Looks Like American Airlines Plans To Fly Seattle – Shanghai

Just as the pandemic was getting started, Alaska Airlines announced plans to partner closely with American and join the oneworld alliance. American, for its part, would focus West Coast international long haul flying from Seattle.

  • They announced plans for Seattle to London and Bangalore
  • And later that they intended to fly Seattle to Shanghai

Ultimately American Airlines planned to make Seattle their Asia gateway. As Vice President of Network Planning Brian Znotins told a meeting of the airline’s employees in December,

[I]f we can take some of the airplanes that we do want to fly to China and fly out of Seattle instead where we have less of an oversupply situation, a great partnership with Alaska who can help feed those airplanes not just from connections but from the local traffic the Microsofts, and the Amazons of the world who need to go to China, we can build up a bit of an Asian connecting operation.

They had pushed back Seattle to Shanghai to summer 2023 but then pushed it off indefinitely. It is not currently scheduled at all.

With continued limits of flights between the U.S. and China, imposed by each side’s governments, and with continued tense relations between the two countries, travel has not returned to U.S. – China routes and whether American would ever launch Seattle – Shanghai has been a question mark, at best.

However it appears that American’s Seattle partner Alaska thinks that the flight will happen because they have filed with the Department of Transportation for continued permission to codeshare on it.

American isn’t even flying Seattle – London this winter. They aren’t operating long haul at all from Seattle come winter. Seattle – Bangalore never happened. Since they announced the flight both United and Air India started flying non-stop to Bangalore from San Francisco (where more of the lucrative originating passengers are). So it’s been a question mark whether Seattle would actually be a long haul city for American at all – whether their ‘L.A. replacement’ wasn’t one after all, and the airline would just shrink in the Pacific.

This filing by Alaska certainly suggests Seattle – Shanghai is at least still alive, and hints by American to employees in March that they could fly Seattle to Singapore suggest that they’re still working on a strategy that could come to fruition for Seattle-based Asia flying, perhaps when the new Boeing 787-9s that American has on order begin to deliver.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Book me on the first flight !! What a great “anchor” (Seattle and Shanghai). Brilliant. Finally a smart move.

  2. If AA was smart, which we know they aren’t, they would stick to domestic as a feeder for their international partners to APA.

    Anyone in their right mind would pick CZ, JL, CX, or better yet QR coming to this region, even at the expense (time) of a connection. AA’s soft product just can’t compete with any of them and it’s never going to get better.

    The play will be: Excitement, we’re losing money, finally we’re pulling out.

  3. AA strikes me as a company that flails about with no clear strategy or vision. Routes like this are further evidence of that.

  4. American will not fly SEA to PVG.
    No US airline is flying anywhere close to the number of flights they have been authorized to fly to/from China, and American has not even been authorized to fly SEA-PVG.

    AA, DL and UA are EACH operating 4 flights to PVG each. No U.S. airlines are serving Beijing at all.

    There will be no new route awards until all U.S. airlines have the opportunity to reinstate their original schedules or the DOT disposes of the entire US-China bilateral – which DL and UA will oppose.

    As I noted in my article about American today on another site, American’s international route network has been thrown even more into chaos than it was before with the defeat of the NEA. There is decent evidence that multiple routes that AA has been flying as part of the NEA aren’t working financially.
    AA’s domestic network is working well financially along w/ their “core” international network.

    Even if they succeeded at getting a designation to fly SEA-PVG, they are no more likely to succeed at competing against DL than AA has been able to get revenue comparable with DL or UA on any route other than to/from Tokyo and London where AA has competed with DL and/or UA.

  5. this sentence “AA, DL and UA are EACH operating 4 flights to PVG each”

    should say

    “AA, DL and UA are EACH operating JUST 4 flights PER WEEK to PVG each”

    AA currently has authority to fly one daily flight on DFW-Beijing and to Shanghai
    They are operating just 4 of their 14 weekly authorized frequencies.

