American’s Best International Routes Are Mexico, Caribbean, and South America

Throughout the Covid pandemic American Airlines has focused on connecting flights through its Charlotte and Dallas hubs. It’s pulled back in other markets, like Los Angeles which will no longer be its primary transpacific gateway and New York which was hit by the virus early and now faces travel restrictions (quarantines) for people coming from much of the country.

The airline’s Miami hub, though, represents opportunity going forward because of where they see their best opportunities internationally unfolding. Senior Vice President Vasu Raja told employees on Wednesday that “Miami is probably the most unique part of the American Airlines network, and it’s always going to be, and we’re always gonna be big there and we’ll always play to win there. Full stop.”

He explained that Miami is central to two of the three best opportunities in international flying that American Airlines has in the coming months – Caribbean and South American (with the third market being Mexico):

It’s our primary jumping off point to long haul South America. There’s two important things to know out there, that one the lifeblood of Miami is really connecting into Caribbean for us. And we’re huge, we’re gonna be huge, that’s probably going to be the first thing that recovers out of it.

Indeed right now the part of our system that sees the most bookings is Caribbean and Mexico. So Miami will play there.

And then two, probably the first thing that goes and drives the recovery international is probably less changing customer tastes and more how our competition changes..we’re flying most of the Miami – South America network starting in August and going into September. We’re doing that for two reasons.

One we’re effectively the last good long haul option going in most of South America. That’s an important thing that we provide our customers, we’re going to keep doing that.

And two that’s probably the best cargo opportunity we have in the system, because that’s a thing that we can do that no one else can do.

Avianca and LATAM are in bankruptcy, and aren’t competing with American. That won’t last forever. Ultimately more competition will exist on South America routes, so the relative strength of these markets (such as they are) may not last. Mexico and Caribbean leisure destinations aren’t only strong for American, and face significant competition. They also won’t drive the sort of yields or year-round travel to sustain the airline either.

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. When I think of Miami, I think of dirty beaches, reckless driving, dreadful food, intolerable humidity, and rampant anti-intellectualism.

  2. LATAM is flying US to South America I dont’ get where they’ve stopped competing

    UA is still active as well. DELTA is the one that’s small ball pulled out.

  3. Latin America has been AA’s best performing international routes for over a decade, so no surprise here.

  4. Im an AUS based EXP that goes to MIA all the time. Often as a destination, but I connect a lot too. To me, MIA and AA are inextricably linked. Perhaps it’s the Champagne at the E AC. Yes, I hate having 20 minutes to run from D58 to D3, but I love that hub. I get the value it provides to AA. I’d rather fly an AA centered in MIA than an AA centered in CLT.

  5. Gary

    Contrary to popular belief there is business travel between Miami and the Caribbean. After all Miami is the business capital of the entire region so it is more than just beaches.

    AA has been strong in Caribbean more than 40 years and serves more islands than any other airline

  6. @Jason – what a horrible comment on Miami. Yes there is humidity but it is a vibrant city unlike any other in America. I had the pleasure of spending 3 months there in 1990 working with Eastern Airlines (I was with Price Waterhouse management consulting) during their bankruptcy. One of the other consultants was of Cuban heritage and had moved to the Miami area in the late 50s when Castro took over. Having someone that was bilingual taking me to little Havana and other areas around town was amazing. After that I was SVP of a company with significant operations from Hialeah to Palm Beach so had many trips to South Florida. Always looked forward to those trips.

    Yes it is crowded and sometimes seems like a 3rd world city but the energy is amazing. Also, the food is incredible so not sure where you have eaten. BTW your comments could apply to other great cities like New Orleans and Houston and (except for the humidity) to NY, Chicago, LA, etc. Personally I have always enjoyed wherever I’ve traveled (and pretty much covered all the US from the largest cities to some true backwater communities) so can’t imagine someone that has such a negative attitude, especially of a city like Miami.

  7. Nice words from Vasu Raja, but let’s wait and see if American really puts this MIA plan into practice. They have focused their international activity at DFW since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, to the detriment of JFK, PHL, CLT, MIA, ORD, and LAX. DFW may be a great domestic hub, but it sure isn’t a good European gateway, or Asian gateway, or South American gateway. American and United both seem to be using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to consolidate more flights at their favorite hubs.

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