American drops 4 international cities, adds domestic flights in major route shakeup

Dec 22, 2020

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Despite the upcoming winter holidays, American Airlines’ route planning department isn’t taking any time off.

Over the weekend, the Fort Worth-based airline loaded a major schedule update for 2021 flying, a move designed to “match anticipated demand” for next year, according to a carrier spokesperson.

The route-map shakeup will see American drop four international cities, three of which are permanent. American also will add a host of domestic and short-haul international flights, many of which we’ll discuss below.

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Goodbye to secondary long-haul flights from Philadelphia

American is closing three European outstations: Manchester (MAN), Prague (PRG) and Reykjavik (KEF). It’s also dropping service to Venice (VCE) until 2022 at the earliest, a carrier spokesperson confirmed to TPG.

Instead of offering service from Philadelphia to the aforementioned airports, the carrier plans to redeploy the unused aircraft to Latin America and the Caribbean, according to an internal memo posted by xJonNYC and later confirmed by a spokesperson in a statement.

The move leaves Philadelphia, once AA’s main East Coast transatlantic gateway with just 12 long-haul European destinations slated for 2021, including Amsterdam (AMS), Paris (CDG) and London Heathrow (LHR), among others.

In American’s latest update that hit this week, the carrier added nearly 2,300 new flights to the Caribbean and Latin American for 2021, boosting the number of available seats by over 8% systemwide, according to Cirium schedules. Meanwhile, European flights were slashed by almost 10%.

Over the past few years, American has see-sawed on its approach to its two main Northeast hubs, New York-JFK and Philadelphia. Leading up to the pandemic, AA was busy winding down much of its long-haul flying from JFK, leaving just the bread-and-butter business routes to places like London and Sao Paulo and shifting the remainder to Philly.

But the pandemic has, in part, upended that strategy. With the retirement of the Boeing 757, AA doesn’t have a narrow-body capable of flying some of the “thinner” European routes from Philly. (The Airbus A321XLR, slated to replace the 757, won’t arrive until 2023 at the earliest.)

Coupled with the upcoming Northeast-focused alliance with JetBlue, American plans to once again boost international flying from JFK, while somewhat scaling back in Philly with the aforementioned route suspensions.

The carrier has already announced plans to launch nonstops from JFK to both Athens and Tel Aviv in 2021, replacing the carrier’s legacy Philadelphia to Tel Aviv service.

Going up against JetBlue in South Florida

While soon-to-be partners American and JetBlue are set to cozy up in the Northeast, things are cooling off down south.

Last week, JetBlue announced a bevy of new routes, including, perhaps most interestingly, three destinations from Miami (MIA) — a new city for JetBlue.

American has long operated a fortress hub in Miami, so this move by JetBlue seems aimed at capturing market share from its soon-to-be partner.

Now, AA appears to have retaliated over the weekend.

Starting roughly two months after JetBlue’s Miami inaugural, American plans to add three of its own routes from JetBlue’s South Florida hub in Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

American will add service to Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK beginning on April 2, 2021, on a mix of Airbus A321neos and Boeing 737-800s. Perhaps not coincidentally, those new destinations from Fort Lauderdale represent JetBlue’s two biggest hubs (JFK and Boston) and its newest base in Southern California (LAX).

All three routes technically represent service resumptions for the carrier, though the timing points to a jab at JetBlue. Cirium schedules show that AA last operated flights from FLL to Boston in 2005 and service to JFK and LAX in 2013.

While it remains to be seen how closely the two airlines coordinate in the Northeast, the latest tit-for-tat route announcements have the relationship starting on rocky ground.

More: JetBlue adds Miami in 4-city, 24-route expansion

From Charlotte to paradise

With most of the carrier’s long-haul flying temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus-related drop in demand, American has been deploying its wide-body jets on domestic routes.

Come May 6, 2021, American will launch non-stop Charlotte (CLT) to Honolulu (HNL) service on the Boeing 777-200, representing the first time the carrier has flown the route since 2010 when it last flew with the US Airways livery.

This 4,679-mile, ten-hour flight will be the carrier’s longest to Hawaii and comes just weeks after Hawaiian Airlines announced new service to Austin (AUS) and Orlando (MCO).

Unfortunately, award availability in business class remains sparse on Charlotte flight, with one-way fares starting at 64,000 AAdvantage miles.

With spare planes and international destinations closed to tourists, American may be betting that it can (at least) break even on the new route. Only time will tell if the Charlotte to Hawaii flights will perform better than they did during the nine months it flew between 2009 and 2010. (US Airways announced the route would end just three months after it launched.)

Entrenching Dallas/Fort Worth

Throughout the pandemic, the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport briefly became the country’s busiest, thanks in part to American doubling down at its fortress mega-hub.

Dallas flights have recovered faster than much of the carrier’s network, and American isn’t letting its competitors steal market share within the metro area.

In addition to adding new flights from Dallas to Eugene (EUG), Fairbanks (FAI), Fayetteville (FAY), and St. George (SGU), American is also gearing up to go head-to-head with Southwest in Long Beach (LGB).

Starting April 2, AA will launch once-daily nonstop service between DFW and LGB, in a move aimed to compete with Southwest’s new Dallas/Love Field (DAL) to LGB route, which is slated to begin on March 11.

More: Southwest Airlines adds 16 new routes, including from Houston and Long Beach

Bottom line

The pandemic has caused airlines worldwide to rethink their route maps, and the latest round of major changes comes from American.

The carrier is adding new flights aimed at competing with the recent expansion from both JetBlue and Southwest. Additionally, the carrier is winding down some of its European flying, while boosting its presence in the Caribbean and Latin American. Finally, the carrier is launching its longest nonstop to Hawaii.

Now we wait for a possible response from American’s competitors.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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