    They returned their LAX-PVG and LAX-PEK route authorities to the DOT before covid.

    DL is authorized to fly 2 daily flights to Beijing and 3 daily flights to Shanghai.

    UA is authorized to fly even more flights than AA or DL – and they too are stuck w/ just 4 flights/week.

    The Chinese government heavily subsidized their airlines on international routes before covid and they have no intention of doing it again.
    Relations between the US and China have deteriorated to the point that it is highly unlikely that the number of flights that are authorized will ever be flown again.

  6. And how about this just today , Woman refusing to get off phone on plane spits on passenger, slides down exit, feds say! See , you passengers are to blame for whatever happens on flight, and you want crew to Check their bags ????? Crazy and sad this Country has become, we Americans think we are entitled, but to what, when you’re doing all the damage!

  7. Lets be real here
    AA always had a terrible Asia-Pacific network that was pretty much reliant on Qantas, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific and pretty much limited to Dallas and LAX
    Even before Covid they ditched JFK-NRT/HND and ORD-NRT/PVG/PEK
    AA just cannot make it work, even in Tokyo.
    United doesn’t seem to have trouble with making Newark and Chicago have a decent Asia network while having flights to Narita/HND service from Denver and Dulles.
    Delta on on the other hand had good Asia hubs inherited from Northwest

  8. @AM: “Delta on on the other hand had good Asia hubs inherited from Northwest” – the key is ‘HAD’. And they have squandered everything – they cannot even fly their alloted HND flying after throwing tantrums during the last HND slot allotments. If anything DL’s Asia strategy is the one that has completely flopped. They have no other real option going forward other than being a KE feeder.

  9. @KM You are so correct! Northwest had the best Asia network of any US airline and DL has pissed it away over time. They dismantled their NRT hub, which was quite impressive under Northwest. All in favor of a grand plan (well, it sounds grand in the boardroom) of depending on KAL and ICN for Asian connectivity. Of course, this forgets that US-Korea demand has always been a fraction of US-Japan demand….and that Japan is (geographically) a perfect place for an Asian hub for a North American-based airline. Northwest understood this 70 years ago. Delta never got it.

    United, has been mediocre on this point as well, choosing to chase the short skirt of HND – but still hanging on to some connectivity though NRT. I remember flying from the US to Tokyo in 2000 and all travel was via NRT and Northwest was the big boy with UA being second (I actually took UA and got better service than my colleagues got on Northwest). My how times have changed.

  10. uh oh… Ghost is upset to hear that AA isn’t going to be able to add any more routes to China including SEA-PVG.
    As for those that comment that DL pissed away NW’s NRT hub, the simple answer is that hub did not make money because it was built on using the same aircraft – heavily inefficient 747s – to fly across the Pacific and then beyond Tokyo, resulting in deeply discounted intra-Asian fares.
    The Japanese carriers didn’t like the downward pressure on fares or having a US carrier as the largest transpacific carrier at Narita.
    When the Japanese government rightly decided that it made no sense to try to keep longhaul international traffic at NRT with HND serving as a regional international and domestic airport, the fare of DL’s NRT hub was sealed.
    DL now has more access to HND than any foreign carrier and will win the gateway flexibility case which means that will become even stronger in the NE including NYC where it will become a significant challenge to UA’s monopoly position among US carriers from NYC to E. Asia when DL’s JFK to ICN is also added.
    DL was the 2nd largest carrier across the Pacific before covid and KE was 3rd. UA was simply much larger – but also lost money in order to get to that size. The pandemic has been a blessing to UA in allowing it to walk away (or be forced out of) a number of China and HKG routes that did not make money.
    DL has 16 new delivery A350-900s on order, all of which will be capable of starting routes as long as LAX-SIN plus the 9 ex-Latam A350s will be reconfigured to DL standard 4 class international configuration. And there are also more than one dozen A330-900s due for delivery in the same time period, giving DL more longhaul and transpacific growth capacity than any other airline. And that is before the widebody order that will add the A350-1000 and more A330-900s to Delta’s fleet, expanding Delta’s position as having the most fuel efficient US international airline.
    Delta’s decision to ground the 777s during the pandemic cost it a couple years of growth but the chances are very high that Delta will match if not overtake United as the largest transpacific carrier as the Korean JV is developed, DL adds new routes, and as many of the China and HKG routes that helped UA get to the #1 size will no longer be available to operate.

