American Airlines plans GOL partnership, new Miami flights in battle for South America

Feb 4, 2020

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American Airlines is not taking the loss of long-standing partner LATAM Airlines to Delta Air Lines lightly, announcing a new partnership with Brazilian carrier GOL and adding flights in Miami to maintain its leading position to South America.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier’s new codeshare partnership with GOL will cover 20 destinations not served by American in South America once they receive regulatory approval, which is expected in the next few months, American said Tuesday. The airlines plan to expand the partnership to additional destinations in the future.

American frequent flier mileage accrual and redemption on GOL-operated flights is not expected until mid-2020.

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In addition to the new codeshare, American will add a second daily seasonal flight between Miami (MIA) and Rio De Janeiro’s Galeao (GIG) airport from Jan. 7, 2021, to March 28, 2021. The service will be flown with a Boeing 787-8.

Vasu Raja, senior vice president of network strategy at American, told TPG that the new GOL tie-up adds connectivity and a “better value proposition” than its past partnership for the airline’s customers in Brazil. That value proposition comes from the additional travel options offered by GOL, like the ability to connect passengers into the country over multiple points, including Brasilia (BSB), Rio and São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU), he said.

GOL is Brazil’s largest carrier, operating more than 35% of all the seats in the domestic market last year, according to Cirium schedules. LATAM, American’s former partner, was second with 32% of seats.

American and LATAM ended their codeshare partnership on Jan. 31, and will sever all remaining frequent-flyer and lounge ties when LATAM leaves Oneworld on May 1.

Related: American bolsters capacity on key LATAM routes

LATAM has left American for the arms of Delta. The pivot has been in the works since September but began to take physical shape over the weekend when the Chilean carrier moved to Terminal 4 at New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), Delta’s home at the airport, from American’s Terminal 8.

Delta and LATAM plan to launch their first codeshares in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru this quarter. Tie-ups in Brazil and Chile are expected later in 2020. An immunized joint venture that will allow the airlines to act as essentially one between the U.S. and select South American countries is in the works.

As part of the tie up, Delta is adding flights in Miami beginning in May. The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will add nonstops to Orlando (MCO), Raleigh/Durham (RDU), Salt Lake City (SLC) and Tampa (TPA).

American, which is the dominant carrier in Miami, is not sitting by idly. In addition to the new Rio flight, the carrier will add flights to Boston (BOS), Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Nashville (BNA), Orlando, Raleigh/Durham and Tampa starting June 4. All of the markets except Houston are important cities for Delta — Boston is Delta’s newest hub while Nashville is a focus city — or overlap with its new routes from Miami.

Related: Delta Air Lines begins Miami build up with 4 new routes

“We run our own race,” said Raja when asked about Delta’s expansion in South Florida. “Our true north is to be the airline of choice, not only for the Miami-based customer, but the Latin American customer who transits over Miami.”

American had already announced additional flights to LATAM’s three main hubs from Miami: Lima (LIM), Santiago, Chile (SCL) and São Paulo.

The carrier plans to grow system capacity by 4-5% year-over-year in 2020, with the final number dependent on when the Boeing 737 MAX returns to service.

Details on American’s new flights in Miami are listed below:

Boston: One new flight for eight daily, operated with a Boeing 737-800. (Competition: Delta, Frontier Airlines)

Houston Intercontinental: One new flight for six daily, operated with a 737-800. (United Airlines)

Nashville: One new flight for four daily, operated with a 737-800.

Rio de Janeiro Galeao: One new seasonal flight for two daily from Jan. 7, 2021, to March 28, 2021, operated with a 787-8.

Orlando: Five new flights for 12 daily, operated with Airbus A319s, 737-800s and Boeing 757-200s. (Delta)

Raleigh/Durham: Two new flights for five daily, operated with an A319 and 737-800. (Delta)

Tampa: Two new flights for eight daily, operated with an A319 and 737-800. (Delta)

More: The 10 longest (and 10 shortest) American Airlines flights

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Featured image by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

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