One of the most common questions I’ve gotten over the past couple of months is whether airlines will add more flights to Europe this summer, with countries opening up and vaccination rates rising.
American Airlines Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning Brian Znotis addressed this head-on with employees last week, explaining that American won’t add more Europe this summer because they can make more money flying to Cancun than Athens and they no longer have spare aircraft to add flights – so each potential long haul flight trades off with flying they’re already doing.
At a Crew News employee question an answer session, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, Znotins explained that in the long run, American will add back Europe flying – especially to London. However,
This summer we are using all of our airplanes, they are all in the schedule…they are going to Lima, they are going to Cancun, our widebodies are….going to Las Vegas…because our domestic network is so strong…We’re attracting domestic demand and short haul Latin America demand much faster than transatlantic demand.
…Even though an Athens may be coming back because it’s open to travel, I compare that to where I have to take the airplane from in order to fly more Athens or Dubrovnik or London and it’s a market like Cancun where we’re flying a widebody from DFW once a day, and if I had to take that widebody out of there, Cancun this June is actually booked higher right now for June than it was at this time in 2019 and that’s with more capacity and we’re actually get a higher yield for those passengers as well.
For us as an airline we’re no longer at a place where we’re just saying let’s add a flight to some destination because it’s otherwise sitting on the ground…all of our airplanes are already in the air so I have to say I have to take an airplane out of Cancun or Bogota or Las Vegas in order to add another Dubrovnik or Athens or London if it were to come back. …as of this moment [the demand] is going to be Las Vegas and Cancun.
As for when to expect a return to a full London schedule, that’s tentatively slated for fall. As Znotins explained, “for London when the business travel returns we’re going to go back to our full London schedule…this summer the schedule is set, we’re very happy with how the bookings are coming in and if the UK were to open up you’d see us flying more in the fall.”
Given that the reason not to add Europe when Europe opens, despite the airline also confirming that when a destination opens bookings happen immediately, it almost makes one wonder if American Airlines shouldn’t have retired all of their Airbus A330s, Boeing 767s, and Boeing 757 aircraft which are capable of Europe flying. Indeed, they could have used some of those older aircraft on pure leisure routes that have some of the intense demand they’re seeing – more flying to Cancun than ever before, for instance – freeing up their more premium widebodies for longer routes to Europe.
After all, the supposed reason for $79 billion in U.S. government subsidies to airlines during the pandemic was to ensure they were ready to fly to the places Americans wanted to go once they were ready to do so.