    None of which changes that AA walked away from LAX to Asia except for Tokyo, hoped to build Seattle to Asia but simply will not succeed at gaining access and its best bet for growing its transpacific network comes by switching one of its 2 LAX-HND flights to another gateway with Miami potentially seeing its first even passenger service to E. Asia.

  11. @DesertGhost

    Theodore’s comment makes absolutely no sense, but is absolutely correct because it supports DL and disparages UA and AA.

    DL was the #2 carrier by size and the most profitable carrier over the Pacific. By retiring the 777, DL has dropped both in size and profitability in the Pacific but also accross other systems. More importantly, DL gained fuel efficiency and CASM advantage, which is a more important measure of success in airlines than profit.

    DL has now replaced most of its widebodies it has retired. This is important as initiating growth mode when the market starts to stabilize or recides has more success than attempting growth during market recoveries.

    The A350-1000 which will be delivered immediately in the distant future will allow DL to serve JFK-HND. The 3 year timeframe for the HND route authority transfer is merely a suggestion to DOT. The ex-LATAM A350s have been a great combo with the high performing A350-900 power plants that DL is considering rolling out a similar configuration to future deliveries to continue serving ULH routes. DL may no longer be larger or more profitable than other transpacific carriers, but DL is certainly in the lead to win the CASM Grand Prix.

  12. Seems completely ad hoc and foolish to try and fly to PVG from SEA where AA has little infrastructure or feed – almost all of which is from Alaska – to start a new route in a marginal city shrinking in importance, when AA has an opportunity to reboot NYC-PVG in a city where it has a huge pre-existing investment, massive infrastructure and feed, and no shortage of demand independent of a few large contract customers. AA ceded NYC-PVG to UA long ago but UA let it go and hasn’t restarted it, giving AA the perfect opportunity to take market share and serve their customers here.

  13. Ummmmm….. dunn Dunn the route authorization was already transferred from LAX to SEA. Keep spouting off like you have a clue though, it’s amusing 🙂

  14. Mak,
    the point that nobody seems to get is that no airline route can exist profitably without being able to gain a significant portion of the local market.
    By taking Delta on in a route that DL currently flies and will increase as soon as the Chinese allow more flights, AA has to win not just in the local SEA-PVG market but also with the connections.
    AA has a poor history of winning in the local market on longhaul routes other than to Tokyo and London where they compete with DL and/or UA.

    And the extra flights which AS has at SEA compared to DL doesn’t necessarily translate into increased connecting traffic. There are a whole lot of markets that contribute next to nothing to transpacific travel. DL knows what markets it needs to fly in order to compete in the top international markets – which was its goal – and not to be the largest at SEA, a goal it has never expressed or has any intention of attempting.

    and to be clear from the comment above, as of December 2021, DL has replaced ALL of the widebodies it retired during the pandemic which means ALL of its current widebody deliveries are growth capacity. Considering that even the A350-900 is larger than the B777-200ER/LRs and the A330-900s seat the same number of passengers as the 777s and more than the dozen 767s that were retired, DL has more seats than it had pre-pandemic but at a much more favorable cost basis.

    specific to AA, they have the 787s on order to retire a chunk of their 777-200ERs and dramatically improve its fuel efficiency but so far have not made that move.

