American Airlines Will Fly to Australia!

American Airlines made the announcement of Australia service on Twitter:

There’s apparently an announcement at 1pm Pacific at LAX today with Scott Kirby so the 3pm Central announcement that American is teasing on Twitter will certainly be Los Angeles – Australia (presumably Sydney) and not Dallas – Sydney.

And the ‘Great Mates’ hash tag I will presume infers a joint venture with Qantas.

They’ll most certainly operate the route with a Boeing 777-300ER which features American’s new first and business class cabins and unfortunately 10-across seating in economy. I’d expect award seats on this route to be nearly impossible in premium classes.

I could be wrong about the aircraft choice but given how much capacity there already is on the route, including from Qantas, anything else would be the smallest aircraft on the route and wouldn’t move the needle on capacity in conjunction with their partner.

In many ways this strikes me as an odd route choice. Historically the leadership team at American, when they ran US Airways, avoided direct competition at almost any cost. They eliminated virtually every non-hub route that US Airways operated. At American they do not fly from New York JFK to many of their competitors hubs, meaning that they are an airline that flies passengers to New York but aren’t positioned to be the airline of choice for New Yorkers on business.

And Australia faces quite a bit of competition. Los Angeles – Sydney already features:

  • United
  • Qantas
  • Delta
  • Virgin Australia

Delta and Virgin Australia operate on a joint venture.

A possible sign of overcapacity, Virgin Australia premium cabin awards have been exceptionally easy to get (although I worry that may change with the introduction of their new business class seats come the end of the year) and United has downgauged equipment to a 777 on the route.

Nonetheless, more competition is welcome. And American’s return to the Australia market is as well — I recall flying American to Sydney via Honolulu in 1991. That was a tough return flight though, having to clear immigration and customs in the middle of the night in Hawaii before continuing onward! (That was my last Aussie trip in economy…).

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. Why do you think they wouldn’t use the 787 as UA has done on their LAX to MEL route?

  2. @Mark the Shark – this is where my guess is weakest. I could definitely be wrong. But a 787 would be the smallest plane on the LAX-SYD route. It wouldn’t move the needle much in terms of capacity with their partner Qantas.

  3. @Gary – re: “It wouldn’t move the needle much in terms of capacity with their partner Qantas” – interested in that. I’m not an industry expert and these things are always curious to me with respect to joint ventures and what is competition vs. helping out. Can you provide a little more info about who wins here – is the point that Qantas doesn’t have the metal and thus they welcome this capacity, or what?

  4. I don’t think AA will use aircraft that has F on this route… my guess is 777-200 with biz, p-eco and coach.

  5. @cw *if* it is a joint venture (and i’m inferring from the tweet) then there will be revenue-sharing in proportion to capacity. They will set schedules and pricing in conjunction with each other provided it’s an ‘immunized joint venture’ that allows them to coordinate without anti-trust concerns.

  6. @Gary- Personally, I think their initial foray into this market which as you mentioned has so much capacity (including 2 daily flights by their partner Qantas from LAX to SYD) would be on the 787 as it’s fuel efficient and not as costly as the 777-300ER, so they can test the waters.

    AA Executive Platinum members with SWU’s could us them on this route which would be incredibly beneficial for EXP’s, and help drive traffic to AA over the competitors, and if AA offered a lower price point, that would also help them with market share.

    I agree with you that LAX- SYD makes the most sense due to popularity and the wide selection of connection options offered by Qantas in SYD.

  7. I would have done LAX-AKL. There is much less competition on that route. Further, fares are extremely cheap between AKL-SYD.

  8. My guess is it will not be to SYD. I’d bet MEL with an outside bet on BNE. SYD is pretty slot constrained and QF have already upped MEL-SYD once this year to 10 times a week. AA could help make this double daily. UA appear to be making this work, they upped their MEL flights to daily in March so there’s clearly the demand.

  9. With regards to capacity:

    While the competition have a lot of award seats to Australia, Oneworld award flights US-> Australia are in extreme short supply. You can basically roll your dice booking Qantas’ very limited direct availability at 330 days (if you’re lucky), or you’re SOL since AAdvantage prevents awards to Australia via Asia (HKG/Cathay), Europe (LGW/BA), or South America (SCL/LAN).

    While awards may be tight, it’ll still be a pretty substantial net increase for AAdvantage members from the US.

  10. Just throwing this out there. Flying a 787 from MIA to SYD is theoretically possible.

  11. Also I wouldn’t characterise UA changing to a 777 as a down gauge because they also introduced a separate MEL flight on a 787. Previously the 747 ran a tag flight to Melbourne, giving the 747 a choice of Australian locations it could break down in.

  12. @Gary – Would having a Joint venture open up the possibility Qantas being able to sell seats on their JFK-LAX flight? or maybe that this the flight American would replace (SYD-LAX-JFK)? Seems like that would be beneficial for both parties if possible.

  13. Gary, you’re already killing the dream of an increase in premium award seats. I’ll just continue to live in hopeful, blissful ignorance of reality and assume it’ll look more like Virgin Australia 🙂

  14. @Andy the purpose of a JSA is to share revenue and costs across the JV partners so it doesn’t matter who provides the capacity or sells the seats. I suspect the reason AA is doing this now is that qantas has no more aircraft to send across the Pacific, so AA has been asked to come in and provide capacity. I wonder if this is going to be seasonal or year round?

  15. My guess is a joint venture from Los Angeles to Sydney or Melbourne in the Boeing 777-300 with First, Business, MCE and Economy. Like Hong Kong and London, it’s a high profile destination and could fill the capacity rather than a smaller 787.

  16. Looking forward to an Australia route on American! Currently have a return flight booked on Air Tahiti Nui from NZ…with any luck I’ll be able to replace it with a better date once this is announced

  17. Five operators on this route now, assuming SYD, that should help keep prices down and make upgrades easier to come by. I suspect they could be flying a 787 to a secondary market like Brisbanbe and having Quantas take the 747 off that route.

  18. @Andy No Qantas-operated flight can sell domestic travel, JFK-LAX on QF must occur in conjunction with an international segment.

  19. QF flies A380s to LAX and DFW but has nothing now that has smaller capacity on a nonstop basis (744s being the other mainstay aircraft to NAmerica, and QF having cancelled its most of its order for 787s). While an AA 77W makes some sense, starting off with a 787-9 would allow for testing the market for a flight that leaves the west coast around noon, arriving enough before curfew at SYD or MEL to turn back around as a late evening departure, thus offering an alternative to the current late night US departures/Australian early morning arrivals. And have the least impact on overall capacity…though it would be nice to see sub-$1K fares return. Guess all will be revealed in a couple of hours.

  20. My guess is that AA will fly the route on LAX-SYD and use one of their 777’s.

    I agree, awards will be very very hard to get in premium cabins on this route. My hunch is that AA might initially release some awards the first year it operates, but after that I think it will match availability more like Qantas.

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