The most surprising fact is that newer sounds better, but it may not always be the case in the US. Not all airlines have new aircraft. In fact, despite the airplane buying boom of the past few years, some airlines still run fleets so old.
Here is a quick rundown of the top 10 major U.S. airlines, from the worst to the best. Who has the shiniest new jets, and who’s still limping along on ancient airframes.
We begin at the bottom, with Allegiant Air
Average Fleet Age: 19.8 years
According to Airfleets.net, Allegiant Air operates the oldest airplane fleet among all major U.S. airline. Allegiant’s fleet mostly contains airplanes McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and MD-90s, which halted production 17 years ago.
Delta Air Lines
Averge Fleet Age: 17 years
It sounds strange that Delta flies four times as many ancient MD-80s and MD-90s as Allegiant does. Delta’s 747s are even older, averaging 25.9 years across a magnificent seven of these old birds. On the other hand, Delta’s very young Jets including 19 Airbus A321s decrease the average fleet age.
Average Fleet Age: 14.3 years
United Airlines was the first of the big airlines to begin deployment of Boeing’s novel 787 Dreamliner. At an average age of just 2.5 years, it flies 32 of these widebodies which are the newest airplanes in its fleet now. Boeing 737 Next Gen is the next youngest plane model with an average age of 10.4 years. It also flies a lot of old 767-300ERs. The most numerous plane models in its fleet is 340 737s.
Average Fleet Age: 11.8 years
Unlike the airlines mentioned above, Southwest Airlines flies exclusively Boeing 737 airplanes. While some of the planes in the fleet are vintage types including 737-300s,-400s and -500s aged 22 years on average, the fleet also contains 737-600s, -700s, -800s and -900s which are all known as next generation models. Flying just one type of plane built by one single manufacturer cuts down on maintenance costs.
Average Fleet Age: 10.8 years
American airline’s post-bankruptcy purchases of new Boeing 787 airliners and Airbus A321s helping them to bring its average plane age down. These are among the most numerous planes in the fleet that also keeps the average fleet age a full year younger than Southwest’s. American is operating the most varied fleet of aircraft (11 models) that provides great flexibility in matching the “right” size airplane to the right route.
Average fleet age: 10.8 years
As being the smallest of the “major” U.S. airlines on this list, Hawaiian Airlines has 51 planes in its fleet. Its fleet splits almost evenly between Boeing 717s and 767s aged over 15 years, and newer Airbus A330s aged 4.2 years on average.
Average fleet age: 9.2 years
JetBlue is primarily an Airbus A320 shop. It also flies a fleet of 41 newer Airbus A321s with an average age of 1.8 years, and five dozen smaller Embraer 190 and 195 aircraft as well.
Average fleet age: 8.9 years
In terms of age, Alaska’s 8.9-year-old fleet is among the newest in the industry, and it’s getting even younger as time goes by. Alaska has acquired rival Virgin America which has a fleet consisting entirely of Airbus A320-family aircraft with an average of 7.4 years. When both fleets will be fully gathered in 2019, the average age of Alaska’s fleet will drop even further.
Average fleet age: 7.3 years
Frontier flies an all-Airbus fleet and it’s a young one at just 7.3 years per plane on average.Unlike every other airline on this list, Frontier is privately held.
Average fleet age: 6.6 years
Spirit Airlines holds the honor of operating the youngest airplanes in the country and like Frontier’s, all Spirit Airlines airplanes are Airbuses.