- American Airlines plans to announce five major new routes on Thursday, including its first flight to the African continent.
- The routes – from three of its hubs, to a total of four different destinations – are the latest move as the airline seeks to refocus and reorient its hub and connection network following its acquisition of US Airways in 2013.
- Four of the routes will run seasonally, beginning in Spring 2020. The fifth – between Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Tel Aviv, Israel – will operate year-round starting September, 2020.
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American Airlines plans to announce five major new routes on Thursday, including its first flight to the African continent.
The routes – from three of its hubs, to a total of four different destinations – are the latest move as the airline seeks to refocus and reorient its hub and connection network following its acquisition of US Airways in 2013.
Four of the routes will run seasonally, beginning in Spring 2020. The fifth – between Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Tel Aviv, Israel – will operate year-round starting September, 2020.
The four seasonal routes are:
- Philadelphia to Casablanca, Morocco (CMN) June 4 to September 8, 2020
- Chicago O’Hare to Krakow, Poland (KRK) May 7 to October 23, 2020
- Chicago O’Hare to Prague, Czech Republic, May 8 to October 24, 2020
- Chicago O’Hare to Budapest, Hungary, May 7 to October 24, 2020
The service to Casablanca will be American Airlines’ first-ever flight to a destination in Africa. While the route can serve increasing numbers of Americans looking to vacation in Morocco, American plans to use the destination as a foothold on the continent – and potentially in the Middle East – feeding traffic to future alliance partner Royal Air Maroc. The Moroccan airline is set to join the Oneworld alliance, of which American is a founding member, in 2020.
“Casablanca is so well located in Africa to be able to connect demand,” American’s Vice President of network and schedule planning, Vasu Raja, told Business Insider. “Even though they’re still in the process of maturing the connecting hub, that enables us to start developing connections to cities like Marrakesh and Lagos, but then over time, cities deeper in Southern and East Africa.”
The flight between Philadelphia and Casablanca will be served by a Boeing 757 narrow-body aircraft. The other four flights will be served by 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliner jets.
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The bigger picture for American Airlines
The routes overall are emblematic of the multifaceted approach American has taken to cut losses, increase efficiency and, by extension, profitability while leveraging the strong domestic network it held following its 2013 merger with US Airways, according to Raja.
American has moved much of its connecting capacity out of New York and directed it to other hubs – particularly the legacy US Airways hub in Philadelphia – instead. The airline retained its presence in New York, using it to serve direct traffic on established routes, like London and Paris, instead.
“For years, AMR [American’s parent company prior to its merger with US Airways] had a presence in New York, but it didn’t have enough slots to built a really viable connecting international market out of JFK,” Raja said. “US Airways had a hub out of Philadelphia, but the airline wasn’t a part of any of the big joint ventures which really would have enabled it to grow.”
“We refashioned trans-Atlantic where we serve the non-stop market out of New York,” he said. “In Philadelphia, we go and try and create a lot of connections, and use it to try and start new markets.”
A benefit to moving connecting traffic to Philadelphia is that it costs significantly less to operate flights from that airport, adding to American’s bottom line, and making it possible to experiment with new markets and routes. The airline launched its first service to Prague and Budapest from the Philadelphia hub in 2018, which has been largely successful, leading it to launch additional flights from Chicago for 2020.
“In Philadelphia, we have a hub that can make more connecting itineraries than any of our competitors’ hubs on the East Coast, but it can do it at about 80% of the cost,” Raja said. “So it’s a really attractive way for us to try things.”
Alongside that, it cut unprofitable routes including most of its trans-Pacific service from Chicago.
At the same time, it has expanded trans-Atlantic flights from the city, Raja said. Alongside Philadelphia, the two hubs can serve a significant portion of American’s trans-Atlantic market via a single connection from a customer’s home airport.
“We can offer more cities to more of the connecting customers that really use American Airlines’ domestic system,” Raja said. “A lot of the small cities in the US have access to a bunch of new international destinations.”
“It’s the culmination of many years of remaking American into a profitable international carrier.”
The flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Tel Aviv similarly reflects American’s shift away from connecting traffic in the New York market.
“All the service to Tel Aviv is clustered in the big coastal cities on the East and West Coasts,” said Raja. “We have domestic demand from cities like Oklahoma City and Austin, and from international cities like Mexico City and Buenos Aires, where there’s a lot of demand to Tel Aviv but there are really bad connections.”