American Airlines Expects to Add New South Pacific Routes This Year

I talked about American’s retiring of Boeing 767s while they order more expensive Boeing 787s. They aren’t even utilizing the 787s well today, sending them to Cancun and Anchorage.

At this month’s Crew News employee question and answer session with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, a 787 first officer asked about how they’re using widebodies – suggesting they didn’t buy these planes to fly Las Vegas turns.

American’s Vice President of Planning Vasu Raja said they have too many widebodies today but as soon as their joint venture with Qantas is approved they’ll be able to grow into them — taking a couple of planes that fly to Europe in the summer and using them on South Pacific routes in the winter starting in late 2019.

There’s always going to be some amount of seasonal flying because the reality is that especially with the widebodies the margin difference between flying Europe in the summer and flying Europe in the winter can be as much as 20 to 30 points. Those widebodies are expensive planes and we’ve got to move them to where they make the most money.

Now that said though what we want to do with the widebody in buying it is we didn’t buy a widebody to fly a domestic trip we bought it to fly long haul. In 2018 and early 2019 we’re kind of in a unique place. Part of it is that we cancelled some Chicago to China routes but the bigger part of it is that at this point in time we anticipated that we would have approval of our Qantas joint venture and some of those widebodies that you see flying domestic would otherwise be flying in the South Pacific.

So over the long run what we actually anticipate doing is growing into the widebody fleet count that we have where in the summer you probably will see us flying a lot more long haul trips transatlantic and in the winter you’ll probably see us flying a couple of those planes in South Pacific too.

The real key thing for us is approval of the Qantas JV, which I imagine people will ask then when does that get approved? We’re optimistic that will get approved in the next few months should that be the case we’re looking forward to starting service as soon as we can in 2019, likely in the winter time.

By the way this suggests that when we get estimates from the airline on how much they’re losing as a result of the government shutdown (American after all has a hub in DC), the number really ought to include the delay in approval of the joint venture with Qantas and the resulting underutilization of expensive assets like Boeing 787s.

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. American only has too many wide bodies because no one wants to fly American… I didn’t realize they still existed, I shun them from my memory.

  2. Instead of ending JFK-GIG and handing their franchise to Delta, I don’t understand why AA doesn’t downguage from a 777-200 to a 787.

  3. So can you add a little more color here – where would approval of the JV allow them, or invite them, to fly? The South Pacific is a pretty big region.

  4. When they said to South Pacific, I will assume is only to Auckland, Brisbane and Melbourne and probably a new route to SYD…

  5. @mak I have wondered that myself. Delta is on the way to potentially dominating Brazil flights if they expand more. United is even growing there with Houston, Chicago, Newark and DC being all utilized for flights to Brazil.

    With LATAM dumping all Rio to U.S. flights in a few months the market is wide open. Especially in light of the new no-visa requirement coming. Add to it the Avianca Brazil bankruptcy and suspension of their U.S. flights announced this week and wow, the Brazil market is ripe for the picking. AA could potentially add flights to Rio using the 787 from Dallas. Or remove the horrible 737-MAX that is now on the Miami/Brasilia flight and replacing it with a 787.

  6. Wow! More and more nothing read or heard attributed to this airline’s management makes any sense!

    They might as well have said:

    Dummkopfs – Are you freaking kidding!

    Don’t you know we only bought these nice, new, state-of-the-art planes for use in international markets where after decades of hard work, we successfully bought off politicians; consolidated our iron grip over the regulatory bodies we long ago “captured” (nb: that’s a spcific term used by political scientists and economists to describe government agencies that are charged with regulatory and safety oversight and code enforcement for the public’s benefit shift their emphasis more towards the companies’ benefit) so thar they bend to our will and rubber stamp virtually everything we request to screw our passengers even better than we did last year; and conned a gullible public into agreeing to allow us to whatever the “eff” we want that includes allocating our nicest, newest widebody planes to fly ONLY in those markets where we’re allowed to freely and unabashedly join hands…er form anti-trust immunized “joint venture ‘partners’” …with our (soon-to-be in this case with QANTAS) former competitors just like we did with British Airways (where they and we control well more than half of the USA-London market, plus Iberia, Finnair and soon Aer Lingus, too, for the trans-Atlantic, or Japan Airlines to Tokyo]) where they, and you Dummkopfs, ALLOW – yes, can you believe it -, ALLOW us with their full blessing to conspire and collude…oopsie, I mean the much nicer and benign sounding word, “COORDINATE” our airfares (aka price fixing) – don’t forget those “passenger pleasing” tiny seats and plethora of fees/(faux) ‘options’ you said you “wanted” (and WE ‘HEARD’ you!!!); schedules (frequencies) and capacity (supply/inventory of seats) where those shiney, new planes are only to be found!!!

