Largest Aircraft Order Ever: Looks Like Airlines Expect More Traveling

American Airlines (NYSE:AMR) has agreed to buy 460 single-aisle jets this year, the industry’s largest order ever. Of those 460 jets, only 200 came from Boeing (NYSE:BA) while 260 came from France’s Airbus SAS, making this the first time that Boeing hasn’t dominated the majority of AA’s orders in two decades.

Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) 737 competes with Airbus’ A320 in the single-aisle category that accounts for the largest portion of the global fleet. Boeing predicts that 70% of all commercial aircraft within the next two decades will be single-aisle jets. These planes can usually carry between 110 and 200 passengers.

The world’s third largest airline, American Airlines (NYSE:AMR) will spend somewhere south of the $38.5 billion retail value of its new plan purchases this year, with options and future purchase rights for 465 more planes. AA currently has one of the nation’s oldest carrier fleets, which it seeks to update with Airbus’ A320neo jets and new Boeing 737 engines. “We expect to have the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleet among our peers in the U.S. industry within five years,” said Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey. In 2010, the average age of American’s fleet was 15 years old.

AA’s 200-plane Boeing (NYSE:BA) order consists of 100 of a brand new version of the 737, the production of which is still awaiting board approval. AA’s airbus order will be split between the current A320 model and the neo version that comes with new engines. This order marks the first time since 1987 that the airline has purchased any Airbus planes. New plane deliveries should begin in 2013 and run through 2022, with the A320neo scheduled for 2015 delivery.

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In a statement released Wednesday, American said its upgraded 737s will use the Leap-X engine from General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Safran SA (EPA:SAF) joint venture CFM International. The A320neo engine is developed by United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX), and has quickly become Airbus’ fastest-selling jet, with efficiency gains of up to 15% over the current A320. Airbus has received a total of 1000 orders for the new jet so far.

American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. (NYSE:AMR) announced today that its second-quarter losses widened to $286 million from $11 million during the same period last year. The company lost 85 cents a share, exceeding analyst estimates of 81 cents a share. AMR stock started the day up more than 4% over yesterday’s close, but the share price has been falling all morning.

Stocks to Watch for Sympathy Trades: Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), United Continental Holdings (NYSE:UAL), US Airways Group (NYSE:LCC), Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV), and JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU).