American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world by fleet size. While the airline does have an expansive route network, there are some present service gaps. Simple Flying sat down with key personnel at American Airlines to better understand where the carrier sees itself going in the future.
American Airlines in East Asia
East Asia is one of the most important aviation markets right now and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Passenger growth has been phenomenal and, recently, a number of new routes have surfaced connecting East Asia across key points in North America and Europe. Nevertheless, the growth has primarily been from East Asian carriers, but that is not to say that American Airlines does not see a future there; in part, thanks to Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Previously, American mainly flew into to Tokyo-Narita. Now, however, American will be adding some flights into Tokyo-Haneda. According to Vasu Raja, Senior Vice President of Network Strategy, the move to Haneda will instead favor passengers within Japan rather than the rest of Asia while also giving American a leg up on travelers who want to stay closer to Tokyo’s center. But, this opens up a unique opportunity for growth.
For Vasu Raja, this opens up opportunities for American Airlines to address passenger demand with direct routes rather than emphasizing connections in Narita. Although, this growth will not happen quickly and instead be evaluated. Long-haul routes are expensive and not always a guaranteed profit.
American was the last major United States-carrier to find a partner in mainland China. This came about after China Southern withdrew from the Skyteam alliance.
But, astute avgeeks will recognize that China Southern maintains a hub in Guangzhou. Joe Mohan, American’s Vice President of Alliances and Partnerships, sees greater opportunities for American from Beijing’s new Daxing Airport. In his own words, “Beijing Daxing opens up interesting possibilities” for American and its passengers. For American, it would make more sense to increase services to Beijing rather than Guangzhou in order to avoid competition between China Southern and Cathay Pacific.
For the future, it seems more likely for American to expand their Beijing services rather than opening a new route to Guangzhou. Southeast Asia is well-served by both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
Through its partnership with British Airways, American Airlines has lucrative opportunities for growth out of London. Vasu Raja even notes that, for American Airlines, Heathrow is no different to the airline than Dallas or Chicago-O’Hare in terms of importance.
However, it would be more believable for American Airlines to expand London services from hubs. As Vasu Raja explains, the airline has the infrastructure in its hubs to better optimize additional flights. If the airline were to inaugurate a new route from a non-hub market, American would have to procure a new plane, ensure their market is capable of supporting a crew, and set up ground services for catering and maintenance.
Now, a lot of American’s expansion also depends on the arrival of new aircraft. The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX has definitely hampered some of American’s growth and forced them to retain older aircraft, like the 757, for a longer period of time. Once the 737 MAX returns to the sky, it is not unforeseeable for American to use them for long and thin routes to points in western Europe and South America.
Moreover, the Airbus A321XLR could open up some fantastic new opportunities for American Airlines. While the delivery of those aircraft are still a few years off, they definitely could be gamechangers for the airline.
What do you think American should focus on in terms of future growth? Let us know in the comments!