    Seriously, Dummkopfs, do you really EXPECT US (how dare you actually even think you deserve a nice, new widebody on a domestic flight even though for DECADES when we actually had to compete in the domestic market by being much better than all those dead and buried airlines you maybe heard about, or saw featured in the movies or news reports when The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport that even at their worst while they were in their death spirals were still MUCH, MUCH, MUCH BETTER than virtually all of the airlines you fly now we flew nice, big, Boeing 747s routinely between Atlanta and Dallas; Los Angeles and Dallas; Chicago and so many cities it would take an afternoon to compile that list; or when if you didn’t fly 747s between JFK and LAX you were considered a minor player!

    Heck we even flew nice, new, and WAAAAAYYYYY MORE COMFORTABLE jumbo jets like the absolutely gorgeous, and in its time state-of-the-art Lockheed L-1011 “Tri-Star” (Millennials, you’ll have to ask older folks like me just how amazing that plane was) or equally big, comfy and even more widely seen domestically, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 trijets between places like NYC’s LaGuardia Airport and Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Raleigh/Durham, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach (imagine that – flying a jumbo jet between LaGuardia and West Palm Beach in an era when if an airline didn’t offer a robust schedule featuring their very newest and best jumbo jets between mid-November and April they weren’t worth flying!).

    And if that isn’t incredible enough, for many, many, many years, American Airlines flew nonstops using DC-10 jumbo jets year round (yes, year round!) between NYC’s LaGuardia and…wait for it…Buffalo and Syracuse in upstate NY (along with nonstops from those two cities to Chicago on that formerly great airline’s nice, new, and very spacious and comfy widebody, DC-10 jets!

    And not just during the pre-1978 era before the industry was deregulated!

    Fact is, widebody jets were commonly found on domestic routes until the scourge and plague of “extended range” Boeing 737s that could fly more than 1,700 or so miles destroyed flying across the land began in the late 1990s!

    Of course, as our airlines were allowed to “consolidate” largely unchecked between 2008 and 2014 (when US Airways management took over at American), and then ever since with little to worry about in terms of new entrants taking then on domestically, plus as those competition killing, collusion enabling anti-trust “immunized” joint venture alliances such as the one American is DESPERATE to cement with QANTAS that is the subject of this discussion (which is just like the ones it already has with British Airways and several others on the world’s most lucrative routes) have proliferated since the turn of the century despite having been “sold” to the public as an innovation to skirt foreign ownership restrictions that will lead to “more and better competition than ever” (the exact opposite outcome seen now), and competition died a slow death by a thousand cuts, airlines now have little need, and incentive, to compete by offering best in class service where they already have a chokehold around flyers’ throats like they do domestically, and in most of the world’s most lucrative markets like the North Atlantic, like they do in all of the major markets.

    In fact, the only arena where they face any kind of competitive challenge that might otherwise force them to offer an improved product, just so happens to not so coincidentally be where like the toxic cartel that they’ve become, they’re engaged in a relentless (and incredibly hypocritical) campaign of furiously whining, complaining, bullying, and of course, massive alternative facting seeking to diminish, or even eliminate altogether, some or all of the Middle East 3 Airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar), which is the only arena they and their colluding partners have yet to gain control/hegemony over.

    But, hey, at least with this admission by the folks in the C-suite at American Airlines that domestic flyers are not worthy of anything more than the passenger hated and loathed stripped down narrow bodies (new or our infamously dilapidated “legacy” [as in ancient] planes dating back to when they had cacti painted on their tail fins!) featuring kiddie-sized seats crammed into 30” pitch, kneecap smashing rows (that we really wanted to make 29” pitch but would’ve faced open revolt from our flight attendants if we followed through on that plan…), and loos so tiny passengers have gotten stuck inside, we should at least give them props for offering the unvarnished truth about how all of our domestic airlines view the USA domestic market now in an era when cartelization and oligopolies have become accepted and increasingly “normalized” such that there’s no need to offer anything better than the crappy, overcrowded, “densified” narrowbody planes with kiddie-sized loos they’re packing us into with stripped down, Basic Economy fares that more and more are pricing well above $200 and even $300 for flights as short as NYC to/from RDU – which is a grotesque rip off and abuse of market dominance that has become commonplace of late.

    Who knew that our airlines would ever dare to lay bare the naked truth as brazenly as they did here when as if they were being like the infamous “Soup Nazi” in “Seinfeld” the folks at American Airlines made clear that as far as domestic flying is concerned, there’s ‘NO WIDEBODIES FOR YOU!’ 😉

  7. What a load of gobbledegook from a senior AA exec.! My brain hurt trying to plough through it. Also, he needs remedial lessons in the art of punctuation.

  8. @CoolHandLuke – this is ME transcribing ORAL comments, this is not his written comment. So I punctuate based on how the answer sounds…

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