American Airlines Is Considering Flying To Africa

Before the pandemic American Airlines announced its first route to Africa, service to Casablanca, Morocco which is the home of oneworld airline Royal Air Maroc. They even offered a mistake fare in business class. Alas, thanks to Covid, the route never launched.

The airline had planned to use a Boeing 757. That fleet has been retired. Arguing against Africa, in fall 2021 Vice President of Network Planning Brian Znotins noted the dearth of business travel between the continents.

At the time I noted that the best bet for American’s first foray into Africa, then, might be using an Airbus A321XLR to fly to Casablanca. Those planes have a range up to 4700 nautical miles, and American has 50 firm orders that begin coming into the fleet next year.

American Airlines Airbus A321

In an employee meeting last week, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, Znotins offered,

For Africa, as you know, big growing continent, a lot of different cultures and tourist type destinations, business destinations…We do have some African destinations that are in the list of things that we look at and we keep an eye on so I’m hopeful we get to the continent in the near future, but it always is shifting and changing.

Given what we know about American’s tendency to operate shorter flights, and to try to fly where others aren’t operating, I’d expect that American’s entry into Africa would be a close-in destination along the lines of Casablanca – which also offers connectivity beyond Morocco and which clocks in at under 4,000 miles. That will allow them to fly the Airbus A321XLR rather than a more expensive widebody. Cairo and Lagos, however, are too far for the XLR and would require use of a Boeing 787.

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. We are a better domestic airline than we are an international airline. What will be the new thing tomorrow?

    In all seriousness, I want to hear what Tim Dunn has to say.

  2. My first question really, is not so much how, but why? Other than Heathrow, about the two best destinations to get just about anywhere you want is Dubai (Emirates) or Istanbul (Turkish) neither of which house a OneWorld airline to the best of my knowledge. Maybe Doha for a OW airline, but I think AA has that covered already.
    Morocco is OK as a tourist destination stand-alone, but the sorts of places RAM flies to aren’t exactly on my bucket list unless I plan on becoming a hostage to some whacked out bunch of Islamic fundamentalists.
    Egypt is really out too — that country is combating terrible economic privations at the moment — the US dollar may go further but a person might want to ask if it isn’t somewhere to steer clear of.
    Lagos???? Are you mad???? Have you ever been there?
    Best call would be JNB which Dellta has covered, or maybe Cape Town. Nice place.

  3. They had an ops team auditing Roberts International Airport in Liberia after COVID with a possible eye on opening that up in due course.

  4. Lagos???? Gee…agree with Woofie…….there is not one valid reason on earth to go there! And just imagine if the westbound is schedule to depart before the inbound crew has legal rest. Since the service certainly would not be daily that would mean at least a 2 day layover in Lagos for the inbound crew. Nice!! Don’t sign me up

  5. I’ll repeat what I wrote about Singapore: When did it become a felony for an airline to consider new routes?

    The aforementioned route was supposed to be from Philadelphia to Casablanca, as Royal Air Moroc already flew/flies there from New York, Washington, and Miami. CasabIanca was also home to Rick’s, and seems to be geographically ideal for connections.

    I also remember seeing something about Miami being a jumping off point to Africa for American.

    To me, there’s nothing wrong with airlines considering possible new routes and destinations. Isn’t that what airliners like the 787 and A350 were designed for?

  6. All the negative comments about Lagos can say what they want about Lagos, but Nigeria has the population and there is clearly demand, hence why United and Delta continue to operate daily flights to Lagos. ‍♂️

  7. @Sean M – is there even a *European* airline other than Brussels Airlines flying there? Seems like the route would be a stretch for an XLR. They’d have to commit a 788 to the route. Maybe there’s something there I can’t see but it seems like an incredible stretch.

  8. “All the negative comments about Lagos can say what they want about Lagos, ”

    I’ll take you up on that. I’ve been traveling to Africa for over 30 years. Never been to Nigeria and it will be fine if I never do. Closest I got was a 1 hour layover in Lagos during the Pan Am days and I stayed on the plane. I have on numerous occasions taken UA to Accra and connected onward. No way in hell am I doing that in Lagos.

  9. Ghost
    AA execs just got through telling us they can’t make money flying to dozens of cities around the world and dropping routes that DL and UA serve. And now they are telling us they might start a bunch of cities that are not alliance strength markets.
    American’s greatest strategic weakness is its lack of strategic consistency
    Companies that know what they are doing don’t change their minds about what they do well every two years

  10. Thank you, Tim Dunn. Such frequent moves that are inconsistent with a firm’s strategic statement (being a better domestic carrier) should give pause to superiors, the board, and shareholders. It really is unacceptable. In a way, it smacks of desperation.

