed above sometime soon. You may never have the chance again…..