DFW AIRPORT — There may be turbulence over the company’s pending merger, but inside an airport hangar Wednesday, employees of American Airlines showed off the newest addition to its fleet: the Airbus A319 — a decked-out, fuel-efficient aircraft with every seat clothed in leather.One of three on the ground, the A319 will begin service Sept. 16, flying a maximum of 128 passengers from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland; Memphis; and Wichita, Kan. The plane ferries seven fewer passengers than the MD-80s that it will gradually replace, but spokesman Matt Miller said fuel cost is a whopping 35 percent less per seat. The A319 is 12 percent more fuel efficient than the Boeing 757 and 15 percent better than the 767-200.Aviation industry consultant Mike Boyd figures that the A319 will save about $600 an hour in fuel — a total savings of about $1,000 if maintenance is added. Flying a plane some 200 hours a month works out to savings of $200,000, or $2.4 million a year. “That’s a lot of money for an airline,” Boyd said in a call from Denver.With dark blue seats in the main cabin and dark gray in first class, ample overhead bins, a new upscale carpet pattern and advanced TV screens in every seat, the quieter new plane was designed to provide a more satisfying experience than the increasingly weathered MD-80s. Those old planes, along with some aging Boeing 757s, are being transitioned to the sprawling aircraft boneyard in Roswell, N.M.The A319’s high-definition TV screens are identical to what’s offered on Boeing 777-300s, with a variety of TV programs, movies and a children’s section.The current children’s offerings will be replaced by a multimedia Disney Family Room, including paid content, said Brian Richardson, director of in-flight entertainment and connectivity. The cost has not been set, he said.First-class passengers have a choice of 200 movies, 180 TV shows and more than 350 audio selections, plus up to 15 video games on a 12.1-inch screen, all complimentary. The rest of the passengers can see programming from NBC Universal for free or pay $4 to access up to 200 films, 150 TV shows, and some 300 albums, audiobooks and games.Each seat has outlets that accept U.S. and international plugs for electronic devices and chargers. Wi-Fi is available throughout the plane through gogo, for a fee.American expects to have 15 A319s in service by the end of the year. On Oct. 1, A319 service from DFW will be extended to Dayton, Ohio; and Huntsville, Ala.; on Oct. 14 to McAllen and Toronto; and on Nov. 21 to Atlanta; Bogota, Colombia; and Corpus Christi. On Dec. 19, it will be deployed from Los Angeles to Vail, Colo., and from DFW to Vail; Gunnison-Crested Butte, Colo.; and Jackson Hole, Wyo.The narrow-body Airbus aircraft, which will also include the A320, are part of a 260-plane order with the European manufacturer.
Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718 Twitter: @bshlachter