As Delta Makes Austin a Focus City, American Airlines Talks About Its Future There

Austin has been one of the fastest growing airports in the country in recent years. This year they increased the number of available gates at the airport by 37%. While the amount of long haul international flying is limited, there’s London service from British Airways and Norwegian and Lufthansa started flying to Frankfurt back in May.


Lufthansa in Austin

Delta has named Austin a focus city. While the largest airlines at Austin, in order, are Southwest, American, United and then Delta the addition of new gates will allow Delta to grow – and the gap between the three large U.S. legacy airlines isn’t that large to begin with.

Already this year Delta opened a gorgeous new SkyClub with outdoor deck, while American has put off renovating its own club for several years.

The American club is bursting at the seams with people – even though the entryway has been converted to seating and meeting space has been converted to seating. There’s little catering in the American lounge.

Delta’s joint venture partner KLM today announced new Austin – Amsterdam service three times a week beginning in May 2020 operated by an Airbus A330.

    Amsterdam – Austin, 12:40 pm – 4:10pm, KL667
    Austin – Amsterdam, 6:00 pm – 10:25am, KL668


Copyright: flaperval / 123RF Stock Photo

This gives all three alliances non-stop Europe flights from Austin, and depending on performance we could see the Amsterdam flight expand or a new Paris flight launch. There’s even a dark horse possibility of a Seoul flight, since Austin lacks a transpacific flight and this could pick up the bulk of Asia-bound traffic from the city which features large campuses of Dell, Apple, Google, and Facebook. Amsterdam, Paris, and Seoul are all on the list where the airport is actively open to subsidies.

At an employee Crew News gathering last week, an American Airlines flight attendant asked about the airline’s plans for Austin, noting that there was a time American wouldn’t have allowed competitors to encroach on its territory so easily. While Delta builds up in Austin, American is considering Saturday service to Cancun.

According to American’s Vice President of Planning Vasu Raja,

The largest hub carrier in Austin is American Airlines and we’re going to be the largest hub carrier in Austin for a long time to come. We will continue to grow and upgauge in Austin.

…Just as we are large in our hubs, in many spokes Austin is one, Nashville, Boston, San Antonio you name it there are lots of cities around there we actually have a big gate holding and through parts of the day though we have a gate, we have people there to work the gate, we don’t necessarily fly on the gate. And over time we realize we do have some profit opportunities, it probably won’t be necessarily flying daily trips from Austin to somewhere but we do envision a world where we do Saturday flights from Austin to Cancun and things like that.

…When we take these gates that we have and pay rent on and airplanes that we already own, and we get to Saturday people don’t necessarily want to fly from Austin to Chicago as much but they really want to fly from Austin to Cancun in the morning and we have the ability to offer that and in the next several months and years you’ll see more of that, not just in Austin but in other cities across the system.


Austin Bergstrom International Airport

He also says they won’t fly from cities like Austin to European cities outside of partner hubs. It’s possible they could fly from a spoke city to London Heathrow as though they do with Raleigh Durham but it won’t be to cities like Frankfurt or Paris.

Austin is, however, under consideration as one of a couple of places “that may make sense” to become a satellite base for flight attendants, according to Jill Surdek American’s Vice President of Flight Service.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. AA seems to have limited ability to accurately forecast what the consumer wants and what will succeed from any airport, hub or not.

  2. American flies out of Boston? Doesn’t really seem so when compared to Delta and JetBlue. Not even close. But they apparently have the gates.

  3. By the time AA gets around to prioritizing Austin, Delta will have already shown their customers better customer service, seat back IFE, and on time arrivals, so it will be too lAAte.

  4. There are days where I agree with Vasu and there are days where he has me shaking my head.

    His notion about being the largest hub carrier in Austin for a long time is completely divorced from reality. AA has lost market share in many of their spokes and continues to see erosion in market share as they continue to aggressively focus their growth around their core hubs over diversifying their flying portfolio. AA’s hub growth lately is primarily driven by upgauging and centralization of flights (I.e. cuts at BOS, PHX, JFK, PIT, and PHL domestic flying). Hubs will continue to be critical for all airlines but diversification is the way forward if AA wants to continue to be the biggest and most profitable player in the US market.

