Leaked: New Flights and Route Strategies Coming From American Airlines

After each quarterly earnings call American Airlines leadership gathers with employees for a ‘State of the Airline’ in which Doug Parker opens with an update on the airline and then opens the floor to questions. One of the most popular subjects is route planning – where will American Airlines fly? – and so Vasu Raja, the airline’s senior vice president of network planning, fields many of the questions.

American Will Add New York – Caribbean Flights and Consider More Mexico City

With Southwest Airlines and now JetBlue pulling out of Mexico City, American is going to look at what that means for additional flying of their own. Vasu Raja explained at the employee gathering last week,

It is an opportunity for us but all those guys are pulling out because they’re all losing money at it. So the first thing for us, we’ll look at it and see how things come together in Mexico City but there could indeed be an opportunity and should that happen we’ll absolutely pursue it.

Interestingly in New York one of the things we’ve seen is not only has our international network gotten stronger but our very early morning Caribbean trips, what we call our ‘pre-0900 trips’ which get you to the islands by lunch, have also continued to get stronger. I think you can look forward to us keep growing in that market. We recently added JFK to Georgetown, Guyana there’s a few other things that we want to do that you’ll see in the months ahead.

American Says They’re the Biggest Airline in the DC Area

An employee asked about United’s growth at Washington Dulles and wondered what American would do to respond. Vasu Raja argued that American’s presence in DC is bigger than United’s.

The largest carrier in Washington DC is the one you all work for. We are the biggest carrier in Washington DC. We’re big in the preferred airport which is DCA. We operate more flights per day out of DCA than what our competitors historically operated out of Dulles. And in 2021 after many many years we’ll finish a number of construction projects and we will absolutely have the best product.

Every flight in 2021 will have a first class cabin on it. We’ll upgauge DCA significantly, small RJs to big RJs, big RJs to mainline jets, and that’s long overdue. DC is one of the biggest revenue markets in our system, one of the biggest business travel markets in our system, we’re the biggest airline there but because of the real estate situation in Reagan National we haven’t been able to truly get as big as we’d like to be. That’s around the corner, it is on us, any number of us cannot wait for that day to come and we’ll continue to be big in DC.

Just like I was American’s claim in its earnings call to offer more first class seats out of Chicago than United was suspect (data from Cranky Flier) I count ~ 280 United departures from National and Dulles airports versus 260 American departures from those two airports.

The only thing I can do to wrap my mind around the idea that American is bigger in DC than United – with all of the latter’s international flying from Dulles, as well as use of larger jets, is to call to mind one of the 2000 Presidential debates.

Expect Longer Seasons for Chicago Transatlantic Flights

While Chicago flying drops in winter American is working on extending the length of the Europe seasonal flights they operate from O’Hare. According to Raja,

Chicago has been – and we’ve said in a lot of places – it’s never been a great transpacific hub, it’s a great transatlantic hub for us. In fact next year we will be the largest transatlantic carrier in Chicago. We’ll have more transatlantic destinations [than United] and we’re looking at extending the seasons on some of those because many of them do flying seasonally. We’ve pulled a number of them forward so instead of May starts they’re March starts, We’re also looking at going and taking a number of them and having them fly through the end of the year too instead of stopping in October. before the year is out we’ll be announcing those too.

Chicago for us, especially with the combination of Chicago and Philadelphia we’re able to serve a number of points to Europe which is great for people who live in Chicago and Philadelphia but what it’s really uniquely great for is people all across the Midwest who want to go and take connections to get to those places. We offer more connecting possibilities through those two gateways to Barcelona, Rome, Athens, all of those markets and soon to be Prague and Budapest than what any of our competitors do and that’s an advantage we’re going to keep and we’ll grow.

Philadelphia Will Grow as a North-South Hub

Philadelphia is American’s transatlantic gateway. Their emphasis is connecting passengers through Philadelphia to Europe (rather than serving primarily the local Philadelphia market). Since they’re looking primarily at connections, they like the lower costs of Filthadelphia compared to the New York airports for this.

However they’re viewing an expended role for Philly, connecting passengers North-South so far to Florida. According to Raja,

The majority of our growth next year is in DFW and Charlotte but we’ll see growth across all of our hubs. Every one of our hubs is unique in their own way and we want to go and play to all of the things that make them unique.

