American Airlines ends 6 LAX routes as Alaska Airlines partnership expands

Jul 27, 2020

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American Airlines will end flights between Los Angeles and six cities as it makes broad schedule cuts across its route map amid the stalled recovery in air travel.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based Oneworld alliance carrier is ending flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and Eugene (EUG), Medford (MFR) and Redmond/Bend (RDM) in Oregon; Fresno (FAT) and San Diego (SAN) in California; and Louisville, Kentucky (SDF), according to Cirium schedule data and confirmed by American spokesperson Nichelle Barrett. The route shakeup was first reported by The Cranky Flier.

American and Oneworld flyers still have options between LAX and four of the cities. Alaska Airlines serves Redmond/Bend and will add flights to Eugene, Fresno and Medford this fall. American and Alaska renewed their partnership earlier this year, and the Seattle-based carrier aims to become the alliance’s 14th member by the end of the year.

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For American, the route cuts come as it shaves 11% off its planned schedule in August. That follows a warning from management that reductions were coming amid the stalled recovery in air travel. The airline will fly roughly 40% of what it flew in August 2019.

“In the face of uncertain demand, the airline has to evolve,” Vasu Raja, chief revenue officer at American, said during a quarterly earnings call on July 23. The airline plans to maintain connectivity over its largest hubs in Charlotte (CLT) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) but will make “a lot of other adjustment” at its other hubs that depend more on nearly non-existent business travelers.

U.S. airlines have seen the return of travelers during the coronavirus pandemic stall. Data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows net booked passengers — new reservations minus cancellations — plateaued down around 80% since the end of June.

Related: American Airlines has flown more than its competitors during the pandemic, and it’s paying off

In addition to American, carriers including Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines are all pruning their planned schedules for August and through the fall.

American is ramping up its partnership with Alaska on the West Coast. The airlines are expanding codeshare flights from Los Angeles and Seattle (SEA), with American due to add new nonstop flights between Seattle and Bangalore, India (BLR), London Heathrow (LHR) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) in 2021. In addition, Alaska and American flyers receive reciprocal frequent flyer benefits on each airline’s flights, and American AAdvantage members can earn elite status credit on Alaska flights.

American is evaluating future codeshare markets with Alaska, said Barrett. This could include flights between LAX and Eugene, Fresno, Medford and Redmond/Bend.

Related: Alaska Airlines invited to be the next Oneworld alliance member

However, American frequent flyers will be able to receive miles and elite credits on all Alaska flights once the latter airline is officially part of Oneworld. That process is due for completion by year-end or, at the latest, the first three months of 2021.

The route changes planned by American at fit with the strategy outlined by Raja and other executives since the pandemic began. While none have spoken specifically to Los Angeles, they have focused on strengthening American’s competitive edge by flying more mainline jets on profitable longer-haul routes while dropping less competitive services. This will entail some “slot moves” with American’s new partner JetBlue Airways at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA) airports.

LAX is not slot-constrained as the New York-area airports are. But it does have limited gate space and abundant competition across the U.S.’s five — soon six — largest airlines.

American continues to serve all six cities that it is dropping from Los Angeles via other hubs. It flies to Fresno, Louisville and San Diego from multiple other hubs, and Eugene, Medford and Redmond/Bend from its Phoenix (PHX) hub, Cirium shows.

Related: American Airlines, JetBlue plan ‘slot moves’ at New York JFK and LaGuardia

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