How Old Is That Plane You're Boarding?

Travelers are confronting another miserable day at the nation's airports today, as American Airlines anticipates more than 900 cancellations. But American's decision to cancel flights today in addition to the more than 1,000 flights it canceled Wednesday for last-second inspections is just one of many headaches for travelers -- and for a struggling airline industry -- already facing a steady stream of problems.
Now industry experts say several of the airlines' problems are rooted in one underlying issue: aging planes.
Those recently reinspected are some of the oldest planes that U.S. airlines are flying today. While the planes may be safe, the older they get the more likely they are to have maintenance problems, causing another catastrophic delay.
"They've been putting off modernizing the fleet," said Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities. "At some point it's going to put the U.S. carriers at a big disadvantage to foreign carriers. It's going to drive up their operating costs because these aircraft tend to be less fuel-efficient and require greater and greater maintenance."

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