American Just Announced New Los Angeles – Beijing Service Starting December 16

American has made it pretty clear they want to win Los Angeles, the way that Delta has worked to win New York. Both are major US markets, and hyper-competitive.

It’s a huge departure in strategy for the former US Airways management team, that loved routes where they didn’t face non-stop competition. US Airways had very few flights which weren’t to or from hubs, for instance. And their hubs weren’t super-competitive places. (Case in point: they swapped a substantial operation at New York LaGuadia with Delta to be able to grow their dominance at Washington National.)

American has grown both with its own flights — they recently added a Sydney flight (with an improved inflight service), they’re adding Auckland, New Zealand, and they’re adding Tokyo Haneda service and Hong Kong as well not to mention Shanghai with a 787 — and those are all international routes that face competition.

They’ve also grown through joint ventures with Japan Airlines and Qantas across the Pacific, with IAG carriers British Airways and Iberia which service Los Angeles to London and Madrid, and LAN which has seasonal service.

Now announced that they’re launching Los Angeles – Beijing, which Air China serves with up to 18 weekly Boeing 777 flights.

American Airlines has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for daily service between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK).

“This new route would solidify Los Angeles as American’s West Coast gateway to Asia and it would be our only Beijing access from the western United States, creating new connections to one of Asia’s major business and leisure destinations,” said Andrew Nocella, chief marketing officer for American Airlines. “Beijing is one of the world’s great cities, and nonstop service from LAX would be a great complement to our existing China service.”

If approved, American would begin LAX-PEK service on Dec. 16, 2016.

The announcement makes clear this is contingent on approvals, and presumably the public declaration of service with a start date is meant to angle towards gaining that approval.

Just three years ago American CEO Doug Parker told a group of pilots in Los Angeles that he didn’t see growing the airline’s Pacific routes beyond what had been announced at the time (and then even speculated that if they grew it would be out of… Phoenix!). They’ve come a long way in their thinking since then.

And they’re doubling down on China at a time that China itself is struggling economically. American currently serves Beijing from both Chicago and Dallas as well. It will be interesting to see whether Chicago – Bejing, also served by United and Hainan Airlines, survives as they push Pacific flying through Los Angeles.

Both of American’s Los Angeles and Dallas flights are currently served by a Boeing 787. The airline hasn’t announced an aircraft for the new route, but that would be my guess.

American Airlines 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. Gary, I’m a bit confused by this comment: “Both of American’s Los Angeles and Dallas flights are currently served by a Boeing 787. The airline hasn’t announced an aircraft for the new route, but that would be my guess.” Flights to where? I assume you’re not talking about LA-Shanghai, as that’s an old-style 777.

  2. AA “announced” service but may not get to fly it. There are insufficient authorities available for both Delta and American to be granted this Los Angeles-Beijing so only one will get it. And the DoT has to decide which it is.

    Also, Parker has previously stated that Asia expansion would be ex-LAX over PHX (ha!), DFW or ORD. This growth is not surprising at all, other than in this specific instance where it is going against Delta for the final slots.

  3. AA didn’t get it. It is Not about somewhere to PEK or PVG. It is about a chinese partner to continue to other cities. Most chinese don’t live in BeiJing ShangHai. They live in other cities.
    Right now, price to go to most chinese cities on AA is much too high.

  4. This is a disaster waiting to happen. DL just launched LAX – PEK too.

    AA is really profitable but it’s built on the back of US domestic profitability. Brazil is already a country to which AA has massive overcapacity and has to pull back 77W flying. Brazil – US r/ts are selling for $318 in Economy and < $1,295 in Business.

    PVG/PEK – US is selling for $598 in Economy r/t and $2,493 in Business r/t with longer stage lengths than US – Brazil although utilization is not too different since most US – Deep South Am flights sit on the ground there for 12 hours so both flights can be overnights.

    Blooooood bath. Of course, all of us can watch our miles devalue because AA has to subsidize all these awful money losers somehow.

    AA will still be profitable because oil is low and US domestic travel is great. When any of those factors change it'll be painful.

  5. @AnonCHI – Not having an LAX-PEK flight puts them at a competitive disadvantage in a market they clearly want to “own”. Tossing a 787 on the route is a good way to start (if they do), and AA seems to be pretty pleased with the new LA routes if they’re willing to keep adding more.

    And if things aren’t as expected, they can probably just shutter the ORD-PEK flight, since ORD doesn’t seem to be getting much love from AA lately anyways.

  6. @Simon: I thought DL was launching LAX/PEK?

    @AnonCHI: Mainland Chinese carriers indeed offer the cheapest econ and biz class tix ex-US to China and East Asian cities. Hooray for US customers!

  7. @Simon, according to TPG:

    Los Angeles (LAX) – Beijing (PEK) on Delta (launching December 16, 2016)

    Delta is also launching a new flight to Asia from LA. The airline will operate its 777-200ER to Beijing, which includes Delta One service.

    DL9 Los Angeles (LAX) 12:30pm Departure ⇒ Beijing (PEK) 5:45pm (+1) Arrival
    DL8 Beijing (PEK) 7:30pm Departure ⇒ Los Angeles (LAX) 3:45pm Arrival

  8. @Ben – there are only nine unused U.S.-PEK/PVG frequencies. Delta and American are competing for seven of them. They both can’t launch daily LAX-PEK service.

  9. So for AA’s 789s, are they putting their forward/reverse J seats in all these new planes? I can’t stand facing backwards and ultimately get motion sickness along with my wife.

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