American Airlines Says They’ll Fly to India! (Here’s Why I Don’t Believe Them)

Brian Sumers interviewed American Airlines Vice President – Planning Vasu Raja and says American is considering flying to Africa and India.

In fact he says that American could do this “once a second batch of Boeing 787 orders starts arriving next year.”

When American placed the order though they explained that the Boeing 787-8s would replace Boeing 767s, and that the 787-9s would replace Airbus A330s and Boeing 777-200s. In other words the order was to replace retiring aircraft, not for growth.

Nonetheless, Raja says they’re going to go to India and Africa and that they would likely fly to India from Philadelphia instead of Chicago where they last operated the flight.

That’s the airplane that is going to take us eventually to India and into Africa, and into markets which are very different from the ones that we have been in historically, but ones we believe will be very profitable,” said Vasu Raja, the airline’s vice president for planning.


Gateway of India, Mumbai

The funny thing is I only need to cite Vasu Raja himself for why American Airlines will not fly to India. This past summer he laid out the reasons in a meeting with employees.

  • Fares are too low. “Even with the changes with the Middle East carriers, the reality is the fare environment to India has not changed at all. It’s a really really bleak fare environment. Often times fares are half the price of bargain fares to Europe.”

  • Even Delta isn’t really making it work. “For as much press as was made on flying to India there still hasn’t been an announcement about anybody starting new service from the US to India either, and I imagine high fuel prices are probably a headwind for that as well. Who knows.”

  • American doesn’t have a partner in India to help with connecting traffic. (Never mind that Delta outmaneuvered American to gain Jet Airways as a partner exclusively.) “They have a big partnership with Jet Airways, they have a carrier in India with which they can drive connections. So who knows how they’re doing the math on it.”

Now Raja says the problem was too many seats on a bigger aircraft, that their old onboard product was poor, and that they had undesirable flight times. Better flight times would allow customers to “connect to other flights” — though of course since the airline lost its Jet Airways partnership they still have no connectivity in India.

Over the summer Raja did acknowledge though that southern India (definitely not Delhi) could eventually make sense from Dallas Fort-Worth because “There is growing demand in places in South India, especially and interestingly enough from markets in the North Texas area.” He said that the 787-9 would make it easier, but “it’s still a little difficult for us….it’s still by no means the most profitable thing on the list.”

A Boeing 787 from Philadelphia to India though without connecting traffic on the other side of the equation? That seems incredibly far fetched.

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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Comments

  1. Interesting. Wonder whether it’ll move the dial if it were to happen. I travel every year to India and Asia. I usually fly EK, SQ or CX. I find the hard product and the service on these airlines to be way better than the US Big 3. Would be a tough sell to make me switch…

  2. It could possibly work for them if they connected SFO or LAX (AA Hub) to Bangalore (which is in the South) but not Philadelphia. By connecting the two “Silicon Valleys”, they may not need the connecting traffic once in India. Just a thought.

  3. There’s no way an AA plane, loaded with way too many seats to begin with, can make it over 9000 miles from LAX to BLR. Not to mention it wouldn’t any legitimate connecting traffic.

    LIT-NRT is far more likely than LAX-BLR

  4. If he thinks there is demand to fly to southern India from North Texas, why is he talking about flying out of Philadelphia? Last time I looked, North Texas had an airport with tons of international service.

  5. traffic can connect via interline arrangements. Airlines do it all the time and sell tickets on others’ flights – even those they dont have an alliance with. For example, say you go to the United web site and tell it you want to go to Adelaide – a city it doesnt serve. United will sell you SFO/LAX/IAH-SYD-ADL, with SYD-ADL on either Qantas or Virgin. I’ve seen it and done it. AA would do the same with connections at whatever gateway in India it serves. It does it with a host of airlines (notably El Al at every single European destination it flies to already) and can certainly do the same in India. There wouldnt be “no connections” on the India side.

  6. I do not know who is more lost ,RAVU ,or,PARKER ,everyday is something new ,but nothing real ,is always MAYBE ,or ,WE SHOULD TRIE ,in the end of the day ,they say is better we put more flys to AUSTIN ,going for great ,DISASTER

  7. Given that there are still thousands of weekly loss-making seats to the Indian subcontinent (presumably the “purpose” of crazy flights like Qatar’s Philly-Doha service), I doubt very much that AA will fly to India from PHL any time soon. Obviously, the only way USA-India service could work now is in point-to-point travel focused on biz customers who would value speed over anything else. I’m not sure that WOULD work, but it’s theoretically possible. There obviously aren’t that many such customers in Philly.

    More likely is AA flying to Africa. Not sure exactly what those routes would be: you’d need to have the traffic data that I simply don’t have. I’m surprised that UA hasn’t gone after South African with a 787 EWR-JNB flight. AA could try a JNB route from MIA. Do they have enough feed to MIA for such a flight? Only AA knows, and maybe the South African market isn’t growing fast enough given the political woes. Not sure what else is out there.

  8. I fly PHL to LHR to HYD frequently and seemingly a large number of people on the PHL to LHR leg do as well. That said, I can’t imagine the economics actually work.

  9. With Royal Air Maroc joining OW in 2020 I can see flights from PHL to CMN making sense. CMN should be a nice hub for connections to the rest of Africa, as well as Europe.

  10. That linked article states AA is considering India or Africa. It is common in the airline industry to consider potential new routes. Does not mean they will actually fly the route.

  11. As someone who flies to Mumbai a good bit for work its interesting how much of a fare premium United’s EWR-BOM flight commands in business class. In fact, its such a premium that I can never justify taking it and have to go through the Middle East or Toronto. There **might** be something here.

  12. Any flight to India direct or otherwise in both directions is absolutely chockers. Just look at the premium United charges for the non stop flights from EWR. Sometimes bureaucracy cannot see behind obvious !

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