  15. Timmy, you seem to forget AA has a partner in PVG, China Southern. Sure, they aren’t as big as China Eastern there by any means, but they connect PVG to where nearly all the major demand is in China from PVG.
    And, the money on SEA-PVG isn’t going to be coming from the demand on the China side. That’s where the capacity dumping will come from, the high yields will come from the corporate demand on the Seattle side, and the West Coast Alliance is roughly double the size of Delta there. and AS will actively sell an AA international flight to their corporate customers. Though SEA-PVG will certainly be a brighter yield outlook for Delta than if AA starts SEA-HND at some point. AA would have, by far, the largest demand and corporate accounts on both sides of that route.

    What your mind must be like from the inside…

  16. first,
    Delta has an equity partner in China Eastern which happens to be larger in Shanghai where the flights operate while China Southern’s strength is elsewhere.
    it doesn’t matter who has partners because the Chinese gov’t has unilaterally cut the number of flights that US carriers can operate to China and the US has done the same thing to Chinese carriers.
    third, AA is not going to be awarded any new flights as long as DL and UA – as well as AA – have routes authorized but which they cannot fully operate due to Chinese restrictions.
    fourth, AA gave back its LAX to PVG and PEK route authorities instead of asking for them to be transferred to SEA.
    fifth, you don’t understand the nature of the AA-AS relationship. It is a CODESHARE relationship. AS’ capacity is NOT AA’s capacity. Did you sleep through the entire NEA implementation and now imminent dismembering?
    sixth, AA has not succeeded on ANY route to anywhere other than to Tokyo and London where it competes w/ either DL and/or UA because AA cannot win in the local market. AA filled their LAX to China flights w/ connections… getting good revenue in the local LAX market was something AA never achieved which explains why AA’s average fares far trailed DL and UA’s.

    If AA wants to fight to get into the SEA-HND market and face the VERY SAME issue of competing w/ DL and transfers one of its LAX routes to do it, go for it.
    There are multiple options that make more sense – including DFW HND#2 or the flight to East Asia that MIA has always wanted.
    AA management today is a whole lot smarter than Parker’s clones. And there is very likely to be another cleanout at Centerpork as a result of the failure of the NEA – which AA knew was at high risk but AA did it anyway.
    AA ran up billions in losses trying to be relevant across the Pacific; they know far better than you what will work and what is simply a pipe dream.
    SEA to East Asia was always a pipe dream. Covid is simply an opportunity for AA to admit it won’t work – just like all of UA’s loss making routes to China and HKG – and, at the end of the day, they will jump on the opportunity to redeploy their assets somewhere else, and if they can’t do that, they will simply park more planes.

    American will not fly Seattle to Shanghai as much as some AA execs try to cover for their strategic failures in building a network competitive with DL and across the Atlantic and Pacific.

  17. it’s like you were clicking refresh every second waiting to reply then rapidly wrote three paragraphs. You really need a life 😉 And you seem to think the China market is static in its current form forever despite AA already planning to fly SEA-PVG as recently as early 2021. As mentioned before by someone else, their route transfer from LAX to SEA was already done.

    Plus, it’s fairly obvious to anyone here that Alaska and American likely know more about DOT and future likelihood of flights to PVG than a Delta fanboy.

    An equity stake is literally nothing. It’s not a JV. It’s an equity stake. And Delta has zero power of anything to decide what happens at China Eastern. They legally can’t influence the amount of seats on China Eastern, the routes China Eastern flies, nothing. Besides, AA has an equity stake in China Southern. They don’t matter in terms of what either airline provides. Of course China Eastern is bigger in PVG than China Southern. I said that. But, China Southern covers the major business destinations from PVG for the very small amount of fliers that need to fly past the biggest business market in mainland China. But, again, like I said, the high yields won’t be coming from the China side, it’ll be from the US side where Delta is a distant second place in market share and connectivity in Seattle to AA/AS.

    And with respect. The West Coast Alliance is more than a simple codeshare. If you were half as smart as you think you are, you’d know that. AA got exactly what Delta desperately wanted from Alaska nearly a decade ago before Delta built their Seattle hub which, as you might actually know, was more than a simple codeshare. 😉

    The rest of your weird AA rant is just your usual gibberish not worth the keystrokes to respond it’s so full of inaccuracies.
    Have a great day, Tim. You’ve been ranting all over the internet about me today when it wasn’t even me typing. You need a life.

