American Airlines has been so busy lately I have not had a chance to catalogue all the upcoming changes. Let’s take a look at the “blitzkrieg” American Airlines has embarked upon.
1. American Airlines Will Make Seattle A Strategic Focus City
American Airlines will inaugurate new nonstop service from Seattle to Bangalore in October 2020 utilizing a Boeing 787-9. It will also add service to London in March 2021 utilizing a 777.
Wait, Seattle? Yes, Seattle. Not that AA has a hub there…or even a focus city (yet). No one guessed that American would announce service from a non-hub to a secondary (but still large) city in India.
Maybe there’s a lucrative corporate contract with Microsoft that will back this route. Maybe Vasu Raja, AA’s Senior Vice President of Strategy, had a few drinks with Patrick Quayle, Vice President of International Planning at United, who has also been known to launch quirky routes (though always from hubs).
The new route is puzzling on many fronts, but it represents a bold new strategy, even if we don’t fully understand yet what that strategy is.
2. American Airlines Will Expand Partnership With Alaska Airlines
For American Airlines, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. American and Alaska were on the verge of further scaling back their relationship, but instead will become closer than ever before.
Look for more codesharing, reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, and a united effort to stem Delta’s rise in Seattle. Alaska and American actually have largely complementary networks and the link-up has the potential to strengthen both carriers.
Is a merger in store? Unlikely. But American’s pair of new longhaul routes in Seattle is also geared toward feeder traffic from Alaska.
> Read More: Alaska Joins Oneworld? Don’t Get Too Excited…
3. American Airlines Will Expand Partnership With Qatar Airways
You would be forgiven for looking at yesterday’s announcement that American and Qatar will resume codesharing and thinking you were in the twilight zone.
In 2017, AA abruptly announced it was ending its codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways, arguing at the time:
“This decision has no material financial impact on American and is an extension of our stance against the illegal subsidies that these carriers receive from their governments.”
And yet here we are, three years later, with a total flip-flop. Qatar Airways has been weakened by the Gulf Blockade and its Air Italy investment just went belly up. American Airlines has been weakened by operational woes and continued disharmony with labor unions. Qatar and American are a like a match made in Wonderland, with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Addressing the announcement, he said:
“We are very pleased to secure this strategic partnership with American Airlines — an agreement between two successful and ambitious airlines with a shared common purpose to enhance the customer experience.”
Doug Parker, AA’s CEO, now says:
“Our goal is to continue to expand and deepen our global partnerships to complement American’s network and create more choice for our customers.”
As for the 2017 tension?
“The issues that led to the suspension of our partnership two years ago have been addressed?”
In what way? The death of Air Italy?
American Airlines certainly sees Qatar Airways as less of a threat in 2020 and feeding domestic U.S. traffic to/form Qatar’s vast worldwide network is probably more lucrative for American than it is for Qatar Airways.
4. American Airlines Partners with GOL
AA’s on-again-off-again relationship with GOL is on again, after LATAM dumped American for Delta.
With Azul dancing with United and LATAM with Delta, GOL and American were a natural match.
GOL is based in Rio de Janeiro and its network is quite limited compared to LATAM’s vast network in Latin America. Still, GOL still serves 97 destinations and will help to mitigate the loss of LATAM.
Now that we know the news, tomorrow I’ll offer my analysis on how all of this fits together.
Some of these developments has been in the works for months, but it seems the shock of losing LATAM to Delta finally woke American Airlines out of its slumber.
As history foretells, however, blitzkriegs can have unintended consequences…
image: American Airlines