American Starts “Cross-Fleeting” European Routes in May

American will begin cross fleeting on a couple of international routes this May.

  • Chicago – Dublin (historically an American route) will be operated by a legacy US Airways Airbus A330.
  • Philadephia – Zurich (a legacy US Airways route) will be operated by an American Boeing 767.

Even though from a customer perspective there’s now just one airline, American, operationally that’s not quite the case. Since they haven’t fully integrated the work groups, especially the pilots onto a single seniority list, they still have challenges in scheduling planes and routes as though they were a single airline. They have to continue to meet the terms of complicated separate contracts.

That’s why from a financial perspective the ‘synergies of the merger’ haven’t been realized yet to a large degree. They’re going to want to match the right aircraft with the right capacity to the right route. American believes that many of the legacy AA routes have too much capacity with too-big Boeing 737s, which could be deployed more effectively on some legacy US Airways routes for instance.

There’s been a limited amount of ‘cross fleeting’ — using one airline’s planes for the other airline’s routes — since the merger. Last summer they started flying Washington Dulles – Los Angeles with US Airways aircraft. But a full year earlier they were cross-fleeting on some domestic routes. They can do it without integrated seniority lists, but it’s a challenge.

Seeing cross-fleeting grow, and grow internationally, is a big deal because American still hasn’t even committed to add extra legroom seats in coach for the vast majority of the legacy US Airways fleet. That puts the passenger experience behind Delta and United for those planes.

I personally fly American as my primary carrier but avoid legacy US Airways routes and equipment because if my upgrade doesn’t clear I don’t even have the option to pay for extra legroom seats (other than exit row) let alone receive them as a loyalty benefit.

Here’s what we know about their (slow) progress:

The rest of the US Airways fleet? Two years into the merger with American, and as the airline declares they have no productive uses of funds and thus continue to buy back shares at the $5 billion dollar level, US Airways aircraft remain sans Main Cabin Extra. Unfortunately offering a consistent, high quality product continues to be too low on the priority list.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I fall to see what’s wrong with a share buyback program. I’d never invest in an airline, but if I did I’d certainly want to see some return on my money. As a business owner, making sure elites get extra legroom wouldn’t be a priority.

  2. @Arcanum, your comment reflects precisely the kind of short-sighted HQ thinking Gary was calling out. The last minute business travelers who can’t fly First will go fly Delta or United instead if, as you say, HPdbaAA didn’t make main cabin extra legroom options a priority.

  3. Share buy programs are often used to juice up the short term value of options granted to senior management as well as provide some return to shareholders. However, the lack of MCE seats is a serious concern. If I can’t book an MCE or exit row seat, I will look for another flight or another airline.

  4. Won’t a last-minute buyer usually end up in F by buying an auto-upgraded Y fare? Those fliers will have status that will get them into F, and all airlines are keeping a couple of F seats out of comp upgrade inventory until the day of, or day before, flight for last minute buyers. Yes, it is disappointing that these A320/321s from the US fleet won’t go through this conversion, but aren’t these planes being replaced soon by the next gen 737s on order? And some wide bodies with A350s? So doesn’t make sense to adjust seating on much of the older US fleet destined for retirement in the next two to three years. As for share buy-back, considering AA’s stock is currently around $40, and when it emerged from bankruptcy protection and the merger could be bought for around $15, investors have been doing quite well…including dividends. But this also represents a better place for AA to spend surplus $s.

    While cross-fleeting does introduce a “caveat emptor” factor for those of us AA elites when booking our flights, unless we’ve come from the US side and are used to this seating, we can pretty much figure out which planes to book so we get extra leg room seats.

    So being AA, I’d rather keep my shareholders and balance sheet happy, and know I’m not wasting money on reconfigurations that will only have a life-span of a couple of years (not long enough to even write down). Yes, it may put AA behind competitors for a while, but it hasn’t seemed to hurt load factors or profit margins.

  5. I just flew LHR – CLT on a former USAir A330 in economy and the USB ports for charging tablets and phones were not working (seats 9A and B anyway). I asked a FA and she said they were turned off because “we have had so many issues with them and they won’t come on as we’re getting some new equipment installed”. Per this article that is at least 18 months off but I don’t think the economy seats are or will be powered until then. When I flew the same flight in business in Dec on similar hardware power was working properly in the front of the cabin.

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