American Airlines shifts focus from Canada to the Caribbean through 2021

Feb 19, 2021

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Airlines have been busy adjusting schedules to fly places where people are actually going.

The latest move comes from American Airlines, which is pulling out of three Canadian cities while boosting flights to the Caribbean.

With Canada largely closed for the foreseeable future, American is suspending service to Halifax (YHZ), Ottawa (YOW) and Quebec (YQB) for the entirety of 2021, per Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the carrier.

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Ottawa is typically a year-round market for American, with multiple daily services from its Philadelphia (PHL) hub. AA hasn’t flown to Canada’s capital since June 2020, and the previous plans were to resume flights one year later, in June 2021. Now, the carrier is throwing in the towel on the route through 2021, at the earliest.

As for Halifax and Quebec, both are seasonal summer markets for American, with a mix of flights from Chicago (ORD), Philadelphia (PHL) and New York/LaGuardia (LGA). AA was scheduled to resume those flights come June, but that’s been scrapped for 2021.

All the idled planes mean that American (and its competitors) can quickly boost service to destinations where pandemic-weary flyers are actually traveling, like the Caribbean, Florida and national parks.

To that end, AA will double down on the Caribbean by adding a daily flight to three island destinations from its Miami (MIA) hub, with details as follows:

  • Miami (MIA) to Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP) going from 3x/day to 4/x day from Aug. 17 to Nov. 6
  • Miami (MIA) to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (STT) going from 3x/day to 4x/day from May 6 – June 2

American’s Airbus A319 service from New York-JFK to St. Thomas will also get a big boost. Instead of seasonal service ending on Aug. 17, AA will continue flying the route through Nov. 6, at the earliest, indicating strong demand to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Related: Details of American’s major Miami expansion

This push to outdoor, warm-weather destinations comes as travelers are looking for safer alternatives to indoor-focused trips. American has been quick to beef up service to such places, as well as those with strong VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic. 

In early February, the airline unveiled a major Miami-focused expansion, adding two new pins to its route map — Paramaribo, Suriname (PBM) and Samana, Dominican Republic (AZS) — in a move described as “opportunistic” by American’s vice president of network planning, Brian Znotins.

In addition to a new long-haul flight to Tel Aviv, AA will significantly grow its short-haul international flying from Miami. To capitalize on the strong VFR traffic to Latin America and the Caribbean, American is adding frequency and upgauging aircraft to many existing destinations, with a plan to offer 16% more capacity to the region from Miami compared to 2019.

Related: 8 things to know about the new American Airlines-JetBlue partnership

As part of American’s new Northeast alliance with JetBlue, the carrier is also adding once-weekly Saturday flights to St. Lucia (UVF) and Turks and Caicos (PLS), both from New York-JFK, designed to capture “sun-seeking customers.”

All in, Cirium schedules show that American plans roughly 15% fewer flights to Canada and 10% more flights to the Caribbean from May through July compared to the pre-pandemic highs of 2019.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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