American's order was not a surprise, although it wasn't expected until next year. Beyond the American announcement, aircraft orders have stalled at Boeing as the company copes with a strike by its largest union that has shut down its assembly line since Sept. 6 and which, some analysts say, appears certain to trigger another delay for the 787, which is already running about 18 months behind schedule.
The first 42 Dreamliners ordered by American are scheduled to be delivered starting in late 2012 through 2018. It also has the right to purchase an additional 58 of the aircraft from 2015 through 2020. The airline says it plans to use the 787 to replace some of the older wide-body planes in its fleet and on new routes that it expects to open up if regulators approve a new, three-way alliance with British Airways and Iberia.