- American Airlines announced major changes to its international strategy on Wednesday.
- Among other changes, the airline will cancel 19 routes, scale down its international operation from its Los Angeles hub, and double down on alliances with other airlines based in Seattle and London.
- The airline will also slow down the return of some routes, waiting until summer 2021 as demand remains low due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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American Airlines announced big updates to its long-haul international network on Wednesday, reflecting the rapidly changing business environment during the coronavirus pandemic – and previewing the effects it will have for years to come.
“COVID-19 has forced us to reevaluate our network,” Vasu Raja, American’s head of route and network planning, said in a press release. “American will have a significantly smaller international network in the year ahead, but we are using this opportunity to hit reset and create a network using the strength of our strategic hubs that we can build and grow upon and be profitable on in this new environment.”
The changes, which last through 2021, come as international travel demand remains low and travel restrictions remain in place around much of the world.
Even as countries and travellers adjust to life during the pandemic, American does not expect international travel to fully return for at least a few years. The airline said its long-haul capacity in summer 2021 – normally a peak travel period – will be 25% lower than in 2019. This July, it’s down 80% from last year.
Here are the biggest changes American is making.
19 international routes are gone for good
As part of the reconfiguration, American announced that it would cut 19 international routes – permanently.
The full list of cut routes is below:
Origin Destination Charlotte-Douglas Barcelona Charlotte-Douglas Rome Charlotte-Douglas Paris Dallas-Fort Worth Munich Los Angeles Hong Kong Los Angeles Buenos Aires Los Angeles Sao Paolo Los Angeles Beijing Los Angeles Shanghai Miami Brasilia Miami Milan Chicago Budapest Chicago Krakow Chicago Prague Chicago Venice Philadelphia Berlin Philadelphia Budapest Philadelphia Casablanca Philadelphia Dubrovnik Some of the routes – including flights from Chicago to Budapest, Hungary, Krakow, Poland, and Prague, Czech Republic – had been announced put on sale, but were not scheduled to begin until later this year.
Another – Philadelphia to Casablanca, Morocco – would have been American’s long-awaited first direct service to the African continent. The airline planned to gain a foothold in the Africa market by partnering with Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc airline to codeshare on onward flights from Casablanca.
The route between Los Angeles and Shanghai, China – one of five Los Angeles routes to be cut – will only be cancelled if regulators approve the airline’s plans to fly to Shanghai from Seattle instead.
“American has spent the past few years right-sizing its international network, discontinuing underperforming routes while adding leisure destinations like Dubrovnik and Prague,” Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning, said in the release. “Now, as demand has significantly diminished due to COVID-19, we have to be nimble, creating the network that our customers desire.”
Pulling back from Los Angeles
Although Los Angeles International Airport has served as American’s trans-Pacific gateway for years, the airline is set to all but abandon it for that purpose.
All but four international destinations will be scrapped from Los Angeles. Sydney, Australia, and Tokyo’s Haneda airport in Japan will remain as will a seasonal flight to Auckland, New Zealand. American will also fly from Los Angeles to London Heathrow.
The airline planes to continue using Los Angeles as a domestic hub, instead, Znotins told The Points Guy in an interview.
A focus on partner hubs in Seattle and London
In 2019, American was gearing up for big things. The airline had announced five major new international routes out of its smaller domestic hubs, taking advantage of demand for routes with no international connections, and expanding its reach throughout the US and globally.
But that was when times were good.
As demand stays low and the airline is left cutting costs while trying to reorient around demand, capacity, and expenses, American is preparing to retract and consolidate, taking advantage of partnerships.
Earlier this year, American announced a new partnership and alliance agreement with Alaska Airlines, as well as plans to grow its international routes out of Seattle. The idea was that American and Alaska could codeshare on some flights, so that Alaska’s strong domestic presence in Seattle could feed into American’s international flights.
At the time, American also announced two new international destinations from Seattle: Bangalore, India, and London Heathrow. On Wednesday, it announced a third, pending government approval: Shanghai.
Additionally, the airline said it plans to focus on restoring its service to London from each of its hubs before focusing on other destinations in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East. From there, passengers can connect onwards on partner British Airways. American expects to be flying its full schedule to London Heathrow by summer 2021.
“For American, every new partnership means future growth opportunities for our airline,” Raja said in the press release. “We’re going to rely on our hubs’ greatest strengths with our existing international network, and further integrate into our partners’ hubs to provide connectivity that’s been untapped in the past.”
A postponed return for international destinations
International flights form other American hubs will return between winter 2020 and summer 2021, the airline said. The full list of scheduled returns is below:
Origin Destination Schedule change Charlotte-Douglas Frankfurt Service resumes summer 2021 Charlotte-Douglas London Service resumes winter 2020 Charlotte-Douglas Munich Service resumes winter 2020 Chicago Barcelona Service resumes summer 2021 Chicago Dublin Service resumes summer 2021 Chicago Paris Service resumes summer 2021 Dallas-Fort Worth Beijing Service resumes summer 2021 Dallas-Fort Worth Buenos Aires Service resumes winter 2020 Dallas-Fort Worth Lima Service resumes winter 2020 Dallas-Fort Worth Sao Paulo Service resumes winter 2020 Dallas-Fort Worth Rome Service resumes summer 2021 Dallas-Fort Worth Santiago Service resumes summer 2021 Dallas-Fort Worth Tel Aviv Service launches winter 2021 Los Angeles Auckland Service launches winter 2021 Los Angeles London Heathrow Service resumes winter 2020 Los Angeles Sydney Service resumes summer 2021 New York-JFK Paris Service resumes winter 2020 New York-JFK Barcelona Service resumes summer 2021 New York-JFK Buenos Aires Service resumes winter 2020 New York-JFK Rio de Janeiro Service resumes winter 2021 New York-JFK Sao Paulo Service resumes winter 2020 New York-JFK Madrid Service resumes summer 2021 New York-JFK Milan Service resumes summer 2021 Miami Paris Service resumes summer 2021 Miami Rio de Janeiro Service resumes winter 2020 Miami Sao Paulo Service resumes Aug. 6, 2020 Miami Madrid Service resumes summer 2021 Miami Santiago Service resumes Aug. 5, 2020 Philadelphia Amsterdam Service resumes winter 2020 Philadelphia Dublin Service resumes winter 2020 Philadelphia London Heathrow Service resumes winter 2020 Philadelphia Manchester Service resumes summer 2021 Philadelphia Madrid Service resumes winter 2020 Philadelphia Paris Service resumes summer 2021 Philadelphia Rome Service resumes summer 2021 Philadelphia Zurich Service resumes summer 2021 Phoenix London Heathrow Service resumes winter 2020 Raleigh London Heathrow Service resumes winter 2020 Seattle Bangalore Service launches winter 2021 Seattle London Heathrow Service launches summer 2021 Seattle Shanghai New service subject to government approval
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