American trims Boston shuttle, boosts leisure flights as it tweaks 24 routes at Washington’s National Airport

Dec 13, 2021

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American’s hub in Washington, D.C., is getting a pandemic-era network makeover.

The carrier is tweaking its flying from the nation’s capital, with a focus on leisure-oriented routes going forward. The move comes as a recovery in business travel continues to lag behind those flying for vacations and for visiting family and friends.

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Nowhere is the shift more apparent than in the airline’s big cut in one of the busiest markets in the entire Northeast Corridor: the 399-mile route between D.C. and Boston. Served by American, Delta and JetBlue — as well as frequent Amtrak service between the cities — this business-heavy route has historically been flown by each airline with upwards of 10 daily frequencies catering to time-sensitive corporate and government travelers with large expense accounts.

Now, American is changing its strategy on this route. The airline is decreasing the peak number of frequencies it operates from 16 times a day, down to 10 times a day beginning on April 5, 2022. The pull-down was first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by a carrier spokesperson. While American is decreasing the frequency by nearly 40%, the route will remain operated by a 128-seat Airbus A319.

American’s move to cut Washington-Boston frequencies comes just a few weeks after the airline officially retired the Shuttle product, which used to offer dedicated airport desks, reduced check-in times and shorter minimum checked bag cutoff windows. To replace the Shuttle offering, American is rolling out a new refundable Main Select fare that includes priority boarding and check-in, free seat assignments and other business-focused benefits, like free same-day changes.

Map of all American DCA routes seeing frequency changes (Map courtesy of Cirium)

Along with retiring the Shuttle, American is pulling out entirely from the New York LaGuardia-Boston route, ceding all its traffic to its Northeast Alliance partner, JetBlue Airways.

The same is true in Washington — while American is decreasing frequencies on the Boston route, the airline can still send its flyers on its JetBlue codeshare, which is operated up to 15 times a day by the New York-based carrier, per Cirium schedules.

Several other business-focused DCA routes will see reduced frequencies over the coming months, including service to destinations like Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

At the end of the day, it’s a zero-sum game in American’s Washington National hub. The number of arrivals and departures at the airport is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration through slots. Each airline can only operate as many flights as it has slots, which grant takeoff and landing permissions during certain hours of the day.

So, while American is making some cuts to its DCA hub, the airline is boosting other routes that make more sense in a mid-pandemic world.

This includes flights to warm-weather spots, like Orlando and West Palm Beach in Florida, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, plus many others; the full list is available at the bottom of the post. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, leisure flyers are looking for outdoor-friendly destinations with plenty of activities, whether it’s a theme park, beach or round of golf.

While airlines had originally hoped that business travel would return in droves in 2022, that timeline has been shifting over concerns about the recently discovered omicron variant.

Until the trajectory of the business travel recovery is clearer, American will boost its Washington Reagan National hub with more leisure-focused flights.

Full list of American’s Washington Reagan National route changes

You’ll find the full list of changes to American’s DCA hub per Cirium schedules and confirmed by the carrier below.

Destination Change
Atlanta (ATL) Decrease from 5x to 4x daily from March 3 through April 4, then increase from 4x to 5x daily from April 5 onwards
Boston (BOS) Decrease from 16x to 10x daily from April 5 onwards
Burlington, Vermont (BTV) Increase from 3x to 4x daily from March 3 through Nov. 2
Charleston, South Carolina (CHS) Increase from 4x to 5x daily from April 5 through June 8
Charlotte (CLT) Decrease from 9x to 8x daily from April 5 through June 8
Cleveland (CLE) Increase by 1x daily from April 5 through Nov. 2
Columbus, Ohio (CMH) Increase from 4x to 5x daily from March 3 through April 4
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Decrease from 10x to 9x daily from March 3 through Nov. 2
Dayton, Ohio (DAY) Increase from 3x to 4x daily from April 5 through Nov. 2
Fort Myers (RSW) Increase from 1x to 2x daily from April 5 through Aug. 15
Grand Rapids (GRR) Decrease from 2x to 1x daily from March 3 through April 4
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (HHH) Add 1x daily from March 3 through Nov. 2
Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT) Decrease from 4x to 3x daily from March 3 through April 4
Memphis (MEM) Increase from 3x to 4x daily from April 5 through Nov. 2
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR) Add 1x daily from March 3 through April 4
Nashville (BNA) Increase from 5x to 6x daily from Aug. 16 through Nov. 2
Norfolk, Virginia (ORF) Increase from 3x to 4x daily from March 3 through April 4
Orlando (MCO) Increase from 4x to 5x daily from April 5 through Nov. 2
Pittsburgh (PIT) Decrease from 5x to 4x daily from March 3 through April 4
Portland, Maine (PWM) Decrease from 5x to 4x daily from March 3 through April 4
Rochester, New York (ROC) Decrease from 4x to 3x daily from March 3 through April 4
St. Louis (STL) Decrease from 5x to 4x daily from March 3 through April 4
Tampa (TPA) Increase from 3x to 4x daily from April 5 onwards
West Palm Beach (PBI) Increase from 1x to 3x daily from April 5 through June 8, then decrease from 3x to 2x daily from June 9 through Nov. 2

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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