American Airlines said Wednesday that it is "extremely unhappy" with its McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jetliner that was delivered to it on Feb. 1 and has delayed putting the aircraft in passenger service.
American spokesman Alton Becker said the airline had "experienced some problems with the aircraft" but declined to elaborate on what types of problems. American, which has 50 MD-11s on order for about $5 billion, has suspended test flights with the aircraft.
Robert L. Crandall, chairman of American, told employees in an informal meeting this week in Dallas that he was "very unhappy" with the aircraft, but he did not cite any specific reasons for his dissatisfaction, Becker said.
Crandall is known as a hard-nosed manager; Fortune magazine once listed him among "America's Toughest Bosses."
Becker declined to comment on reports from analysts that American would refuse delivery of a second MD-11 jetliner within the next several weeks.
Becker said the problems American is having do not involve the fuel consumption problems that first surfaced last year. At that time, it was revealed that the MD-11 burned 6% more fuel than anticipated. McDonnell has improved the engines and reduced airframe drag enough to shave 2% off the fuel consumption since then.
American is one of four airlines that have taken delivery of the new MD-11 jetliner, which won government certification in November. The others are Finnair, Korean Air Lines and Delta Airlines.
A Delta Airlines official who asked not to be identified said Delta has not experienced significant problems on its two aircraft, one of which is being used on service between Los Angeles and Tokyo.
"We had some delays associated with the plane in the first week or two, but at the moment they are doing well," the Delta official said. "We are certainly not having anywhere near the problems that American seems to be having. We are operating two of the MD-11s in passenger service and we are not having any flight delays or flight cancellations."
Finnair representatives told The Times several weeks ago that they were satisfied with their MD-11 that was in service on charter flights between Scandinavia and the Azores.
S. J. Noh, station manager for Korean Air Lines, said his airline had put its MD-11 into service between Hong Kong and Seoul.
"It is doing well," Noh said. "So far, there is no problem."
"American is operating the same aircraft with the same configuration and same system that the other operators have," McDonnell Douglas spokeswoman Elayne Bendel said. "The MD-11 has established a fine record with the other operators. Our position vis-a-vis American is that they are our largest customer and we want them to be happy. The aircraft has the capability to make them happy. We are dedicated to making that happen."
Bendel added that McDonnell expects to deliver the second MD-11 to American next week and has not heard that American is unwilling to accept it.