Did American Airlines Hint They Could Be Leaving the New York – London Market?

A couple of days ago I wrote about American President Robert Isom’s comments in a closed employee Q&A session about New York JFK. He talked about the challenges of being in a different terminal from their transatlantic joint venture partner British Airways at both New York JFK and London Heathrow.

Together they’re running what they consider to be a New York – London shuttle, but it’s not convenient because it’s a split operation, and he hints that they may have a solution to that.

Getting our joint business relationship partner BA co-located both in JFK and us in London Heathrow is incredibly important. It’s really hard to run a joint business when you effectively operate out of two separate terminals.

As we take a look forward in JFK I think there’s going to be an opportunity for further development… being able for us to house our joint business venture partners in a way that really expands our network as well.

American Airlines Terminal at New York JFK

American Airlines seer JonNYC reacted to this post on twitter.

When American announced that they would be dropping a Miami – London flight and their joint venture partner British Airways would be picking it up instead I noted,

There’s still the long-running rumor that American might replace one of the two British Airways Washington Dulles – London Boeing 747-400 frequencies, so it’s possible this isn’t the last joint venture swap that gets announced.

Perhaps the radical theory JonNYC is advancing here is that American’s statements about JFK and their recent swapping of service at Miami and DFW could be related. Could British Airways pick up American’s New York JFK – London Heathrow flying entirely?

  • That would mean all of their New York – London service flies out of the same terminal at New York JFK
  • And it would all fly out of terminal 5 at Heathrow
  • American could then replace British Airways service elsewhere, such as Washington Dulles

Wherever British Airways service goes, that’s bad for passengers in those U.S. markets.

  1. British Airways offers an inferior business class product
  2. It mostly precludes American Airlines elites from upgrading

British Airways Business Class, Boeing 777

On the other hand of course new American Airlines service in other markets is an improvement for those customers on the U.S. side of the equation.

This all sounds like a long shot but it seemed worth playing out the bread crumbs. It will be fascinating to watch whatever they do here.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. It would also mean that on award tix, AAdvantage members get hit with those onerous BA surcharges, right?

    If so, that would be horrible!

  2. BA taking over all flights to London from JFK would worsen the co-location problem, not eliminate it. From the comments, it sounds like they want to expand Terminal 8 and move BA and other partners over.

  3. Yes, that (BA taking over NYC-LHR/LHR-NYC from AA) is what AA has been considering to do. At least according to the BA side. But to keep the TATL JV revenue/profits in current proportion, AA would have to end up with those AA NYC-LON seats being done with other US-LON routes.

  4. As noted earlier this week, British Airways (BA) announced last year a $65 million modernization/refresh for its longtime home at JFK, Terminal 7, that is already underway and scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

    Published reports also indicate that BA extended its sublease (NYC owns the airport; the Port Authority of NY & NJ leases/operates it) to a term ending in 2022, with an option to extend that up to another three (3) years, or until 2025

    So, barring some sort of exceptional news that would justify BA abandoning Terminal 7 to allow for consolidation of its and American’s “NYLon shuttle” under one roof at AA’s Terminal 8, it’s hard to envision a scenario where BA simply walks away from a facility it originally built, controls as the sub-leaseholder, manages/operates and just invested $65 million to update, for one that it did NOT build and is NOT the controlling entity at least until 2022 at the earliest, and based on currently available information, possibly as late as 2025.

    Yes, there has been some talk by Governor Cuomo for a radical transformation of JFK to bring it into late 20th…er 21st…century that might force BA to move out for the “greater good” of constructing a far more harmonized/intergrated (and flyer friendly) futuristic JFK Airport such that the cost of its current $65 million modernization effort can be offset as part of Cuomo’s bold, but alas, very much still UNFUNDED, plans to transform JFK into the type if world class airport NYC **should** have that many cities NOT in the USA already do have, or are already building…

    …and yes, there has been relatively recent news that Jetblue is in the process of putting together plans to significantly expand at JFK…

    …but until fully funded, and ground is broken, all we have right now are a lot of pretty renderings that unless and until funded, are just that – a lot of pretty renderings that only serve ti further remind us of how underwhelming and obsolete JFK Airport actually is despite NYC’s slogan billing itself as the “Capital of the World”.

