Internal Memo Reveals American Airlines Dropping Four Transatlantic Cities

JonNYC posts an internal American Airlines memo from Jim Moses to Philadelphia staff about routes that the airline is cutting from their primary transatlantic gateway. American will eliminate operations to Iceland, Manchester U.K. and Prague and won’t fly to Venice in 2021 though they hope to return in 2022.

Moses is Vice President for Philadelphia, New York JFK and LaGuardia and Boston as well as premium services.

These eliminations are in addition to dropping routes like Dubrovnik, Budapest and Casablanca. American’s Eastern Europe flights were supported by the seasonal summer river cruise market, which isn’t likely to recover for summer 2021. And Casablanca was a new flight intended to be operated by the since-retired Boeing 757 connecting to new oneworld carrier Royal Air Maroc’s hub.

Manchester was once a strong performer for US Airways. However it’s a market perhaps best served by a Boeing 757, which American has retired. We may see it served again once the airline receives the Airbus A321XLR. Or perhaps it will be ceded entirely to Aer Lingus to operate.

American had offered year-round Iceland service from Philadelphia after dropping Dallas service, once competitors stopped flying from Dallas. The DFW-Reykjavik market was left to American alone, after two other airlines left, but American dropped it too. They never wanted to fly to Iceland from Dallas, but operated from there for classic anti-competitive reasons. As American’s CEO Doug Parker explained,

Somebody starts flying a flight from Dallas to anywhere and American either is already there or we’re gonna be there. Because we’re not going to let customers have another option other than American in and out of here.

There’s very little transatlantic demand with travel bans on Europeans coming to the U.S. (from the U.K. and Schengen countries) still in place; with bans on Americans visiting most of Europe as well as testing requirements; with non-existent business travel; and with the pandemic raging. International leisure travel is generally booked far in advance and the current uncertainty means it’s unclear what demand will look like in summer, which is peak travel for transatlantic operations.

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. This is a big loss for Iceland. I suspect their tourist season in 2021 is going to be real bad. Also, this is a big blow to Manchester’s attempts to become the second city of the UK. Maybe Virgin Atlantic can capitalize on this.

  2. “ Manchester was once a strong performer for US Airways. However it’s a market perhaps best served by a Boeing 757, which American has retired…”

    Seasonally, US easily filled their A330-300s on the PHL-MAN, but as AA, they got lazy and MAN faded. MAN was also, I seem to recall, AA’s first transatlantic MD-11 route from ORD.
    The halcyon days of double daily MAN to ORD, daily to DFW, daily JFK are long gone.

  3. We have reservation in Sept. 2021 PHL to VCE.
    Just called AA and reservations has not yet gotten the memo you posted.
    We don’t want to fly thru London and pay outrageous landing fees.
    Only other choice will be Iberia thru Chicago.
    I can wait until I get notification from AA and let them figure out something else or be proactive on my own and fly somewhere else in Europe and then fly to Venice or go with a different carrier. Dang…

  4. I can see AA eventually moving their trans Atlantic gateway to Boston and use JetBlue for their feeder traffic.

  5. @Nick – why do that when they already have PHL where AA can feed their own flights? A partnership strategy erodes revenue because AA will need to share revenue with the partner airline for the partner segment of the itinerary. It may work for a few select routes, but to build an overall TATL gateway using a partnership approach is not a good long term alternative.

  6. @CJ there are fees/taxes the UK government levies on trips to/from London but transit trips are exempted. What you will be charged is the “fuel surcharge” part of the airline fare on a British Airways award. The reason for this is BA charges this on its own awards through Avios so AA charges it so folks don’t just accrue miles on AA and then burn them on BA.

  7. @CJ
    AA won’t charge you extra fees if they rebook you via LHR.

    Apart from the weird seasonal destinations, AA doesn’t really have a Europe strategy from PHL anymore. Apart from AMS, DUB and CDG there are barely any year round services left other than two OW hubs.

  8. Booked a European River cruise for summer 2021 along with ~10 people in my family.
    That boat, plus a bunch of others around it, are sold out.

