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Who Has the Newest Planes? (And Does Anyone Care?)

All things equal, I’ll choose to fly in a newer plane over an older one. And by extension, it would seem to follow that I’d favor an airline with the younger aircraft fleet over the airline with older planes.

That’s more hypothetical than  actual, since I’ve never bothered to check and compare the average fleet ages of airlines and factored that data into my booking decisions. Price, convenience, frequent-flyer miles: Those items influence my choice of airline. Average aircraft age? Not so much.

Whether through hypocrisy or laziness, I just can’t be bothered to run a check on contending airlines’ fleet age every time I book a flight. One U.S. airline is hoping that I, and you, will pay more attention.

In its presentation at today’s J.P. Morgan Aviation Conference, American Airlines singled out its fleet’s age as a particular point of pride. Among the Big 4 airlines, American has had the youngest fleet since mid-2014, and will continue to enjoy that advantage at least through 2017.

American has significantly out-invested Delta and United in its aircraft modernization program, spending more than $5 billion in each of the past three years, and plans to spend another $5.5 billion in 2017. As a result, the average age of American’s planes will be 9.8 years in 2017, versus 10.4 years for Southwest, 14.4 for United, and 16.6 for Delta.

Younger planes are a win-win, for the airline and for its customers. For American, a newer fleet should mean greater fuel efficiency and reliability, both of which ultimately translate into higher profits. And for travelers, the newer technology means more comfort and convenience.

So if I were considering airlines’ aircraft age, and American were on my list of prospective carriers for a particular trip, American would get the nod, all things being equal. If I weren’t a lazy hypocrite.

Reader Reality Check

Does average aircraft age factor into your decision-making when booking flights?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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