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American Airlines' summer schedule rebounds in some hubs, but not all

April 02, 2020
7 min read
American Airlines planes parked after coronavirus
American Airlines' summer schedule rebounds in some hubs, but not all
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American Airlines sees a glimmer of light even as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, unveiling plans to resume some suspended flights and put grounded planes back in the air this summer.

The schedule improvements begin in May with some connectivity restored at the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier's main hubs despite capacity being down as much as 90%, American said in a schedule update Thursday. More flights are restored in June, including additional domestic options and a number of suspended international routes.

“We went at it with a chainsaw when we cut down April. May is a lot more logical, consistent and connective schedule," American vice president of network planning Brian Znotins told TPG.

Travelers can see and book the new schedules beginning Sunday, April 5.

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American Airlines jets parked in Tulsa during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)
American Airlines jets parked in Tulsa during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

What's back

American is restoring connectivity at six of its hubs in May: Charlotte (CLT), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHL) and Phoenix (PHX). Dallas/Fort Worth will be the largest of the six, as it was before. But all of the hubs will see far fewer flights than they did last year.

The Oneworld carrier will also resume three routes to South America from Miami in May. Once-daily flights will be offered to Buenos Aires (EZE), Santiago, Chile (SCL), and São Paulo (GRU) starting May 7.

“We’re building a schedule that presumes some recovery in demand," Znotins said when asked whether the new schedule cut enough for American to begin filling planes again.

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Load factors, or the percent of seats filled, on flights operated by U.S. carriers were just 13% on March 29, according to the latest data from industry organization Airlines for America (A4A) data.

With the view that passenger demand will begin recovering sometime in May or June, American plans to slowly rebuild its main hubs through the summer. In addition, it will resume some of its suspended international routes. At the top of the list will be those to partner hubs abroad, with an goal to fly about 60% of what it flew in 2019.

Related: American Airlines to seek share of government aid package

What's gone

The biggest holes in American's updated domestic schedule are its hubs in Los Angeles (LAX), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA), and Washington Reagan National (DCA). These airports will be reduced to essentially spokes, or a destination that only has flights to an airline's hubs, at least for May.

The biggest surprise is Washington. American has touted the airport, which is located just across the Potomac River from the city center, as one of its three most profitable hubs in recent years. It planned to grow the hub with larger jets once the airport completed work on a new concourse due to open in 2021.

“One thing I’ve learned through this crisis is that trying to forecast the pace and severity of the way things will be, no one can do that," said Znotins when asked if the growth at Washington National would resume. "We’re just going to try to remain as flexible as possible so we can drive capacity where it’s needed the most.”

On the international front, American will postpone several new routes and many of its seasonal routes this summer and fall. For example, the airline has pushed its first foray into Africa —seasonal service to Casablanca (CMN) — to next year. It has similarly delayed its plans to return to India; the carrier's Seattle-Bangalore (BLR) route is now slated to begin in 2021.

Related: American Airlines in ‘fight of our lives’ as it plans more coronavirus cuts

The unknown

When will border restrictions be relaxed? When will the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) remove its domestic travel warning? These are just some of the assumptions made in American's new schedule.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warns against the possibility of a "V-shape" recovery, or where travelers return to the skies in the nearly the same numbers within just a few months. Instead, the organization expects a "significant recovery" to begin in 2021 at the earliest.

American has baked some flexibility into its return plans. The airline is retiring its Boeing 757s and 767s, as well as its Embraer E190s, earlier than first planned before of the crisis. However, no decision has been made on whether to retire the Airbus A330s and older Boeing 737s, said Znotins.

In addition, the airline's winter 2020 schedule that begins in late October is not set. American will continue to watch demand and make adjustments as needed. One example: Flights to China are due to resume in October — for now.

Related: It may be years until passenger demand returns to 2019 levels for US airlines

A full list of American's international route resumptions is below.

Resuming on May 7

  • Miami - Buenos Aires, Santiago and São Paulo

Resuming on June 4

  • Chicago O'Hare - Athens (ATH), Dublin (DUB) and London Heathrow (LHR)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth - Amsterdam (AMS) and Frankfurt (FRA)
  • Los Angeles - London Heathrow
  • Miami - Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
  • New York JFK - Buenos Aires and São Paulo
  • Philadelphia - London Heathrow
  • Raleigh/Durham - London Heathrow

Resuming on July 7

  • Charlotte - London Heathrow and Munich (MUC)
  • Chicago O'Hare - Barcelona (BCN)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth - Dublin, Hong Kong (HKG), Lima (LIM), São Paulo, Seoul Incheon (ICN) and Tokyo Haneda (HND)
  • Los Angeles - Tokyo Haneda
  • Miami - Madrid (MAD)
  • New York JFK - Madrid and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
  • Philadelphia - Madrid and Zurich (ZRH)

Resuming or starting this fall

  • Boston (BOS) - London Heathrow
  • Charlotte - Frankfurt (FRA)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth - Buenos Aires, Beijing (PEK), Santiago and Shanghai Pudong (PVG)
  • Los Angeles - Auckland (AKL), Beijing (PEK), Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Shanghai Pudong and Sydney (SYD)
  • Miami - Barcelona, Brasilia (BSB), Milan (MXP) and Paris Charles de Gaulle
  • New York JFK - Barcelona and Milan
  • Philadelphia - Barcelona, Dublin, Manchester (MAN), Paris Charles de Gaulle and Rome
  • Phoenix - London Heathrow

Resuming or starting in 2021

  • Charlotte - Barcelona, Dublin, Madrid, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Rome (FCO)
  • Chicago O'Hare - Budapest (BUD), Krakow, Poland (KRK), Paris Charles de Gaulle, Prague (PRG), Rome and Venice (VCE)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth - Auckland, Munich, Rome, and Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • Los Angeles - Christchurch (CHC)
  • New York JFK - Rome
  • Philadelphia - Berlin (TXL), Casablanca, Dubrovnik, Croatia (DBV), Edinburgh (EDI), Lisbon (LIS), Prague, Reykjavik (KEF), Shannon (SNN) and Venice
  • Seattle - Bangalore and London Heathrow
Featured image by AA parked planes at various locations including Tulsa and Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy American Airlines)