  5. Gary you have rightfully pointed out the new Sky Club a number of times, but I’d like second you what a game changer it is. I am LAX based Lifetime AA Gold, and back in possession of a Platinum card. I get to Austin as much as I can. I guarantee you I won’t be flying out of AUS on anything but Delta now. That lounge is sweet, worth an hour, and has moved the needle on my market share. I actually prefer riding on an E175 over A319 or 737 as well. Huge mistake for AA not to gain some real estate for a better club. The only mistake Delta made is that the new Club will feel crowded and undersized in the not too distant future.

    Inbound flights – will remain more dependent on time and price

  6. Cancun, wow! American really thinks big. Good thing that they have such quality leadership to make such daring moves.

  7. I’m not a FF (thank goodness). I used to fly a bit between Phoenix and the east coast and would always fly AA (previously US Air and before than AWest) due to the non-stops, status, upgrades, etc.

    Due to AA’s issues I’ve tried using Delta out of Phoenix with a connection in Detroit. Delta doesn’t have a lot of flights out of PHX and they are located in a different terminal than AA but when I flew them, I realized how nice the terminal is and that they have a nice new lounge in PHX. And like steve mentioned above with regards to the lounge at AUS, my feelings are similar in PHX. Much nicer lounge/area than what I was dealing with on AA.

  8. How on earth can any reasonable person trust executives (no less!) when they speak in vague garbled generalities “and things like that?” Holy frijole, these statements/non statements make so little sense. Both the flying public and employees are supposed to depend on this? Just as bad, the ideas behind the talk (presumably, who knows) don’t mean much either — one flight a week Austin to Cancun on Saturday morning?

    ” We will continue to grow and upgauge in Austin.

    …Just as we are large in our hubs, in many spokes Austin is one, Nashville, Boston, San Antonio you name it there are lots of cities around there we actually have a big gate holding and through parts of the day though we have a gate, we have people there to work the gate, we don’t necessarily fly on the gate. And over time we realize we do have some profit opportunities, it probably won’t be necessarily flying daily trips from Austin to somewhere but we do envision a world where we do Saturday flights from Austin to Cancun and things like that.

    …When we take these gates that we have and pay rent on and airplanes that we already own, and we get to Saturday people don’t necessarily want to fly from Austin to Chicago as much but they really want to fly from Austin to Cancun in the morning and we have the ability to offer that and in the next several months and years you’ll see more of that, not just in Austin but in other cities across the system.”

  9. I’ve been in Austin for over 20 years, 15 of which was as an AA Execplat. The AA ground staff, Admirals Club staff, Gate agents, etc, have been awesome over that period. World class. There was a real commitment to loyalty, service, knowledge of your customers, etc, etc. I still say hello to these folks when I’m in the airport to this day. It so disappointing to see what a dumpster fire that the airline and loyalty program have become. I quit AA and went for loyalty free-agency a few years ago, and fly AA maybe once per year (CLT). I’ll never forget the ‘service with a scowl’ that I received when checking in with my family, for paid first class 2 years ago. There was an error with the TSAPre number and the agent clearly didn’t want to be bothered with doing a reprint of my boarding pass. Surly was an understatement that morning….yeow! Fortunately, I’ve been spared all the operational irregularities and ‘more efficient seating’ that AA have rolled out. For the folks who worked so hard to build and maintain the AA brand in Austin, it’s tough to see how the leadership destroyed the goodwill and loyalty. I know more than a few Austin Execplats who ditched AA with the ‘enhancements’ of the last few years. Even if the AA leadership is dumped, it’s going to be a long time before I would come back, if ever.

  10. I miss the days when AA was led by Crandall/Carty. AA was truly special back then. Haven’t flown American in years and have no plans to do so. Even when I redeem my AA miles for free travel I’ll want to choose a one world partner. Using Citi to extend the life of my miles.

  11. Saturday service on Austin-Cancun?

    Well that does it folks, clearly AA is has a grasp on things. That solves everything.

    Phew!

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