  11. Lee
    It also makes it so much easier for American’s competitors when AA execs think out loud

  12. I’d rather them fly to south africa. Both UA and DL offer nonstop options. if you want oneworld you gotta fly thru LHR or DOH

  13. Let’s have Hollywood to Nollywood!

    My relatively short visit to Lagos I had a great time. I will go back at some point to see more of the country. The Nigerian diaspora is rapidly growing in global influence. That interconnectedness will eventually produce flight routes willing to take on the challenges of operating there. In the meantime, Lome next door has a nice new terminal and growing regional hub.

  14. It’s exciting to hear that American Airlines is considering expanding its flight routes to include Africa. This move would not only open up new travel opportunities for American Airlines customers, but also further connect Africa to the rest of the world.

    Africa is a continent full of rich cultural and natural attractions, and with increased air travel, it would become easier for tourists to explore these destinations. Additionally, increased business travel between Africa and the United States could create new economic opportunities and partnerships.

    However, it’s important for American Airlines to carefully consider the logistics and practicalities of expanding to Africa. This includes factors such as airport infrastructure, visa requirements, and potential security concerns. American Airlines must ensure that they can provide safe and reliable travel options for their customers while also complying with regulations and guidelines set by African governments and international organizations.

    Overall, expanding flight routes to Africa would be a positive move for American Airlines and for travelers looking to explore new destinations. With careful planning and consideration, this expansion could bring new economic and cultural benefits to both Africa and the United States.

  15. @Gary – Numerous international airlines have served Roberts over the years including Brussels, Air France and even Delta. The new terminal at Roberts is a game changer for the quality of facility and security. Whether American is going to actually do anything about it is another story, but they were looking at it.

  16. @Sean M – I believe they were there! Makes sense to send folks, get educated about the ‘next 100’ places they might serve. They went looking to find ‘any airport with a paved runway’ in Mexico during Covid. I’m just skeptical that this one would come to fruition, since it doesn’t seem like a route they could make work with an A321XLR. It would be fascinating if I’m wrong!

  17. I don’t really see much of a story here. He says they “look at and keep an eye on” destinations including in Africa. I mean he is VP of Network Planning; what else is he supposed to do all day lol? It is his job to look at things and anywhere with a bunch of people living there is going to get a look. He then ends with a pretty big caveat. Doesn’t seem like any news to me.

  18. Years ago, Tesla started establishing charging stations along the major highways. But, Tesla did not locate its charging stations based on how people drive . . . for example, near the intersection of two major highways. Instead, Tesla located its charging stations as a cell phone engineer would place cell towers on a coverage map. This out-of-touch approach would force some drivers . . . who are traveling along major arteries . . . to take 60-mile detours to reach a charging station.

    I feel that AA network planners are similarly out of touch. And, if the route network *is* the product, then (given the evolution of the network over the past couple years) that product is less and less of what I want to buy. To be clear, as a business, AA can make choices to maximize its benefit. But, AA needs to pick a story . . . any story . . . and stick to it. Without a consistent story, on what can customers rely?

  19. Lee, it’s almost as if cherry-picking two sentences from an employee-only meeting where the head of network planning basically says “yes. We look at Africa” and little else then saying AA has an inconsistent strategy is… silly.

    I do admire the attempt at a ridiculous tie-in between electric car chargers out of the way to… “we do look at the continent of Africa”. Not sure how those two unrelated examples tied in your mind though.

  20. CW, after stating that AA is a better domestic airline than an international airline . . . that domestic routes provide greater and more consistent profits . . . what Mr. Znotins should be doing all day is exploring new *domestic* routes. As for international, AA maximizes profits by bringing US customers to its partners, who in turn take those customers the last mile. So, stick to it.

    To Gary’s point, any destination in Africa beyond Morocco would require a wide-body. If you only have X number of wide-bodies, from which route will you pull that wide-body? In reallocating that resource, what are you gaining and giving up? And, will you actually see an incremental net profit? It’s about resource optimization.

