Exclusive: An Inside Look At American Airlines’ Future Growth

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 787
Although American Airlines has an extensive route network, there is room for them to grow. Photo: LoadedAaron via Flickr

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.

Japan Airlines Airbus A350
Japan Airlines is one of American’s key partners in East Asia. Photo: Airbus

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.

Japan Airlines A350
The shift in focus from Narita to Haneda will change some of American’s connections in Japan Airlines’ network. Photo: Airbus

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.

Mainland China

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.

China Southern
China Southern is American’s partner in mainland China. Photo: Airbus

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.

australia-first-airbus-a350-1000
Cathay Pacific and China Southern operate hubs very close to each other. Photo: 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.

London-Heathrow

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.

American Airlines
American’s partnership with British Airways has allowed the airline to examine new opportunities. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

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.

American 767
For American Airlines, it makes more sense to open new routes from their hubs rather than point-to-point routing. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

Aircraft strategy

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.

American Airlines Boeing 757
American is waiting for the 737 MAX grounding to end in order to retire older Boeing 757s. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

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.

Airbus
The A321XLR could allow American to expand point-to-point services out of London or else broader services throughout Europe. Photo: Airbus

What do you think American should focus on in terms of future growth? Let us know in the comments!

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Reece Makinson

I like American. Especially compared to Delta and United. I would love to see some long haul Airbus planes with them.

Joshua Thigpen

I like American too, I just hope they get it together with other things. Their product is not that bad.

Jawad Ahsan

If they persist with the Oasis interior, none of this matters. It’s a significant move downmarket and uncomfortable for short haul flights in first class – there would be little interest in suffering through that experience for longer haul flights.

Susan Dess

American has reduced direct flights from Phoenix to BWI. Additionally, thousands of American employees have been relocated from PHX to LAX. This is hard to understand due to Sky Harbor‘s historical importance to American And its recent and on-going renovations. The loss of direct flights to an important DC hub, causes passengers to switch to other carriers offering direct flights. As American evaluates its expansion globally, the airline should also evaluate the impact of its potential for contraction in the US market due to te elimination or reduction in direct flights from major US cities. For example Phoenix is the… Read more »

Walt Mielke

Miami non-stop to Cape Town, South Africa should be a very profitable route. American Airlines feeds Miami from South America, most of Central America and many domestic cities. Cape Town, is South Africa’s second-largest city and ranks as the most beautiful city in the world. There are a multitude of year round activities such as: Scenery, Museums & Galleries, Wine Farms, Beaches, Shopping, Food, and the friendly People themselves. Although December through March are the best months to visit, the weather is comfortable year round. With Miami to Cape Town service, American would offer the only no-stop and the shortest… Read more »

Brandon

I think if American wants to utilize non hub markets, I think Norfolk international would be a great fit. the airport has a customs facility and American connects to all the hubs from there but lax and phx. The runway there is long enough to accommodate a 777 not saying that’s what they should use, but they could use that aircraft there. They could operate a small crew base out of there, I mean there’s already a lot of crew members that live in the Hampton roads area