  18. you literally have no idea about anything you wrote.

    AA does not have SEA-PVG authority. The DOT is not going to award any new routes as long as authorized route holders cannot operate what they have.
    When you can tell us when

    AA has the EXACT same type of relationship with China Southern as Delta has with China Eastern except Delta had (probably doesn’t now) have a non-voting seat on the board. Your blather about what AA has with a Chinese carrier makes ZERO sense in light of the fact that AA and DL are in the exact same position – which for now means neither are operating even a small fraction of their authorized flights.

    As for the west coast alliance, it doesn’t matter one iota how large AS is. Their capacity is not AA’s. DL and UA are both much larger than AA on the west coast. AA simply buys seats on AS in a codeshare arrangement.

    and no AA didn’t get what DL wanted. AA will have precisely ZERO longhaul international destinations from Seattle. Delta has been flying multiple longhaul international flights for almost 15 years. AA has yet to sustain even ONE

  19. Go for a walk, tim

    You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about but as usual you keep spouting your ignorance. AA and AS already had a codeshare, the WCA is an incremental agreement beyond a codeshare. But sure. Keep showing your ignorance. It’s impressive how little you know about the aa/as partnership but seem to think you know it all. The WCA is literally exactly what delta demanded from Alaska nearly a decade ago.
    And of course aa has had long haul from sea, LHR and TYO routes have been part of their metal neutral JV for years. They just don’t need to reroute their own widebodies there year round to do flying their partners can easily do but it’s still aa sustaining a route long before AS was in Oneworld.
    To say NOTHING of this article or Heathrow on their own metal. Delta can’t let VS or AF/KL do all their European flying because of their pilot contract.

    Go for a walk Or have a beer. The way you get so spun up and nuts about anything about aa relating to delta is just comical. And you on that NEA thread now… turns out you’re also a legal expert on anti trust law… go for a walk

  20. When the comments section becomes a Tim Dunn blog, I have to restrain myself from unsubscribing….

  21. what you desperately want is to have the last word so your incorrect comments are not challenged.

    Regardless of the alliance relationship, the AA-AS relationship does not involve antitrust immunity, joint planning of capacity or sharing of revenue – which makes it a simple codeshare. Whether you understand what that means or not doesn’t really matter.
    AA and AS do not combine anything as is the case in a joint venture or a capacity purchase agreement such as Republic has with AA.

    AS buys seats on AA one at a time and vice versa which also means that each records the revenue on the operating carrier and codeshare revenue is recorded elsewhere on their financial statements – a concept you clearly don’t understand.

    And AA WILL NOT have any long haul international service from SEA on its own metal after this fall. What they HAD in the past is immaterial.

    What you desperately can’t accept is that AA has pissed away its presence on both the East and West coast’s largest markets and keeps coming up with harebrained ideas to try to regain it – but not one has worked yet.

    if you would like to get AA to move one of its LAX-HND flights to SEA so it can compete with DL and NH and push JL out of SEA-NRT, go for it.
    AA isn’t going to do it because they have more sense than you.

    and as much as AA execs can’t at least publicly admit that their SEA hub plans will fail as badly as JFK-DOH and the NEA, anyone with a modicum of sense knows that AA isn’t going to add any longhaul Pacific.
    They are simply trying to placate their employees that keep watching one longhaul international route after another fail and wonder what AA will have left when the music finally stops.

    The only one that needs to take a walk or get a beer is you…perhaps it will help you deal w/ the reality that AA has screwed up its international network and there isn’t anything they can do to get it back

    and yet they still manage to make more money than they have in decades. It’s pretty clear that AA wasn’t cut out to be a competitor to DL and UA in the international market.

  22. Rather than just admit he’s wrong, Tim moves the goalposts and changes what he’s said just a few paragraphs above then adds some new random crazy stuff in to make himself feel better with 8 new caveats.

