American Airlines Won’t Fly Washington Dulles – London Heathrow

British Airways operates (2) Boeing 747-400s Washington Dulles – London Heathrow over the summer, and swaps that out for an Airbus A380 and a Boeing 787-9 during winter. Virgin Atlantic and United also fly the route.

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.

American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Could Work Better DC – London Than Flying to Cancun

The idea was that British Airways might have too much capacity between DC and London, and that American could deploy smaller aircraft on the route. That would then make larger planes available to take over some London flying currently operated by American such as New York JFK flights. Currently American and BA operate out of different terminals at JFK, meaning their shuttle-like service isn’t as convenient to last minute business travelers as it could be.

Swapping which carrier in the revenue-sharing joint venture operates which route could both match capacity to market and better optimize schedules for customer demand. One theoretical option to do this was having American operate out of Washington Dulles.

That was the rumor a year ago. However sources at American Airlines tell me that is now off the table.

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 won’t even fly to Chicago O’hare direct from Washington Dulles.

  2. The reason is probably because BA’s capacity is matched to demand in the DC market – they need the lift, not the smaller plane that AA could in theory provide. Not a hard one. If this were really pressing/ anything other than your own hypothetical conjecture, AA/BA have smart people who could have figured this out and implemented this a long time ago.

  3. @WB – Why would AA bother flying at all from IAD when they have DCA? The only flight that makes sense is LAX (given the perimeter restrictions at DCA limiting to 1x RT), but even then they could do that out of BWI if they really wanted to (since they already have a larger preference there).

  4. AA actually flies twice a day to LAX from DCA. They also operate one daily from IAD (used to be more–in fact, up to 3x with some widebodies) and cut the LAX nonstop from BWI. Beyond the one daily to LAX, IAD is down to morning and evening departures to DFW and a fairly even schedule throughout the day to CLT.

  5. I can see that AA might be incentivised to fly IAD-LHR, given that it’s a heavy Government route and, despite being in a revenue share with BA, the optics would look better for Fly American types, who otherwise might feel they should fly on UA.

    If it’s just capacity utilization, though, BA has plenty of smaller planes it could use if it has too many seats to Washington.

  6. @BRMM
    When/what year did AA ever fly LAX-BWI? I don’t remember that route?
    United had that route and possibly the old US Airways in 1989 (30 yrs ago) but I don’t ever remember AA flying that route.

  7. American seems afraid to compete against United at Washington Dulles. It really is a shame, because I remember the good old days when American had a lot of gates and flights at Dulles, and they usually outbid United for most of the government fares to cities where the two airlines competed head-to-head such as Los Angeles. If I remember correctly, American used to have a flight from Dulles to London Heathrow, but that’s long gone. Meanwhile, United treats Washington Dulles like a second class hub. Whenever possible, they try to route European-bound passengers to Newark rather than providing full service at Dulles.

  8. I called at the time that this baseless rumour came out that it’d never happen. BA doesn’t suffer from over capacity in the LHR-IAD market. A few years ago it was a 747 and a 777, it’s been progressively increased to an A380 and 747 and even went more than double daily at a point.

    I know not raised here but elsewhere, AA was never going to take over LHR-PHX from BA either. BA went to 10x weekly on the 747 and always had high load factors. It’s a myth that this route is soft in premium cabins. Double 777 daily between BA and AA is an overall capacity increase.

    RDU’s highest point of sale is the USA so that is also unlikely to change. If anything, BA may pick up an extra ORD/DFW/CLT but any other route is unlikely to see any swapping.

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