American Airlines shared its plans for integrating with JetBlue, building back its Philadelphia hub, and whether or not their new flight to India will actually take off at a meeting with employees last week, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing.
Here are 6 insights into the American Airlines strategy for recovery that came out of this session.
- Planes are getting full again. Load factors are high on leisure routes. There’s no business travel, and leisure travelers haven’t had much to do in cities. American expects passengers down 65% compared to 2019 during the first quarter, similar to the fourth quarter. And revenue is worse than passenger traffic because “almost all passengers are leisure travelers paying less than people paid” in 2019, according to Parker.
American Vice President Brian Znotins shared that load factors were higher up “until Thanksgiving,” but the virus’ resurgence meant January load factors were in the 40s. February was in the 50s, March so far in the 60s, and April is “looking better.”
Parker thinks that vaccine passports “would certainly help” bring back international travel “if we can have a standard unified health passport..that describes who has vaccines etc. We’re leading on that at American.”
- The Biden administration wants to encourage travel Parker reported from his conversations with administration officials that “so much of international travel is based on U.S. travel. so we’re encouraging the administration to be leaders on this, they want to be, but they’re also being very careful at this point as they should be.”
- American could drop plans for Seattle – Bangalore. Brian Znotins was asked by a pilot about plans to launch the airline’s planned India service, and replied that the “status of any flight..has a lot of cloud around it.”
While they “do plan to launch it this fall,” it’s a business travel-dependent route, and is “reliant on a return of business travel.” They also “have to keep an eye on” United’s Bangalore service, when American announced their route they were going to be the only U.S. – Bangalore non-stop in the market and United’s San Francisco flight will have more local traffic. Parker reported that Amazon and Microsoft have to resume travel to India for the flight to work.
- JetBlue has technical limitations that constrain their partnership and cannot currently put its code on American Airlines regional flights now.
- But they are going to start an airside bus at New York JFK to facilitate connections. The partnership is mostly about appealing together to the New York and Boston markets, and building corporate business in competition with Delta and United, but they’re going to work to feed connections between American international routes and JetBlue domestic flights with an airside connection between their terminals and they’re “very close” according to Znotins.
- Philadelphia will be the hub that comes back last. It skews international, as the airline’s primary transatlantic connecting hub. The Airbus A321XLR will mean more European destinations once that plane arrives in the fleet.