Philadelphia does two things for us that really nothing else can do. It’s a great transatlantic gateway for us. We’re able to connect as we like to say it 95% of the country through Philadelphia at 80% of the cost of the New York area airports. So that’s a great thing for Philly, we’ll continue to do that.

The other thing we’ll do more and more of is emphasize Philly as a North-South hub. Already if you look out this winter you’ll see more flights to Florida and bigger airplanes flying to Florida as well which is another unique thing that Philadelphia can do.

Philadelphia Airport

Miami Will Get Boeing 787s

American plans to send Boeing 787s beginning late 2020, though that could slip to early 2021. Overall expect American’s growth in the North Atlantic to be around 7% in 2020, consistent with their growth in 2019.

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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  1. LOL. You can’t make up this shit.

    “… Interestingly in New York one of the things we’ve seen is not only has our international network gotten stronger…”

    Is there anyone on the BOD still breathing? Please put this sorry excuse for an airline out of its misery.

  2. Gary’s questionable math comment on DC is wrong. While UA may, indeed, have more flights out of IAD and DCA combined than American, the claim was that American has more flights out of DCA that United has out of Dulles. The significance of that may be dubious, but that was the claim.

  3. Not really sure how American can make Mexico City profitable if JetBlue and Southwest could not. Sounds like someone needs to go back to business school for Strategy 101.

  4. WN is the largest carrier in the Balt-Wash metro area so really this puts AA in third not second when it comes to number of daily seats.

    AA is not the largest TATL airline out of ORD either – they fly to equally as many unique destinations as UA however UA flies six year round destinations while AA only flies one.

  5. AA has been upgauging on PHL-MCO for several years now, especially for NJ week and in the middle of winter. I’ve actually been on A330s a couple of times on the route, and A321s are becoming more common.

  6. @Jerry Fair enough. So a corollary is that United has a stronger presence in AA’s DC hub than AA has in United’s DC hub, which isn’t crazy given that (as Raju said) DCA is the more desirable airport.

  7. “Leaked”? Smh.
    When something goes out to over 100,000 employees, it’s hardly considered “leaked” when picked up by a blogger or anyone else outside the company.
    Although there is value in sensational blog headlines.

  8. @Joe, check that business degree again. AA has been flying to Mexico City longer than Jetblue has been in business. I kinda doubt profitability is an issue. Whether or not it makes business sense to expand beyond the current frequencies and gateways, is the question. And actually, the Admirals Club at MEX has way better food offerings than you’ll find at any Admirals Club here in the States.

  9. @Joe – also, to be able to sell to Mexican customers, you need to be able to sell to them. Mexico City is a different market than Cancun and other Mexican beach markets because the majority of the people on flights to and from Mexico City are Mexicans, not Americans. American has a very deeply developed sales network in Mexico – it has city ticket offices and well-developed relationships with travel agents – which is where Mexicans buy their tickets. Meanwhile, Southwest’s web site couldn’t accept pesos. Mexicans are not use to buying tickets through web sites, which is all southwest and JetBlue had. They were doomed to failure. and that’s what happened.

  10. “…they like the lower costs of Filthadelphia compared to the New York airports for this.”
    The Term (Filthadelphia) is at best immature and likely does little to endear your readers.

  11. You cant compare the two. AA at DCA uses a lot of regional jets while UA at IAD has a true mixture 777, 767, 757, 737, a319/a320, etc.

  12. @Amapas

    Correct. I worked for a now-defunct regional airline many moons ago, and management flat out said that the hush-hush stuff was kept in a tight-knit circle for a number of reasons, insider trading being one of them.

    They flat out said that once information was distributed company-wide, it was then considered to be in the public domain.

  13. We fly in and out of Philly all the time and have never seen conditions like those described in the link.

  14. @Joe and (Great points @Matthew), add Alaska to JetBlue and Southwest, the airlines that have pulled out of Mexico City. There is also a reservations call center, on Reforma in Mexico City. And AA codeshares with Interjet out of MEX.
    And flying business class to MEX qualifies for entry to AA Flagship Lounge in the gateways that have them. Apparently the “business sense”…makes sense.
    On another note, flying out of MEX, on the left it’s interesting to see the footprint of the massive new and modern airport project that’s now been cancelled.

