Gone Again: American Airlines Ends Charlotte To Honolulu Flights

After eight months of service, American has ended Charlotte to Honolulu, one of the USA’s longest domestic routes. It is likely a victim of the time, a lack of widebody supply, and poor route performance. It is unlikely to reappear – and might have always been intended to be short-term.

American Airlines Boeing 777-223(ER) N790AN (7)
American still serves Honolulu from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

American has ended Charlotte to Honolulu

American Airlines ended Charlotte to Honolulu on January 3rd. The last flight (AA178) took off at 12:50 and arrived in Hawaii nine hours and 16 minutes later at 17:06 local time, according to RadarBox.com. It used N779AN, a 22.58-year-old aircraft, which then departed to Dallas.

Going to Charlotte, the final flight (AA552) left Honolulu at 17:45 and touched down in North Carolina about eight and a half hours later at 07:15 on the 4th. The honor went to N766AN, an 18.56-year-old specimen, that had arrived from Dallas.

The long, 4,678-mile (7,528km) route began on May 6th, 2021. It operated once-daily and used 273-seat B777-200ERs. The distance was such that only one of American’s six European routes from Charlotte next summer will be longer. And not by much.

Charlotte to Honolulu
The nine-hour and 16-minute duration was shorter than most other days. Image: RadarBox.com.

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Why did it end?

Charlotte-Honolulu probably materialized because of aircraft availability during COVID, suggesting it was intended as a stop-gap. Aircraft were available that would ordinarily be for international long-haul services. As domestic leisure demand remained buoyant, it decided to try it. Like JetBlue, American tried ‘risky’ or unusual routes to chase revenue opportunities.

As summer 2022 will (hopefully) be much more regular, American increasingly requires B777 capacity to operate internationally. According to Cirium, the carrier expects almost 2,500 B777 flights from Charlotte alone between April and September, 122% more than the same period last year as most Europeans couldn’t visit the US. Add in delays to B787 deliveries, and the decision to end the route isn’t surprising.

American Airlines Boeing 777-200
American was the second airline to try Charlotte-Honolulu. US Airways operated it between December 2009 and July 2010. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

A long leisure-driven route for transit traffic

The route likely performed pretty poorly financially too. According to the DOT’s T-100 dataset, about 64,000 round-trip passengers flew it between May and September. Of these, more than three-quarters transited Charlotte, booking data shows. After all, the point-to-point (P2P) market was relatively small, even with the new non-stop.

More than this, booking data suggests that pricing was inadequate, especially when dealing with a long route that’s expensive to operate – more so given the high fuel prices. Of course, it was a new route, and pricing was unlikely to be good that quickly. More fundamentally, it was very leisure-driven, long, and heavily relied on transit traffic, all pushing yields down.

American Airlines Boeing 777-223(ER) N794AN (2)
American’s Charlotte-Honolulu service added almost 4,000 extra weekly seats to its Honolulu network, potentially pushing down fares further from too many to sell. It may also have undermined the performance of its existing routes to the Big Island. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Charlotte to Honolulu is unlikely to return

As international demand increasingly grows, operating to Honolulu with P2P fares ~30-40% lower and transit fares ~25-35% lower than to Europe – often closer than Honolulu – couldn’t continue. Asked by Forbes whether it’s likely to return, Brian Znotins, American’s vice president for network and schedule planning, said:

“Never is a long time, but it’s going to be a while. We need the widebodies to fly to Europe in the wake of Boeing’s failures to deliver 787s to us. If we see Hawaii yields improve significantly, that would be a good sign for it to come back.”

What’s your preferred way of reaching Hawaii? Let us know in the comments.