  21. MaxPower, I appreciate your critique.

    The sentence in the employee-only meeting should have been: “We absolutely look at Africa in collaboration with our partners.” That statement would be consistent with prior statements. But, employees don’t read between the lines and think “in collaboration with our partners.” Employees take the statement at face value. As one who has in-depth conversations with AA employees (including senior union representatives), I can tell you they come away from such meetings feeling that AA is rudder-less. So, this is not just me spouting. This is a consistent take-away by the employees.

    As for the Tesla comment, it was more an analogy about out-of-touch decision-making than a direct comparison on network planning.

  22. @Lee in this particular meeting Vasu Raja spent a decent amount of time talking about how they develop routes in conjunction with partners, how a connecting route with a partner explicitly can ultimately become a non-stop on american

  23. AA DFW-LHR is the most profitable route for AA. Serving Lagos and cairo would free up 12% of that route fro be sold additionally while increasing their profit on those passengers. The passenger volume in either route is enough for a wide body anyhow.

  24. I know AA’s current strategy is to fly multiple frequencies to Partner Hubs and Major destinations. But pre-Covid, Vasu said there were some smaller Tourist destinations that made sense…Budapest, Prague, Dubrovnik, Berlin, Krakow, Casablanca, Iceland…all of which they flew or were planning to fly.

    So AA went from the Cornerstone Strategy under Arpey/Horton and then the broader European market for both depth and breadth…and is now saying depth is the way to go. When you are constrained by lack of planes, you need some strategy to explain to Investors. When they have enough planes in 2025, I’ll bet the strategy changes again (assuming no Covid/Recession shock to the global economy).

  25. Given the type of aircraft under consideration, would routes involving Abidjan, Dakar, or even Cape Verde be viable?

  26. I’m sure they’ll start Africa and Morocco right after they start Bangalore and Singapore.

  27. Why not fly directly to Dar es Salaam Tanzania. One of safest , friendliest countries on the planet. The national parks Serengeti etc , is the size of Switzerland. You have Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Meru and many other natural beautiful thinks to see, white sand beaches.. Great food , clean country, no crime, no drugs, no guns etc..

  28. I went to Lagos in September last year but I stayed in Ogun States was not what imagined it would be I had anxiety very bad cause it seemed to be really poor there and not being able to us tissue for me but got pass that but we’re I stayed was in the bushes and got food poisoning now I knw that’s not all there is there but I went on behalf of my fiancé to a wedding would go back but with him this time and stay at his house not we’re I stayed it was horrible but I didn’t say anything cause I stayed with his Son and wife but I got up out of there and got the next flight smoking supposed to stayed 1 month 2 weeks had took it’s tile Never stay In Ogun States Never

  29. The soft racism on this board in connecticut is not only alarming, it’s not even correct. Delta and United have been flying there for years in addition to the countless other superb European and Asian airlines.

  30. Idk how Lagos is even viable, that’s corruption when Abuja (ABV) is new n advanced and can serve all the same usage minus the ‘Nigerian Brouhaha’…

  31. It’s really Sad
    All Negative comments about Nigeria, Clearly shows that you have never step foot on the soil, and you’ve never tasted their food, or experience their peaceful Golf Resorts, In Lekki ( Lakowe Lakes golf & country estate – YouTube Gold Resort), You’ve never gone to Port Harcourt Golf Club, or the Federal Palace, or any of the Nice Marriott’s, Radisson’s, InterContinental’s in Nigeria. They would not risk being there if it was not safe enough to do business. Hotels
    Including their beach front land opportunities, Resort development, and Residential Development, for Short term rental opportunities to the west. Your all really missing out, but I guess you are okay with shootings everywhere at home. which they do not have at all.

    I’m an American, and a women, I traveled there with a 3 year old. Amazing Place, and Amazing talented people. As a African Travel Expert. I take people to the most beautiful places in Africa. Consult, and advise them on business opportunities on the Continent, assist them in structuring their business. I arrange all personal Drivers and transportation arrangements. You have really also have got to try Zanzibar Tanzania. Funny thing All the European countries, the Russian, and the Chinese are there. America always loses out because of the lies told about Africa. The beaches are better than the Caribbean’s. Victoria Falls, Safari’s in Zimbabwe are lovely. Your really missing out listen to the Media, and all the horrible things told to you by Africa.

    Just like what happens in New York, is not the same things that happen in California. By the way, Johannesburg is beautiful, but I wouldn’t go to Johannesburg, the Crime is crazy in broad day light, and that is a fact, and you wont experience that type of crime in Nigeria unless your in the Nigeria Ghetto of Festac hood. Just a free Tip.

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