  15. AA is lame now this guy were biggest here and there… who the hell cares if your biggest your airline stinks! Your a embarrassment since the merger! Philly over jfk really?? Never heard of anyone saying hey let’s go to philly… you basically handed delta New York, you gave Chicago to United.. let’s just stay in dfw where it’s safe…oh we’ll expand to Charlotte and philly cause no ones dumb enough in those markets.. Miami no ones challenged us yet but when they do we have a exit strategy…. hell surprised they haven’t made St. Louis a huge hub oh wait southwest is there now… to much competition run run run AA…need to fire all those idiots who took over! Get rid of that BOD! AA now just a sorry below average airline.. all this talk about united and delta but thinking now their competitors are spirit and frontier!

  16. @Hbtpen,

    I agree somewhat. AA’s service and perks have gone down since Parker took the company over. IIRC, one executive mentioned a few years ago that only a small % of AA travelers were responsible for the vast majority (>80%) of its profits -yet they gutted their AAdvantage Program so much that it simply doesn’t make sense (for me at least) to be loyal to them.

    They’ve cut back on destinations, as well as frequencies to places which I fly to (basically the major hubs such as JFK, ORD, etc.).

    AA is no longer the carrier which I choose to fly. For domestic, it was 95% AA and 5% AS – it’s now 75% AS and 25% AA.

    TATL, it was ONLY AA/BA now its AF as well. I still like JL however for TPAC so I do earn AA miles/status from there but if I find a price which is about 10% cheaper on a competitive carrier, I’ll choose that instead.

    Regardless, I’m almost a “2 million miler” on AA and used to fly them almost exclusively but they’ve lost the majority of my business. I’m not a lone, I know a few people who have stopped flying AA exclusively. Many on “flyertalk” share the same comments.

    I agree that AA needs to get rid of the BOD and especially Parker.

  17. I don’t really care where I connect in general. NYC, ORD, PHL all basically look the same when I’m connecting and not leaving the airport. The problem I have is the service. AA service at the gates in Philly is terrible in my experience. The other issue I have is that I will pick a warmer weather hub like DFW over ORD during the winter to avoid possible snow events but that isn’t an issue normally.

  18. I just flew into PHL from BUD- as an AA employee flying b/c- I was appalled and embarrassed at the lack of service. I found the airport not easy to navigate. Shame so many nice destinations use the PHL hub.

  19. I fly through Philly each week. I can attest that it is a dump. Dirty food courts and surly AA (Piedmont) agents on the F concourse make me want to run. Philly is the Detroit of 20 years ago. I hope/wish the City and AA would consider investing in facilities and people to make it a nicer place.

  20. @bill johnson – Perhaps a bit immature but 100% accurate. It’s sad that AA has zero focus on the customer experience or on quality.

    @golfingboy – The think the real differentiator is the number of Star Alliance partners that UA has at ORD on a year-round basis – Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, TAP, LOT, SAS. AA only has BA and IB with seasonal AY flights. Those additional partners open up tons of unique European cities and virtually all have a superior connecting experience vs LHR. I personally like IB but connecting at MAD can be a monster, especially given the poor timing of the ORD flight.

  21. According to the Dallas Business Journal, AA’s first international destination was Mexico in 1942 from NYC (and Dallas). AA, however, has not had a non-stop flight to Mexico City from JFK in years (and their merger airlines, TWA and USAir, never serviced this route). It would seem appropriate to schedule a JFK-MEX non-stop flight. AA does fly to Cancún from JFK, though, non-stop.

  22. Hey guys, It would be great if you could complete this quick American Airlines survey created on behalf of my Marketing Research class at Queens College. Thank you.

  23. @ . Mary mckenna: NY may have the largest O/D to Europe. But if you seriously think JFK is the hub to connect to Europe, either you gotta be kidding or haven’t transited through JFK! Who wants to connect between terminals at JFK which are not even connected behind security? Not to mention the delays in winter! If you would go out of your way to connect at JFK, I feel sorry for you!

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