American’s Big Announcement About Their Future in Los Angeles

There’s been a great deal of speculation about the announcement that American Airlines would make today in Los Angeles.

    Courtesy: American Airlines

American has been building up Los Angeles, with a real play to the entertainment community to be the preferred carrier there. It’s a highly competitive market. United has retrenched somewhat, but Delta’s made a strong play for the city.

American is just barely the largest carrier there. It offers the best service between Los Angeles and New York (the only 3-cabin service, and with a dedicated fleet so they don’t toss non-lie flat seats on redeyes).

American Airlines Airbus A321T First Class

The amenities inside the terminal have been upgraded, but with the US Airways merger American’s operation is somewhat spread out. They’re primarily located in terminal 4, but with a few flights in terminal 6 and in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Plus they have the midfield terminal (which has its own Admirals Club) for regional aircraft.

Bar at the Midfield Concourse Admirals Club

Over a month ago I understood that the airline would be introducing Los Angeles – Hong Kong. Pretty much a done deal, and it made total sense, right now they have a single Hong Kong flight (from Dallas) and that utilizes two Boeing 777-300ERs. But it doesn’t fully utilize them, in fact a 777 sits on the ground in Hong Kong nearly 19 hours a day (flight arrives at 6:35pm there and doesn’t leave until the next day at 1:40pm). Adding a Los Angeles flight, operated by the same aircraft type, would be almost a freebie since they could do the extra route with just one incremental plane. But that announcement didn’t come today, and I’m curious why.

My next totally out of left field guess was that the announcement might include details on renovations at LAX. Delta’s space got a $250 million renovation and they’re talking about moving. United is getting a half billion dollar renovation. And American’s presence is larger than both. But that didn’t come either.

Instead, we get a bunch of new domestic routes (which is great for LAX). They’re building two new gates to help support these flights. And they’re sponsoring a bunch of local organizations.

Here’s the new daily service they’re adding:

  • Seattle: 5 times daily
  • Portland: 3 times daily
  • Minneapolis – Saint Paul: twice daily
  • New Orleans: daily
  • Kansas City: daily
  • Omaha: daily
  • Hartford: daily

Minneapolis is interesting because it’s a Delta hub. Historically, current management has shied away from competition. The New York strategy involves bringing passengers to New York rather than serving all business destination to be the airline of New Yorkers (e.g. avoiding some Delta and United hubs). But they’re going head-on in Los Angeles.

Indeed, American just added a Sydney flight (with an improved inflight service). They’re adding Auckland, New Zealand. And they’re adding Tokyo Haneda service. And those are all international routes that face competition.

Seattle and Portland are hubs for their partner Alaska Airlines, which has plenty of Los Angeles service as well. It will be interesting to see whether this represents ‘feed for Alaska’s small city flights’ or competition for Alaska. It could well be the former, as Alaska has been in a pitched battle with Delta for Seattle and has grown tremendously, likely without aircraft to spare to feed more Los Angeles passengers.

American will also fly seasonally to Anchorage (daily, another Alaska Airlines hub) and Durango (weekend). And they’re ramping up summer service to Jackson Hole with daily flights as well as weekend service to Vail and Montrose, Colorado.

And as I’ve previously reported, they’ll be upgrading the Admirals Club and Flagship lounge at LAX this year.

LAX Flagship Lounge

Los Angeles used to be one of my least favorite airports, but in recent years they’ve done a lot to improve it. The airport is still congested, and they’re pursuing idiot plans for an ‘intermodal transportation center’ about a mile from the airport with an automated people mover to carry passengers to the terminal — at a cost of about $4 billion (on a per-mile basis by far the most expensive project of its kind ever, and it will still mean long walks for passengers).

But as a place to fly out of — and with highly competitive premium services — there’s no place like it in the U.S. right now. And American is stepping up their game there, which is great to see.

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. Sadly AA very quietly canceled their LAX-TPA direct route as of early May, a development I learned the hard way as it was part of an award redemption I was supposed to take just a few days later.

  2. There is a big article on local paper in Minneapolis that Delta will end its daily MSP-NRT flight which is the only non-stop from MSP to Asia. With AA flying MSP-LAX it may open an opportunity for Minneapolis flyers to get to Asia in the same 1 connection that will be offered by Delta if they indeed end the flight to Tokyo.

  3. Just to go almost completely off-topic here (since you mentioned this at the very end of the write-up), as a frequent traveler to LAX (as opposed to through it), I have to say that I cannot wait for this intermodal transportation center to arrive. I travel to LA on an almost-weekly basis, and have often found that gate-to-rental-car time can exceed an hour and a half at peak times. I’ll gladly skip the rental van, walk to the center of the parking garages (a 0.1 mile walk from the front of the terminal, per Google maps), and take a people-mover to the rental center over waiting to get on the bus and then sitting through gridlocked traffic just to get there. LAX’s biggest problem in my mind is getting to and from, and anything that helps ease the congestion on the roadways coming to and from the terminal is a win in my book. The future promise of metro access (for when I’m not traveling for business) is nice as well.

  4. Since AA started SAT-LAX and AUS-LAX, I’ve seen quite a few routes TX-LAX-SEA-XXX, switching from AA to AS in LAX. Connecting to AS in SEA instead would save 45 minutes of MCT as well as the nuisance of having to reclear security in LAX.

  5. American’s partnership with Alaska is less useful in 2016 with all the discount economy R fares on Alaska not eligible for earning miles in AAdvantage. Most of the low fares I find these days on Alaska Airlines are economy R fares.

  6. @JL I don’t know, the flight seemed like a done deal 6 weeks ago, and I’m traveling internationally and haven’t had a chance to work the phones on this

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