American Airlines Sees More Opportunities In Asia Post-Crisis

International flying to and from Asia remains in the doldrums and lagging other regions, but American Airlines sees big opportunities there once long-haul travel starts to rebound. In addition to its own flights, American cites partnerships with airlines based in Asia as reasons why they see potential in that part of the world.

American Airlines sees a lot of future opportunities in Asia once travel normalizes. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

American Airlines admits Asia is a tough market right now

American’s own metal still heads into Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Beijing Capital, Beijing Daxing, Tokyo Narita, and Tokyo Haneda. However, American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja said in an exclusive webinar interview with Simple Flying that Asia was a tough market right now.

“We probably have a way to go yet,” Mr Raju said when asked about the region. But he highlighted the role of partners in Asia, including fellow oneworld members Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

“We’re very fortunate that we do have those partners there,” the CCO says. “We can we can figure out how things come together.”

In the second quarter of 2021, flying into Asia and the remainder of the Pacific region constituted only 7.5% of American’s available seat miles across its entire international network. Passenger loads (23.7%) also considerably lagged the average (52.9%) across American’s global international services that quarter.

American Airlines admits it is a tough game flying to Asia during the travel downturn. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/ Simple Flying

American Airlines highlights the value of airline partnerships in Asia

Vasu Raja highlights the new American Airlines flights into Tokyo Haneda as an example of opening up new markets in Japan and North Asia.

“We were all kind of eagerly anticipating the opening of Haneda and, unfortunately, that didn’t happen with nearly the level of fanfare that we all thought for very understandable reasons. 

“At some point in time, when people are able to come back to Japan, that will be an airport in which our partner (Japan Airlines) has a very massive presence in. With our new international jumping-off points in New York, and Seattle, that creates a lot of opportunities to serve Japan, the Asian marketplace we didn’t really have before.”

American Airlines says China partnership matters

The American Airlines executive also highlighted a partnership with China Southern, China’s biggest airline.

“We are really keen to go and rebuild our partnership with China Southern,” Mr Raja says, adding this partnership took the biggest beating throughout the travel downturn. He sees a lot of opportunities in the China Southern partnership.

“The Chinese marketplace, like many markets across the world, is going to boom at a pretty, pretty extraordinary rate.

“As we recover from the pandemic, those (pre-pandemic) growth rates will resume, certainly in the short-haul business in China. And so having a partner like that is a great blessing for us. And we look forward to developing that partnership.”

Vasu Raja sees a lot of potential in American’s partnership with China Southern Airlines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

While Vasu Raja is upbeat about how Asia can fit into American’s overall strategy, he does acknowledge there is a way to go yet. Borders need to reopen, travel restrictions ease, and demand pick up.

‘The first really big critical step is understanding how the restrictions on demand get loosened up in Asia. And once we have a better read on that, it makes it easier for us to figure out how we go and bring back those partnerships and the connectivity they offer.”