Where U.S. airlines are flying the wide-bodies idled by China flight suspensions

Feb 24, 2020

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Las Vegas has hit the jackpot this spring with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all assigning some of their idled wide-body jets to fly to the gambling mecca.

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) will see wide-bodies operate on at least eight domestic routes in March and April that were the sole domain of narrow-body aircraft a year ago, according to the latest Cirium schedule data. Phoenix (PHX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO) and Tampa (TPA) will also see twin-aisle jets on select domestic routes this spring.

The aircraft were idled following the decisions by American, Delta and United to suspend flights to mainland China and Hong Kong through at the last April 30. Flights were suspended amid a drop in demand due to fears of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak in China.

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American will deploy Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 787-8s on three routes:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD) – Las Vegas: Daily on a 787-8 from March 5-March 27
  • Chicago – San Francisco: Daily on a 787-8 from March 28-April 24
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) – Las Vegas: Up to twice daily on 777-200s and 787-8s from March 5-May 6
American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft with registration N818AL landing at Athens International Airport AIA LGAV / ATH in Greece during a sunny summer day. The airplane has 2x GEnx engines. American Airlines AA AAL has headquarters in Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas, USA and connects seasonal mostly for summer holidays the Greek capital Athens to Chicago - O'Hare airport and Philadelphia. The airline, a major US carrier is member of Oneworld aviation alliance, has a fleet of 965 airplanes and is the largest airline in the world. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
An American Airlines Boeing 787-8. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Delta will deploy Airbus A330s and Boeing 767s on six routes:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Las Vegas: Up to four-times daily on A330-200s, A330-300s, 767-300ERs and 767-400ERs from March 9-April 30
  • Atlanta – Phoenix: Up to three-times daily on A330-300s, 767-300ERs and 767-400ERs from March 11-April 9
  • Atlanta – San Diego: Twice daily on A330-300s and 767-300ERs from March 12-April 30
  • Detroit (DTW) – Las Vegas: Daily on a 767-300ER from March 9-April 30
  • Detroit – Phoenix: Daily on a 767-300ER from March 12-March 31
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) – Las Vegas: Up to twice daily on A330-300s or 767-300ERs from March 9-April 15
Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300 landing at Athens International Airport AIA , LGAV / ATH Eleftherios Venizelos, with registration N806NW, a former Northwest Airlines Airplane. The aircraft has 2x PW4000 engines. Delta Airlines DAL DL connects seasonal Athens to New York JFK airport in the US. The airline has its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Delta is a member of SkyTeam airline alliance. Delta has the second largest fleet size with 918 airplanes. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


United will deploy 777-200s on four routes:

  • Chicago – Las Vegas: Up to daily from March 5-April 30
  • Newark Liberty (EWR) – Las Vegas: Up to daily from March 5-April 30
  • Newark – Tampa: Daily from March 29-April 24
  • Washington Dulles (IAD) – Las Vegas: Daily from March 29-April 24
A United Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft waits to take off at Beijing airport on July 25, 2018. - Beijing hailed "positive steps" as major US airlines and Hong Kong's flag carrier moved to comply on July 25 with its demand to list Taiwan as part of China, sparking anger on the island. (Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP) (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)
A United Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)


Related: American Airlines could drop ambition of Los Angeles gateway to Asia

The above domestic schedule additions exclude any hub-to-hub routes, for example between Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles on American, that already see wide-body jets on occasion. In addition, airlines may add one-off wide-body-operated flights on other routes that are not reflected here.

“[The] network adjustments by the three U.S. airlines appear largely rational in an attempt to maximize the utilization… while minimizing the impact on overall yields,” wrote Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth on the domestic wide-body deployment in a report earlier in February. “The [wide-body aircraft] being flown to China and [Hong Kong] by U.S. airlines are being grounded during the off-peak and redeployed during the peak-demand Spring Break and Easter travel periods.”

The China and Hong Kong flight suspensions have impacted 12 aircraft at both American and Delta, and 26 aircraft at United, according to Raymond James.

Related: What does the coronavirus outbreak mean for travelers?

Spokespeople from American, Delta and United all told TPG that the shifts to larger aircraft on the above routes were all in response to demand when asked where they were redeploying their idled wide-body jets.

In a report Monday morning, analysts at Cowen called the spread of the latest coronavirus to meet the “definition of global pandemic,” citing new cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea. Global health authorities have confirmed roughly 77,000 COVID-19 cases, with 2,592 confirmed deaths in China.

Related: Las Vegas airport set to hit record 50 million passengers

Featured image by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.

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