    And with LaGuardia in the earliest phase of its $8 billion Central Terminal Building redevelopment, and ground recently broken across the river at Newark Liberty International Airport for its $2.7 billion Terminal A replacement, there’s already a lot of construction going on at two (2) of the three (3) major airports in the NYC metro area that the PANYNJ oversees, with approximately $11 billion in play between these two airports.

    So, for native New Yorkers, and those of us who have seen a great many grandiose plans for large government conceived/managed projects announced (e.g., still unfinished World Trade Center reconstruction; the many years late and many billions over budget PATH train station; Penn Station/James A. Farley [old post office] Redevelopment; Long Island Railroad East Side Access [more than a decade late, and countless billions overbudget]; the Second Avenue Subway [it’ll be decades & hundreds of billions more before that gets done]; or of course, the much delayed, and now desperately needed after Super Storm Sandy flooded the two (2) exisiting 100-years old crumbling tunnels, two (2) new tunnels beneath the Hudson River to link Manhattan with the mainland USA that were killed by NJ Governor Christie early in his first term, that are now ensnared in vindictive rage by the incompetent/corrupt crew currently ruining..er running…our country), that then take much of our lifespans to actually get underway, much less get completed, seeing is believing when it comes to Cuomo’s grandiose vision to transform JFK that might otherwise give BA reason to leave the Terminal it built, and controls, anytime soon.

    @flightwonk: BA’s web site states that its $65 million T7 modernization is underway.

  5. Curious, for those connecting in LHR from AA to BA (or reverse) anyone have issues with baggage transfer? Any difficulty about over nighting near LHR via Hoppa bus, exiting from Terminal 5 and going the following morning to Terminal 3 when staying at a T5 Hotel?

  6. PS: With the recent announcement by Alaska Airlines that it’s closing the ex-Virgin America NYC pilot base in September (and CNBC also reporting that Alaska Airlines’ LAX/SFO transcons may also be cut drastically to just 2x daily), and the vast majority of “NYLon shuttle” pax being O&D anyway…

    …perhaps an interim solution until any JFK Airport redevelopment plans advance from Cuomo’s “vision” to fruition, might be for AA to operate its metal from Terminal 7 instead whereby they could turn what some lament as T7s weakness, it’s lack size and range of stores/celebrity chef driven food concepts, into an asset such that what it lacks in size, can instead become positives – as in no long walks from curb to gates; no long walks from aircraft to customs/immigration; plus the creation of a more itimate, “NYLon” centric terminal experience better oriented towards the needs/interests that higher end business travelers who fly this route would want anyway…

    …more, and better lounges, with more and better amenities for the higher spending pax, plus a mix of NYC & London centric restaurant concepts and shopping for the tourists who won’t be using the lounges to have available, etc.

    Simply put, there might be ways to for BA & AA to “make Lemonade” from the lemon that is JFK Airport – if somebody at either/both of these formerly great airlines actually does what it seems like neither is very good at doing anymore if it doesn’t focus on coming up with ever more clever ways to better ruin/degrade passengers’ experience:

    Do something unique and creative that nobody expects them to do, but if done well, just might give passengers a reason to WANT to fly these two no longer very pleasant and no longer particularly well regarded to fly airlines.

    Perhaps turning T7’s small size into an intimate, flyer friendly experience, with a decidedly “NYLon” look and feel to match, just might be a way to iron out the kinks in the otherwise very awkward, and flyer hostile, current arrangement where it seems nobody is happy…

    After all, T7s small size and handful of gates if excecuted well for a “NYLon shuttle” could be the ticket to prove that NOT everything needs to be bigger to be better or more exciting!

  7. Or maybe explore having the high end flights featuring the A321Ts to LAX/SFO plus “NYLon” svc grouped into a repurposed T7 to offer a specially created “premium (more exclusive) terminal” geared more towards high rollers…

    Why not at least explore unconventional ideas about how to make the most of the current T7/T8 arrangement that’s far from satisfactory?

