Exclusive: How American Airlines Is Looking At Network Planning

For an airline the size of American, network planning is a massive task that requires a large team of dedicated professionals crunching the data, monitoring travel restrictions, and seeing where demand pools are forming. After reflecting on the last year and recent growth from a network planning perspective, Jason Reisinger, Managing Director of Global Network Planning at American Airlines, spoke exclusively with Simple Flying on how the airline is looking at its network plans in 2021.

American Boeing 777
American is focused on rebuilding its network and monitoring customer demand. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This is the final installment in a series stemming from an interview with Mr. Reisinger. For past articles, see below:

  1. How American Airlines Managed Its Network In 2020
  2. American Airlines’ New York Position Will Not Hurt Philadelphia
  3. How American Airlines Is Looking At The Alaska Airlines Partnership

A data-driven approach focused on customer demand

When asked about where American would allocate its capacity in 2021 and whether it would chase down some new demand spots, Mr. Reisinger stated the following:

“We will probably focus more on the domestic, MCLA (Mexico, Caribbean, and Latin America), and stuff that appears to be working, but the question really gets to the whole way we’ve changed planning. It’s continuing to look at the bookings, because the old data still isn’t really useful. So we’ll watch and if we see things start to pick up, our hotels can move every day, so to speak. We can rearrange the flights on a fairly short time horizon and if we see things pop up that are really popular and that’s where our customers want to go, then we’ll point the planes there. That’s what we’ve been doing and we’ve gotten really good at working close-in and being able to be very flexible in speed to market here, so we’ll continue to play that playbook.”

American Boeing 737 MAX
American wants to focus on the markets it knows best. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Internationally, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America are some of the markets where American Airlines is historically strong and where those countries are welcoming international travelers.

American has upgauged some flights to this region to be onboard widebody aircraft, such as the Boeing 787. In recent weeks, cities like Cancun and Port-au-Prince have seen widebody services on traditionally narrowbody-operated routes.

AA Boeing 787
American has been flying widebodies domestically, but not as much as some other airlines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Planes are coming back into the air

American Airlines has plans to reactivate most of its aircraft in the second quarter ahead of the summer. Already, American is beating out every other airline in the United States when it comes to the number of daily flights and overall capacity.

Mr. Reisinger provided some color on how the network team was planning to work with all of the 850+ aircraft the airline has:

“We’re flying a large percentage of our destinations today, with the exception of some of the international ones that are demand challenged at the moment. I think you’ll just see more frequency come back, maybe some new destinations, but we’re still working on the summer right now. Hopefully, we’ll have it done here relatively soon.”

American Boeing 777-200ER
American Airlines wants to fly all of its planes this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The big takeaways

American is bringing planes back, but it is not necessarily going on a spree to add new destinations. While one of its competitors, Delta Air Lines, announced an Iceland service expansion after the country announced it would open up for vaccinated tourists, American has refrained from announcing its own Iceland services.

Domestically, however, American Airlines has focused its widebody operations on mostly hub-to-hub routes, such as between Miami and Dallas. Hawaii is also receiving consistent widebody service from American’s hubs in Chicago and Dallas.

American Boeing 787
American has already brought back much of its network, so its focus is on bringing back frequencies where demand warrants it. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

As American focuses on the summer, the airline is focused on repairing its schedule and bringing back frequencies over destinations. American Airlines already has an extensive route network with plans to add new destinations.

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Mr. Reisinger’s team is focused on the summer. As it becomes more clear as to when countries will open up and where people can travel this summer, expect American to tweak further and perhaps augment its route network. But, one thing is currently clear. American is getting back to business.

What do you think about American’s network planning this year? Let us know in the comments!