One Mile at a Time believes that the American Airlines route from New York JFK to Doha won’t survive.
- American Airlines is primarily a domestic and short haul carrier, with an international focus on London Heathrow – driving connections with their transatlantic joint venture partner British Airways. They fly to a handful of major European destinations as part of the joint venture, such as flights to Spain (Iberia is also a part of this arrangement) and to Tokyo and the South Pacific where they have joint ventures with Japan Air Lines and Qantas. They’re strong to Latin America, bolstered by partnerships with Jetsmart and Gol.
- They do very little ultra long haul flying. And Doha’s premiums cabins are consistently empty in his observation, filling up only at the last minute (presumably with nonrevenue employees and upgrades). And they can’t be making money off of just a full coach cabin with their costs.
As a result, he says “my money is on this route being cut before the end of 2023.”
I’m going to push back and take the under here.
- American has invested in the Qatar Airways partnership announced just before the pandemic shut down air travel, including bilateral benefits that go beyond what’s part of the oneworld alliance (though American doesn’t consider Qatar a ‘seamless partner’). They may even have an agreement that commits to the flight for a certain period of time?
- They can’t cut New York JFK capacity or else they lose slots under the Northeast Alliance agreement with DOT. They’re already cutting some flights due to air traffic staffing issues (NY TRACON is ~ 53%) and the resulting slot use waiver from FAA. So that Boeing 777-300ER needs to operate from New York.
Maybe they could lose less money putting it on another route, but they do need to fly the seats. And the agreement with DOT specifies that any flying on a route covered by a joint venture must be incremental for the JV as a whole – so they can’t just borrow a Heathrow slot from BA, or fly a bigger aircraft on a route while BA flies a smaller one.
- Plus they’ll finally be getting more Boeing 787s which will need to go somewhere. Incremental planes mean more flying – flights that do not make American’s current cut.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha – Worth A Visit, But Would You Fly American Over Qatar Airways?
What are reasons you might consider flying American Airlines to Doha instead of Qatar Airways, which offers a generally better inflight product?
- You want to fly premium economy, which Qatar doesn’t offer
- You’re trying to upgrade with AAdvantage miles or systemwide upgrades
- Award redemption when no saver seats are available on Qatar and the premium on American is modest
While American may ultimately not make Doha work, these issues could mean they commit to it longer than they otherwise would. A new international route often takes one to three years to reach its potential. This one only launched in June 2022. Sometimes airlines – including this one – let money-losing routes operate even longer. American Airlines continued to fly the money-losing US Airways Philadelphia – Tel Aviv until early 2016 – nearly 7 years without turning a profit.
There’s no question that the airline has become both more disciplined and also much more conservative in its international route planning but I’m not convinced that Doha is gone by end of year.