    I doubt anyone will be talking about Covid in a few months.
    I don’t know anyone who is holding off on vacations for summer 2021 because of it, that’s for sure.

  9. Thanks to Gary for posting AA internal memo – I proactively changed our mileage ticket to VCE from DFW and we will be “in transit” at LHR and as other posters wrote no huge fees for “in transit”. I was concerned about waiting for AA to rebook me so right now still have mileage ticket from PHL to VCE and now DFW to LHR to VCE. (Wonder how long it will take AA to notify passengers…)

  10. I just changed PRG/PHL/PHX/RNO to PRG/LHR/SEA/RNO and they would NOT waive the additional $40/pp in BA fuel surcharges and no BA seat assignments without additional fees.
    I HATE BA but AA has no alternatives from Central Europe to the west coast.
    At least I’m now down to my last 200k in AA miles and 0 BA miles before I never flying either again.
    The AA agent had no idea that the PRG/PHL route had been canceled. It shows availability today on the AA website but not in the agents system- typical AA selling flights that do not exist. Hopefully AA will still exist when we fly the buggers home.

  11. Forgot to mention:
    THANK YOU Gary for the heads up.
    When AA did this a year ago they just canceled PRG to PHL and never even notified us.

  12. Thanks to Gary for posting AA internal memo – I proactively changed our mileage ticket to VCE from DFW and we will be “in transit” at LHR and as other posters wrote no huge fees for “in transit”. I was concerned about waiting for AA to rebook me so right now I still have mileage ticket from PHL to VCE and now DFW to LHR to VCE. (Wonder how long it will take AA to notify passengers…)

  13. I really feel bad for anyone trying to plan transatlantic service for next year. Demand will likely be really bad this winter. But by spring, possibly late spring, there could be an enormous rebound. Estimates are that the USA could reach “herd immunity” though infection and vaccine by the end of March. Once we get to herd immunity, and people feel safe because they PERSONALLY have been immunized, pent up demand could swamp the transatlantic market. But, of course, something else we’re not expecting could also go wrong! Tough game here.

  14. I scanned the list of the 12 European cities that will be relaunched from PHL and was surprised not to see BRU, FRA, and MUC. How can PHL be a European gateway without those three cities?

  15. @Charlie

    FRA is simply a transfer hub, none actually goes to the town of Frankfurt unless you work in the banking industry. AA has no partner airlines, so flying into *A hubs from multiple US cities is not profitable and DFW gets most of these flights. PHL has lost much of its European gateway glory it once had and high labor costs compared to CLT heavily added to this in recent years.

    @paul
    The agent who charged you extra fees was wrong. I went through the same scenario recently where my AA flight was changed to BA, back to AA and back to BA. No extra fees are collected.

  16. These seasonal destination drops align with the comments Vasu Raja (chief revenue officer at AA) made last month when discussing the deployment of aircraft internationally post covid – “is deploying them in a way we can generate year round revenues and we anticipate a lot of things both in how we connect in our partner hubs in Heathrow, Madrid…”

  17. Doesn’t seem to me that AA is placing much value on connecting to their Iberia partner hub in Madrid lately or into the near future.

  18. Just checked my AA app and my leg from Phil to Venice is gone,. Hope they email me soon with some information.

  19. I called AA yesterday. I told agent on phone I had been proactive and did another routing. She asked if I wanted her to just put the miles from PHL to VCE back in to Aadvantage account… (And AA has no charge to put them back.) BTW, there are new/additional mileage ticket routes with Iberia and BA showing on going from US cities to VCE.

  20. Our flights, with miles, are in June from PHX via PHL to VCE. They have apparently canceled the Venice segments, though I’ve not received any notice!

    Are the Iberia and BA tix visible on AA.com?

    Thanks!

  21. @Peggy.Bendel – and others – yes you can see Iberia and BA options using miles. And we never received email or alert from AA. Just on reservation page that flight from PHL to VCE no longer showed up. Sadly American cust service is a relic of the past.

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