American Airlines: Lifting Of Travel Bans A “Big Shot To The Arm”

The transatlantic market has been a shadow of its former self for a little over 18 months. So has American Airlines’ international connectivity hub at London Heathrow. However, in an exclusive interview with Simple Flying last week, the carrier says the forthcoming easing of restrictions for travel to the US has provided a big boost to morale as it begins to plan for next year, predicting a potentially impressive comeback of international travel.

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American Airlines says the recent announcement to ease travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors to the US is a big boost when planning for the next year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

When the US government finally revealed its plan to open the country to fully vaccinated foreigners last Monday, the airline industry celebrated the relaunching of some of its most profitable routes.

The authorities are yet to provide an exact date for when the new regulations will come into effect, other than saying it will be sometime in early November. However, airlines are rejoicing, as this means the transatlantic market will soon be back to a – relatively – normal state of play.

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Preparing for a full return

Speaking to Simple Flying’s Jay Singh in an exclusive interview last Thursday, the Chief Revenue Officer of American Airlines, Vasu Raja, called the announcement a ‘big shot in the arm’ for the carrier as it goes into planning for the following year. Meanwhile, perhaps one shouldn’t expect things to go back to the former set-up just yet.

“We aren’t yet sure if what we bring back is a replica of what was there before. It’s pretty unlikely that’s the case. There’ll probably be some changes with more emphasis on connectivity because we think there will still be a lag before business demand resumes at the clip that it was at pre-pandemic. But this certainly creates a path to be able to go and rapidly build back the network, get customers flying again and ultimately prepare for a full return of international travel,” Mr Raja commented.

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American Airlines and British Airways have a partnership at London Heathrow. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

DIA took over from LHR

On an ordinary day, American Airlines connects more international passengers at London Heathrow than it does in Philadelphia, Miami, or even Dallas-Fort Worth. However, LHR was severely challenged as a transfer point throughout the pandemic. This led American, who partners with British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair for connections from the UK capital, to seek out a renewed codeshare collaboration with Qatar Airways instead.

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In the wake of the pandemic, American and Qatar Airways rebooted their codeshare agreement, previously put on ice due to disagreements over state subsidies. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Potentially ‘impressive’ comeback

The partnership has performed ‘above the wildest expectations’ of American, with connections to Africa and the Indian subcontinent now taking place in Doha rather than London. Meanwhile, what will happen to that traffic once US restrictions ease for vaccinated travelers and Heathrow comes back in contention is not entirely sure.

“Heathrow as a connecting hub hasn’t been utilized that heavily during the pandemic, certainly not to the degree that we would like. We think that with (the new) announcement that could turn itself around quite quickly and indeed by a few months into 2022,” Mr Raja said in the interview. He further added,

“If indeed, international demand follows the trends that we’ve seen in the short-haul space, things could come back pretty fast – and pretty impressively.”

How quickly do you think transatlantic travel will be restored to its former glory with the easing of restrictions? Leave a comment below and let us know.