    Just sayin’

  8. @Steve T — Yes, week before last my bag went sightseeing in London instead of transferring onto my BA flight to Vienna. This, despite a nearly 5-hour layover at LHR. And because it was the last flight of the day, the bag didn’t land at my hotel until 17 hours after my flight landed.

    This exact same scenario played out a year ago, on my last AA-to-BA connection to Europe — the bag didn’t arrive until 18 hours after landing. In both cases, BA’s online tracking system was worthless, lacking useful updates at any stage of the delay. How has FedEx and UPS figured out package tracking yet BA hasn’t?

    I sent a letter to BA’s customer relations. 14 days later, no response. Not even acknowledgement, much less an apology. Never received one the last time, either. EXP status means nothing to BA.

  9. BA’s business class is not the worse. The 777 window seats are spectacular. They offer a private cabin, unlike some airlines with herringbone pattern seats. In addition, they are rear facing, which is the safest and the best.

    I am not advocating nudity but you could do that undetected with those 777 window seats if you use a blanket.

    As far as JFK T7, if AA built up T8, BA could move there and T7 could be used by American/Envoy or anybody else. Why not JL at T7?

  10. @Howard Miller – BA’s investment in T7 does not mean AA is abandoning JFK-LHR, which is what Gary’s headline suggests as a possibility. I’m saying there is zero chance AA abandons the route.

  11. American only built about 60% of what was originally planned at T8. Gates far exceeding the current capacity of T7 could be added as they’ve already been designed. Obviously that includes the missing gates (17-30) where old T8 used to be but there were also new Eagle piers extending from the base of the triangle near the access road.

  12. It would be nice if aa will be doing non hub to lhr. It could mean more widebodies on domestic routes for aircraft utilization.

  13. I don’t see why AA would relinquish all their NYC-LON flights to BA just from Isom saying their partnership could be improved by being brought more under the same roof(s).

    BA flies a lot of ex-LHR EU flights out of T3, making an AA–>BA connection quite easy with many cities.

    AA said that about 20-25% of their ex-JFK pax are transiting beyond LHR… so why would they lose that biz in the name of efficiency, especially when their flights from ORD, PHL, DFW, MIA, CLT, LAX and RDU are all still flying into T3?

    I think the possibilities of AA taking up some BA metal TATL flights is much greater than AA quitting their metal ex-JFK to LHR. But what do I know…

  14. @flightwonk: 100% Agree – I don’t see AA giving up its JFK-LHR flights entirely anytime soon

    @derek: Unless this changed during its restructuring, Japan Airlines (JL) is one of the four (4) airline airlines that formed a partnership in 1994 to takeover the 1959-vintage Eastern Air Lines terminal at JFK after that airline failed in 1991, tore it down and replaced it with what is now known as Terminal 1.

    The other three airline-partners for Terminal 1 at JFK are: Air France, Korean Airlines and Lufthansa, and the name of their joint venture partnership is:

    Terminal One Group Association, L.P.

    So, while it might be possible for Japan Airlines to sell its interest in T1 to move in at either BA’s T7, or as one big happy, oneworld alliance family at T8 as Robert Isom’s comments suggests is a goal American would like to see happen at JFK, as with my other comments above for BA at T7, this would entail JL walking away from its interest in a facility it has a stake in the control and management of via the sub-lease from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    FWIW, the KLM side of Air France-KLM Group uses Terminal 4 at JFK instead of Terminal 1 that Air France is one of the four airline partner-owners of.

    And, of course, Delta’s other SkyTeam alliance partner, and as of May 1st, anti-trust immunized JV-trans Pacific partner, too, Korean Airlines, also uses Terminal 1 for its flights at JFK instead of Terminal 4.

    So, I guess the point is, American and BA are hardly the only airlines at JFK Airport where key Joint Venture/code-share alliance partners operate from different, and completely detached terminals despite the complaints made by Robert Isom that might suggest is an “excuse” being proferred to deflect attention from AA’s inferior to both Delta and Jetblue’s schedules and inflight products at that airport…

    …just sayin’ 😉

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