Why American Airlines Won’t Fly To Africa

At an employee “Crew News” question and answer session this week American Airlines explained why Africa flying isn’t on their radar any time soon. A recording of the discussion was reviewed by View From The Wing.

  • American Airlines doesn’t have enough widebodies for next summer because of Boeing delays in delivering 787s that the airline has ordered (and because they’ve retired their Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s during the pandemic).

  • There’s limited business travel to Africa, which makes selling flat seats in premium cabins difficult.

  • According to Brian Znotins, American’s Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning, “I’d look beyond 2022 for any type of entry into Africa for us.”

Given recent discussions about adding premium seats to widebody aircraft at American, it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see American Airlines Boeing 787s flying to Africa soon.

American had planned to enter Africa with a flight from Philadelphia to Casablanca, Morocco using a Boeing 757. That is a surprisingly short flight at around 3700 miles each way – about 150 miles further than Philadelphia – London Heathrow. American has retired its Boeing 757 fleet, so won’t be using it to connect with oneworld member Royal Air Maroc after all.

Perhaps the best bet for American’s first foray into Africa, then, might be using an Airbus A321XLR to fly to Casablanca. Those planes have a range up to 4700 nautical miles, and American has 50 firm orders that begin coming into the fleet in 2023.

When the order was placed the intention was to fly them to small cities in Europe and to close-in South America. They’ll have lie flat business class seats and premium economy as well.

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. American aggressively retired older widebody aircraft based on the poor financial performance of their international network; they said 50-60 widebody aircraft did not earn enough money pre-covid on a year round basis to justify keeping them.
    AA now has enough 787s on order to replace its 777-200ER fleet if it chooses not to grow its widebody fleet. With Asia very likely to be very small in returning to pre-covid demand, driven by very likely permanent reductions in China and HKG demand, AA likely does not need a whole lot of new aircraft.
    AA still a large 777 fleet even though both models are the least efficient in their size category flown by US airlines which will severely hurt the economics of longhaul flights operated by those aircraft.

    American’s international fleet is not likely to grow in the near term because of 787 delivery delays but the economics of its widebody fleet will be unfavorable until it at least retires its 777-200ERs.

    Finally, many African flights have very heavy baggage loads which will limit the ability of the A321XLR to serve those routes. The economics of 3 pilot narrowbody flights will be inferior to new generation medium sized widebodies such as the B787-9 and the A330-900.

  2. I guess AA never heard of oil services businesses operating all along West Africa and their policies of sending their workers in the front of the plane. AF and BA will be glad to hear that AA thinks there are no premium passengers to fly and won’t be bothering to look for them. History repeating itself for those who can remember when AA wouldn’t fly to Asia ex-Japan because nobody wanted to go there, especially China!

  3. I wonder the economics of not flying new 787-8 & -9 compared to A330-200 with youngish average of 12 years or so. Ask the economy passengers if they prefer 66% chance of 2 seat side compared to 0% chance on 787 or 777 aircraft. Relatively cheap seats retired many years too early. Parker really earned his bonus!

  4. As a person who teaches world geography at a university I find it a little funny that Morocco is seen as “Africa.” Yes it is on the continent, but culturally and physically the entire northern part of the continent fit in with what is generally called “The Middle East.” This part of the world is mostly dry and largely Muslim and it history has moved in the same general direction for centuries. If Casablanca was used as a hub for other parts of Africa that would be one thing, but just touching there is pretty marginal. You’d think AA might look at places like Nairobi, Accra or perhaps fill in the space with South African Airways in a mess, but I suppose those are good or bad business decisions.

  5. As a OneWorld loyalist but someone who travels to and works in Africa often, I’d love to see a direct flight from Dallas, Chicago, or Charlotte to Nairobi or Johannesburg. Delta flies Atlanta to Johannesburg and JFK to Dakar, and United flies direct from Newark to Johannesburg.
    Americas entry into Africa would be celebrated, but until then, I’ll have to fly BA from London to the continent.

  6. What? All those Nigerian Internet scammers don’t fly anywhere? Jaquey Pauline promised to meet me for a get acquainted lunch!

  7. Can AA find any more ways to mess up? They are the Marriot of the skies. What’s their slogan? AAAdvantage?
    Oh, no, advantaged again!
    I know, needs work…..

  8. They could pull the 332’s out of retirement in a heartbeat (decent shape, nice cabins, popular) but the continued mismanagement, short sighted profit first mentality continually finds them sitting at the gate while other airlines are in the air.

  9. Turkish airlines flies to 54 African cities with connecting flights from Istanbul , AA will not able to beat Turkish service and convenience of of a brand new airport.

  10. “That is a surprisingly short flight at around 3700 miles each way – about 150 miles further than Philadelphia – ”

    The correct word is farther, not further.

  11. The South African government IS racist and corrupt. Why any self respecting airline would fly there or any government allow South African’s state run airline enter their airspace is beyond me. SAA fired all of their pilots that were not of color, denied them their earned pensions and now realize that they can’t operate with only 88 pilots. The airline/government is begging some of the retrenched pilots to return BUT they must sign a new contract. Why would the pilots sign any contract? The government didn’t honor the last one! The pilots that were not retrenched have little or no seniority or experience to fly a complicated aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 across international borders much less than the oceans. My suggestion is to let South Africa sink into the morass that their government has created.

  12. @Win

    You’re right. South Africa was a piece of dirt for thousands of years. Dutch and English settlers arrived and built up one of the most impressive countries in the world. It was a jewel with a great economy, some of the lowest crime rates in the world, and they even did the first heart transplant. They were on the cutting edge. A group that had absolutely nothing to do with building or creating it moved in and now has power and South Africa has some of the highest violent crime rates in the world and innovates nothing. Rhodesia took farms away from White farmers and shockingly they can’t grow enough food on their own and want White farmers to come back.

    The White government who turned South Africa over to slavery in the form of black democracy are guilty of treason, dereliction of duty, and negligence for not negotiating Whites be given Cape Town (which is 50% white) and form their own independent country. Since 1994, there has been a genocide perpetrated against the White population in South Africa. This is a fact. Of course we don’t hear about it in the media or in academia. What did these White leaders expect to happen. Democracy just means your enemies telling you what to do. No, I don’t think blacks or Muslims should be telling Whites and Christians how to live.

  13. None of which changes the fact that there are people in both the US and S. Africa that want to travel, have the means to do so, and may or may not agree w/ the history or current trajectory of their country. The US and S. Africa have an agreement governing how airlines are allowed to serve those travelers, just as exists between the countries that have air service to/from the USA.

    If American wants to serve S. Africa or Kenya or Zimbabwe and economically can justify doing so, they are free to enter the market pending approvals from the US and the other country.

  14. @Jackson Waterson
    What are you crying about? You have nothing to do with it, You don’t have to travel
    there, now do you? God, man your racism is really getting old,

  15. Why is it that no country on this planet would mention racism in the comments section? Racism is always brought up. Let’s forget about racism and move ahead with kindness and RESPECT all of Humanity. Bring ALL love and peace into the planet and allow the world to absorb peace and kindness.

  16. Passengers who would have flown this route have been spared. The B757’s being flown on the overseas routes are sorry old USAir relics that are an embarassment.

  17. Why American Airlines Won’t Fly To Africa? There’s limited business travel to Africa, which makes selling flat seats in premium cabins difficult.

    Uhm I think Qatar Airways, Emirates, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United and Delta all beg to differ. Just these airlines offer over 150 flights a week to South Africa alone and I’m not even able to find 2 business class seats to the US for early next year, everything is sold out!!

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