The list price for a new Boeing 777-300 is more than $200 million, so you’ll have to excuse American Airlines for handling its newest aircraft with extra care.
Since June, American has been flying the 777-300 between Los Angeles and London. Inside, it’s got a bunch of bells and whistles, including wi-fi and new first and business class cabins.
But it’s the outside of the plane that the Los Angeles ground staff wants to protect.
Just like your car, aircraft can get damaged. Planes nick other planes. They collide with jet bridges. They’re hit by ground equipment, like baggage carts. All of that stuff is embarrassing and potentially expensive. It’s also usually avoidable.
Recently, I spoke with Jeff Plant, American’s managing director for LAX, about measures American takes to protect its investment. American doesn’t have a lot of space at LAX, and its largest jet needs to be treated carefully. Further complicating matters, American’s terminal is next to a construction site: The airport is building a new international terminal, a project that is slightly delayed. That delay is affecting how American parks its plane.
What do you need to do differently to park this airplane? Because of the plane’s size, you needed to get a special exception from the airport, right?
We had to have some exceptions made by the airport because of the length of the airplane. Originally, the old (international) was to be demolished by now, which would widen the alleyway. And there’s a safety line, and all the airplanes need to be within that safety line. We knew (the 777-300) would exceed the line, but we thought we would be OK because we thought they would move the safety line further out based on the demolition (of the old terminal). (Since that demolition hasn’t started yet) the airport worked with us and allowed us to exceed the safety line for the time the airplane is here.
Does that mean the airport ensures no other airline parks a plane directly across from your gate?
Or they park a 767 or lower in size, so when (that other airplane) pushes out and turns, it won’t conflict with the tail of our airplane. If you put a 747 over there, that’s too big, and that would create a conflict. So they really found a happy medium for us to enable us to park it at the terminal without putting them out of business.
What about when the 777-300 leaves the gate? Does it do anything differently?
We push it tail out. We turn the airplane left and go tail out all the way to the taxiway, as opposed to turning it right as we push it and going nose out. It’s not necessarily a better way. We’re just not sure about turning the airplane because of the length of it.
What about on the way into the gate?
It’s towed in. That’s not unusual for a lot of gates that we have. It’s just the layout of the ramp warrants us to tow in at some gates as opposed to the airplane coming in under its own power.
How much bigger is this plane than the 777-200 American has been flying for many years?
The wingspan is the same from a -200 to a -300. But the length of it is 28 feet longer. I think about 60 extra seats longer.
Which gate are you using for the plane? Why?
Gate 41. (It’s the closest gate to the airport roadway and American’s check-in area). It’s really the only one that will accommodate the airplane. Gate 43 would accommodate it, but then we’d have to close 41 because we probably wouldn’t be able to get another airplane past it because of the extension of the tail. We’ve got it buried into the depths of the alleyway just so nothing is going to pass it.