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American Airlines says keeping first-class product is key to London plans

Sept. 05, 2019
3 min read
American Airlines says keeping first-class product is key to London plans
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Despite United dropping its long-haul first-class product and Delta standing firm with business class, American Airlines has no immediate plans walk away from its international first-class offering. Speaking with TPG at the World Aviation Festival in London this week, American pointed to its London (LHR) services as a key reason behind retaining its most premium product, which it only offers on its limited fleet of long-haul Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and — for domestic cross-country routes — on its Airbus A321T aircraft.

"There's plenty of demand for a proper first-class product to and from London. Passengers are willing to pay for it, so we'll keep offering it," said Tom Lattig, AA's managing director of sales across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Despite heavy investments in its long-haul business-class seats, AA's first-class product is an older-generation product that has changed little in the past decade.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER first class. (Photo by the airline)

Heathrow is an interesting conundrum for the airline. It is one of its most important and profitable foreign destinations. Lattig even went so far as to call it "an AA hub," a reference to Heathrow's standing as the biggest base for partner British Airways. Still, slot constraints mean growth at LHR is difficult, despite demand. Along with several Oneworld partners including — British Airways and Iberia — American operates a comprehensive joint venture (JV) on routes between the US and Europe. From London, British Airways has substantial frequencies between London and the US, especially to New York, that operate under the JV.

American said the JV was working well but admitted it was easier for British Airways to increase its capacity from Heathrow to American hubs like New York (JFK) and Miami (MIA) than it was for American to do so with its own metal. Because of the nature of the JV, American can still sell tickets on these routes, even if they are operated by British Airways. So for now, while profitable, American is happy with its existing services to London Heathrow Terminal 3.

On the other side of the pond, American will co-locate with British Airways in New York JFK's Terminal 8 in 2022 to offer passengers a more seamless experience.

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While American does fly to a handful of other destinations within the UK, it sees the next big growth opportunity in nearby Dublin (DUB), where it hopes Aer Lingus will join its transatlantic JV as soon as possible. The airline has slowly been increasing capacity to Dublin and hopes to build another hub there to allow Aer Lingus to then connect passengers onto other destinations in Europe.

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Featured image by Getty Images