Legacy US Airways Planes are Starting to Fly Cross-Country for American. And That’s Bad for Passengers.

American’s Washington Dulles – Los Angeles flights have moved from being operated by American Airlines 737s to legacy US Airways A319s.

“I’d love a cross country flight to be operated by a US Airways aircraft,” said no frequent flyer ever.

  • The US Airways Airbus A319s have four fewer first class seats than the American Boeing 737s.

  • If you don’t clear your upgrade, there’s no “Main Cabin Extra” extra legroom seats in economy.

  • That may be a good thing — if you had extra legroom you could open your laptop and work. But the Westbound flights are scheduled at 5 hours and 45 minutes. And there’s no power ports at the seats.

Here’s the schedule showing Airbus A319s now.

The first class seat map for the morning flight 30 days out from when I searched shows only 3 first class seats available already.

American’s leadership believes that the airline has had too large aircraft on many routes, and that US Airways planes are a better fit. That’s fair, if they’re right they can make more money moving planes around their system. But part of integrating the airline means offering a consistent product so that customers don’t need to engage in the increasingly difficult task of trying to avoid Legacy US Airways routes. They need to put in power and main cabin extra right away.

I was surprised to see back in February a Dallas – Colorado Springs flight operated by a US Airways Express aircraft, rather than an American Eagle plane (operated by ‘Envoy Air’). That was a traditionally American route, operated from American’s main hub. But they had begun ‘cross fleeting’, having US Airways and even US Airways Express operate some traditionally American Airlines routes.

While the airlines remained separate that was extremely frustrating as it often meant having more than one airline (American and US Airways) on the same reservation, difficult for upgrades, and it meant where you had American and US Airways planes operating the same route during the day that you couldn’t make same day voluntary changes between them. At least that problem solves as US Airways transitions into the American reservation system.

By next Saturday night we may start to see ‘drain down’ of the US Airways schedule — US Airways flights 3 months in the future moved over into the American Airlines reservation system and listed only as American flights.

And that’ll mean customers buying American flights going forward regardless of whether they’re flying on Legacy US Airways equipment operated by US Airways crew.

That will make it harder to tell, until you get to a seat map, whether or not your selecting an aircraft with main cabin extra.

But cross-fleeting makes it harder even now. The mere listing of an Airbus A319, for instance, doesn’t mean you’re flying a US Airways plane with inferior passenger experience. You could be flying an American A319.

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. Any inside info yet on what the schedule “drain down” might mean for people who still have Barclay’s US Airways Mastercard companion certificates?

  2. Or what the “drain down” will mean for redeeming VDB vouchers issued by US.

  3. To be fair, legacy US Air planes were already flying transcon as part of US Airways. The same number of crappy planes still exist, and are even slowly decreasing.

  4. I booked BOS-STT in March. Half was on AA the other half US. Was able to select seats on AA but the return was on US. Had to wait to select seats with a different reservation number etc. Funny thing was the entire trip says its on US. This is just insane.

  5. Yikes! Main Cabin Extra has always been my fall back when an upgrade doesn’t clear, would hate to subjected to regular economy.

  6. HPdbaAA. This feels like when all the PMUA people got introduced to an airline that knows how to make money.

    Sorry but IAD-DCA is not a core route – it should get the least desirable aircraft.

    But UNITED is ready and waiting as the only airline adding wide body capacity to domestic routes.

    Funny that AA/US saw their on time rating collapse from near 80% in May to near 70% in June. Yet all the attention is on UNITED for a similar drop.

    You all are in for a fun ride – EXPs are over-entitled and Parker knows it.

  7. This is the free market in action. AA is substituting in a “lower” caliber product because that’s all the market will bear.

    I hope this isn’t one of those cases of “I think the US/AA merger is going fairly smoothly, and the leadership is making many positive moves (in terms of profit, customer sat, etc.) except this specific move affects *me* negatively so I now publicly dislike it.”

  8. Ok despite not being an Aviation guy who knows nothing of one bird from the next other than where’s my seat, you’ve drawn me into this even though I must say my interest is waning.

    I guess the question would be this if anyone knew the answer.

    How many aircraft does US still have under lease which are operational?
    How many aircraft under leave ( or purchase who cares) does American have that are operational?

    When are these aircraft slated to be phased out? For instance, what’s the typical shelf life of one of these things?

    To me upgrades are great and everybody would like to have them everytime but safety and getting their ontime are #1 and #2. And this entire slant for the past couple decades is dead… this whole idea that the New York to Los Angeles flier dictates the behavior of the entire airline industry.

    So not knowing the actual answers to my above questions, I can not rationally decide whether to accept the opinions expressed as accurate.

    Yes someone who has spent a longtime commuting from Right coast to left coast with their employer flipping the bill and who is mileage rich might be upset. But what about the other folks.

    Legacy airlines can’t operate if their only concern is their legacy.

  9. I flew SFO-JFK on a narrow body a couple of weeks ago — first time in a plane that tight. Sorry, that’s misery, even in what they call MCE, even with power ports and seat-back entertainment. And the fare was no bargain. Time to look at Jet Blue and Virgin America…

  10. Don’t know what we’ll EVER do without you Susan. And seeing as United has pulled out of JFK and most of you won’t even get a ride to EWR. I think United feels exactly the same way.

    “Don’t know how we’ll EVER survive without Susan” .

    Have a great weekend.

  11. I don’t mind the A319’s from US but it’s only because I find myself flying short haul’ish routes in the Midwest or East mostly and the alternative is the smaller regional jets. While Republic Air crews are typically very good the planes are tiny so an A319 is an improvement. On the longer hauls I usually end up on the MadDog 80 or 81’s which are nice but so old I’m afraid we won’t get there. It’s like a ride in your Grandmothers 1981 Buick. It’s plush, takes 8-tracks and drinks gas but you never know when it will die on the side of the road.
    Surely AA will move to the newer AA 319’s in the long run. Don’t they keep telling us how they are getting a new plane a day or week or whatever.

  12. Follow up thoughts.Sorry I was just wondering after my last comment. You know how mattresses get heavier with age because of all the dead skin and whatever. I wonder if old planes do the same?

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