    What a surprise

    I don’t know why you demand people acknowledge your fake realities.
    They’re in your own head. The weirdness you have toward aa long haul is exemplified by the absolute ridiculous of thinking delta would have any shot again aa on sea-hnd if they moved a frequency there as part of a Seattle pacific hub that is Alive and well as Asia traffic actually comes back. Even to pvg, aa would have a stronger POS and FF base from Seattle as well as a stronger relationship with AS than DL has with CZ.

    Learn something before you speak before embarrassing yourself over and over.
    You literally just wrote paragraphs saying you were wrong about your initial “wca is just a codeshare” statement and acknowledging you were wrong but can’t say it. It’s more than a codeshare and it’s exactly what delta wanted from Alaska a decade ago. Have some dignity, act like an adult instead of a petulant child, and admit when you’re wrong.

    Also, get a job and a life.

  23. The only person that needs to get a job and a life is you.

    AA won’t start a SEA-PVG flight because there is no route authority in place to do so and there won’t be because the Chinese government doesn’t want anywhere close to the number of flights between the US and Chinese that they previously agreed to.

    The DOT is NOT going to start a route case to allow AA into a route while every US carrier – including AA – is not able to fly their fully authorized number of flights to China.

    Feel free to show us where AA would do better in the SEA-PVG market than DL. You can’t and the evidence overwhelmingly says that AA has underperformed DL and UA in EVERY longhaul – and most domestic routes where AA has directly competed with DL and/or UA other than to Tokyo and London.

    Stop buying the prozac which AA mgmt is trying to push on its people as they watch AA fail in route after route around the world.

    Accept the reality that AA had all the ingredients to be a significant global competitor to DL and UA but has blown it over and over again.

    If you are lucky, AA will try for something new – like MIA-HND – and prove why it supports DL in the HND gateway flexibility case and bring a metro area unique air service that could very well work.

    As with the NEA, AA’s west coast to China presence is dead.

  24. I predict AA will fly as many flights SEA-PVG as they have/will SEA-BLR (ie, none). This route just ain’t happening. In fact, highly doubt any AA long-haul will happen ex-SEA.

    As for SFO-BLR, UA announced this pre-COVID, but has never flown it (yet!). It was announced, then delayed first due to COVID, then again due to not being able to use Russian airspace. I believe this route will happen when eventually, Russia airspace is accessibly, but that’ll be a long way away. Us West-coast to BLR flyers will have to deal with stops in SIN or Europe for now – or brave our way onto the 2x weekly AI flights (not happening for me, thank you!), with all the risk of issues while overflying Russia.

  25. thank you, emcampbe.

    More likely is that the market to BLR evaporated because it was so tech heavy and tech has been the industry that has most figured out how to survive in a virtual world and tech-heavy markets such as SJC and RDU are some of the slowest to see air travel return.
    Add in a 17+ hour flight and the economics just might not work for a route like that.

  26. Tim Dunn – while certainly the pandemic eroded some of the market, I’m not convinced this route was going to fly – pandemic or not. It’s a stretch to see that as a market that works, and with only third-party feed, makes it that much harder. In addition, AAs lack of success to the Indian market in general over the years, even from its hubs, makes it suspect that they could make a non-hub to India work.

    Despite the longer distance, SFO is a better market for BLR flights – UA has the full feed of its network, plus a lot of S. Indians in the local area/Northern CA that travel back to India every so often to compliment the tech/biz traffic. I know I’m not necessarily a random sample, but living in the Bay Area, we’ve opted to fly to S. India via SIN the last times to visit family, but would take a UA nonstop to BLR in a heartbeat when that starts running.

  27. @MaxPower, while I love a good debate, you may want to listen to Tim on this one. While I don’t know him, I spent a very long time working at AA and he’s spot on. Putting aside I came from AA, it’s fairly easy to validate what he’s saying with a few searches.

Comments are closed.