American Won’t Add Flights To Europe This Summer, Because Too Many People Want To Fly To Cancun

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.

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. The planes they have ARE flying to the places Americans want to and can go to this summer. As Znotins said, their booked levels are HIGHER than 2019 to places such as Cancun, with higher fares. That means that they’re getting full and people are paying more to go there. So American IS responding to the demand that US customers have and are allowed to go to. This is what a business does – it puts its resources where they can get the best return for their investment. This summer, American is doing that. Who are you to say what they should have done with retired airplanes? AS of now, only Italy, Greece, and Croatia are open to Americans in Europe. American is putting its planes over there in Italy and Greece, and responding to high-demand routes within North and South America. Why do you have to complain about everything?

  2. This strikes me as more of a news item than a complaint. And I concur that 757’s and 767’s would have been good to have for routes to strong leisure markets as well as controlling/managing traffic to Europe. Better to fly a 3/4 full 757 to a European destination than a 1/4 filled 777.

  3. The Euromarket is rapidly changing, day to day. Two weeks ago, US tourists couldn’t enter Lithuania, period. Last Thursday I was looking at entering: 2 negative tests and a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Now, 4 days later: proof of vax, no quarantine.

    Problem is the airlines can’t keep up with the changing entry requirements = increase in demand, on such short notice.

  4. Since data which AA supplied to the DOT even before covid, in the best of times for the airline industry, showed that AA just broke even to Europe, they will not be returning to their strategy of flying widebodies to Europe just because they have the planes to fly. They did well to the UK but got average fares well below DL and UA to most of continental Europe even while having the highest unit costs; they know they can’t repeat that strategy.
    Since the pandemic began, AA has been aggressively using widebodies in leisure markets and has gained share at the expense of UA and WN to CUN. People will fly to near international leisure markets as long as resorts include covid testing and few other longhaul options are available.

    and TLV is off the table for a while, a market where AA planned to aggressively grow despite being absent from the market for years while DL and UA remained.

  5. The breakdown of the Euro nations hard line stance on travel into their countries says they realize they missed the boat on tourism. They’ve rebuffed the airlines now for two summers so finally the airlines said “fine we’ll go where we are wanted”. Whatever. It is however funny seeing the leaders over there start to panic at the loss of two summer travel seasons though. Their citizens must be livid.

    My hunch is AA will let BA run the European op for a while until the 321’s come where they can operate on a smaller scale to (now) boutique destinations like Madrid, Rome, etc….

  6. @robert
    American trash, that is who
    The question is who wants to go to cancun at ANY time of the year
    It’s a sh….hole

  7. @Doug, your only acquaintance with Cancun must be college party hotels. There is actually quite a lot to see and do using Cancun as a base, and the beaches are terrific. Just stay away from the college party hotels.

  8. Bingo, ditto, boom.

    “American trash, that is who

    The question is who wants to go to cancun at ANY time of the year

    It’s a sh….hole”

  9. Airlines aren’t lemmings. There’s no reason to fly somewhere just because everyone else does it.

  10. I am sure AA has better data for their strategy than just your gut speculation, Gary.

  11. People like Jason make these blog comments so difficult to read. Jason acts so insulted, just go away if you don’t agree, no need to act like an a-hole

  12. “Yes, let’s take a gamble on flying to Europe when things are changing every week, instead of knowing we can fill up a 777 sending it to Cancun.”

  13. Not really – I’m just trying to inject some reality into this. Sorry that you dont like it. Having actually worked at multiple airlines in the departments that makes these type of decisions, I feel like I can actually bring some reality into these types of discussions rather than the idle speculation with no basis in reality that some of these posts use to construct their theses.

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