I wrote last week that American Airlines plans to serve more premium international destinations starting in 2025 and into 2026. That’s once it takes delivery of the new Boeing 787-9 planes, which it ordered in 2018 and was delayed.
The senior vice president of network planning recently told employees that these planes are changing the airline’s calculations:
- More business class seats, suitable for more premium markets
- More business seats means fewer seats, so the plane won’t be as heavy and can fly farther reliably
- In addition, the additional wide-body aircraft will allow it to serve more destinations
In the spring, airline executives were asking about potential service to Singapore in employee talks, though I was skeptical it would happen.
The aviation watchdog shares speculation about American Airlines launching service to Hong Kong and Singapore within two years, receiving new Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
One person’s thoughts:
“HKG should come back while CX regains its strength.” I expect eventual sin too. We’re talking at least two years away. Timing issues and reliability/usability issues killed HKG though – 1-2a LAX leaving HKG am communications. AM Dallas flight was…
— 🇺🇦 John New York 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) September 8, 2023
Will American Airlines return to Hong Kong?
Service to Hong Kong was dropped at the start of the pandemic – initially suspended, and the decision to drop Los Angeles – Hong Kong was made permanent first and then drop the destination altogether with the removal of Dallas – Hong Kong.
American Airlines begins Hong Kong service for the first time from Dallas. This flight performed well, and is said to have sold out even in first class. However, the Dallas service meant spending the night flying in Hong Kong. It was an inefficient use of aircraft.
Los Angeles – Hong Kong flight added Operational efficiency They can take a plane from Dallas and send it to Los Angeles and back, increasing the amount of time planes spend in the air.
But the American flight between Los Angeles and Hong Kong performed poorly. Left at midnight, great for morning connections out of Hong Kong. But they tend to be delayed often and have a low return, but are good for elites looking for development.
Connections out of Hong Kong are great for getting to Southeast Asia, considering that Japan Airlines, the US’s main Asian partner, has only a limited network outside of Tokyo with only single daily flights to many destinations and long layovers.
American has withdrawn international flights from its Los Angeles hub. It operates only at joint venture partner centers (JAL/Tokyo, BA/London, Qantas/Sydney). They are viewed by Asian destinations as overserved, and by airlines willing to lose money serving the U.S. and offering a better product.
The only carrier currently serving Los Angeles – Hong Kong is Cathay Pacific, an American airline a partner. But it is not a partner with which the United States could form a joint venture, since there is no Open Skies Agreement between the United States and Hong Kong. Cathay is incentivized to fly passengers from its own US-Hong Kong flights, not US flights, and the Hong Kong-based airline offers three daily flights at peak times (including midnight). Who would voluntarily fly an American plane over Cathay Unless they are under a corporate contract or looking for elite upgrades?
These corporate contracts are very limited for flying in Asia. America’s focus on corporate deals has declined. Not only has business travel not entirely returned to Hong Kong, which has suffered a relative decline as an Asian business destination as China’s special administrative region has turned inward towards the mainland – focusing instead on the Greater Bay region.
Cathay Pacific did not return to Seattle-Hong Kong, and American talked about building Seattle as a gateway to Asia in cooperation with Alaska Airlines, but did not do so. They even demolished Seattle and London by air.
Will American Airlines fly to Singapore?
Singapore benefits from Hong Kong’s decline. However, Singapore Airlines serves Los Angeles – Singapore, with a daily flight and a second flight three times weekly. Singapore also currently flies Seattle-Singapore three times a week, and as I wrote in March, Singapore Partners with Alaska Airlines. American cited competition from Asian carriers as a reason for not flying certain routes.
America will need to replace Singapore as Alaska’s partner, because it needs Alaska’s domestic traffic for the service to work.
Traditionally, the airline has stayed away from long-haul service. Hong Kong It didn’t work well, especially from Los Angeles, even when they had a partner providing connections outside of the destination. America has no partner in Singapore – they serve it almost entirely as a destination on its own.
Other Asian destinations seem less likely
American operates Dallas – Seoul. Los Angeles – Seoul and Seattle – Seoul are very competitive, especially considering that Delta/Korean and Asia Airlines offer connections out of Seoul while American does not.
Kuala Lumpur, as expected in the past, is not a strong premium destination like Hong Kong or Singapore. Although American has a Oneworld alliance partner (but nowhere near) in Malaysia Airlines, this carrier is relatively weak. The West Coast – Kuala Lumpur only service to deliver passengers to Southeast Asia appears to be a much inferior option to Hong Kong and is likely to be low yielding.
America had a stake in China Southern, but this partnership failed to flourish. America has also lost tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, on flights to China. With the growth of permitted flights to China, a Dulles-Beijing addition seems more likely than a West Coast addition (even more so than the much-discussed Seattle-Shanghai) and Guangzhou, where China Southern is based, seems unlikely, given current geopolitical tensions with China in particular.
Three years ago, American took steps to get closer to Philippine Airlines, so I’m sure there was consideration of flying to Manila. Philippine Airlines serves Los Angeles – Manila twice daily. However, it is a fairly low-yielding market.
I personally encourage flying Dallas – Istanbul, although this route is served daily by Turkish Airlines which offers a wide range of flights out of Istanbul. American will accommodate limited traffic from small Midwestern cities to Istanbul that does not connect from United to Turkish via Houston.
I would also like to see the fruition of the previously planned Casablanca service, through connection with the One World Alliance’s Royal Air Maroc. They planned to serve this route with a Boeing 757 (now retired) from Philadelphia but could use a Boeing 787 from Dallas. This is a larger and more expensive commitment than they had planned for their first foray into Africa.
The bottom line is that American Airlines has tremendous power as a domestic airline. Its hubs are great for domestic markets and traffic, but the airline is not well positioned to make clear gains in adding long-haul international flights to Asia or Africa. They actually serve deep South American routes which makes more sense. They could probably grow European seasonal from New York but are shrinking in New York without JetBlue as a partner.
They have long-haul planes coming in, and they’ll need to find places other than Cancun to send them, which will be a challenge – but it will be fun to watch.
More view from the suite
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