American Airlines accelerates its plans to replace gas-guzzling older planes with new Boeing 737-800s.

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American Airlines — hit by soaring fuel prices and by costly maintenance that temporarily grounded its older, gas-guzzling MD-80 jets — said Wednesday it will accelerate replacement of those jets with new 737-800s. The carrier anticipates taking 70 of the 737s in 2009 and 2010.

Announcing a $328 million loss in the first quarter of the year, largely due to a $665 million jump in the price of jet fuel, American executives said they expect to take delivery of a total of 34 of the 737-800 aircraft in 2009 and 36 more in 2010.

Of these, American has firm commitments in place for 27 to be delivered in 2009 and three to be delivered in 2010. Interviewed in late March, Henry Joyner, senior vice president of planning at American, said that because of the airline’s size and the expectation of massive future orders, he foresees no problem in getting the Boeing delivery positions the company wants.

American also has a firm order for seven larger Boeing 777s. Those deliveries were deferred to 2013 and beyond after 9/11, but American has the option to move those forward, Joyner said.