Weeks after United Airlines announced plans to begin a series of new point-to-point flights to Florida, American Airlines announced it will also stray from the hub-spoke model to add new service to Mexico.
American Airlines Adds New Non-Hub Flights To Mexico
As noted by One Mile at Time, American Airlines just loaded several new routes into its schedule. We have not seen a formal announcement yet from AA, but the new routes represent a departure from the traditional hub-spoke model of a U.S. network carrier.
New Mexico routes include:
- Cabo San Lucas (SJD)
- Austin (AUS) — 737 — Saturdays
- New York (JFK) — 737 — up to daily
- Sacramento (SMF) — A319 — Saturdays
- Cancun (CUN)
- Columbus (CMH) — A319 — Saturdays
- Indianapolis (IND) — 737 — Saturdays
- Kansas City (MCI) — 737 — Saturdays
- Raleigh-Durham (RDU) — 737 — Saturdays
- St. Louis (STL) — 737 — Saturdays
- Puerto Vallarta (PVR)
- Charlotte (CLT) — A319 — Saturdays
As you can see, with the exception of JFK-SJD and CLT-PVR, these are not hub routes. With Saturday-only service, these are clearly intended for winter leisure travelers. The routes will run between December 2020 and April 2021.
Why Is American Airlines Adding Point-To-Point Leisure Routes?
The answer is very simple: business travelers are not traveling. What was once the bread-and-butter (10% of travelers made up 40% of revenue) has eroded during the pandemic.
View from the Wing notes this explanation from AA Senior Vice President Vasu Raja:
“There’s a segment of customers who is traveling right now, they’re the ones filling flights to Florida and Mexico. They’re the reason Charlotte Airport and DFW looks like that. And we’ve got to be as easy as possible to do business with for those customers and a number of things we’ve done in the past, for different reasons, the structure of our basic economy fares, the way we’ve had any number of fees and other structure, may not work for those customers…that may change our network, that may change our fare product, that may change our loyalty program, those customers are there now and we got to go and bring them in and figure out a way to win more of their business.”
Let that sink in. It sounds like American may get rid of change fees like United did yesterday. But it also sounds like American is considering changes to its AAdvtange loyalty program. If those changes are more geared toward leisure Florida and Mexico travelers, we may have reason to be concerned. Raja oversees AAdvantage as well.
The Hub-Spoke Model Is Going Nowhere
Just because American Airlines is attempting this experiment does not mean the hub-spoke model is in any jeopardy. Quite the contrary, the vast majority of flights will remain to or from an American hub. In fact, American is also adding new seasonal service to several new cities from its Miami and Phoenix hubs.
- Dayton (DAY) — ERJ-145 — Saturdays
- Lexington (LEX) — ERJ-145 — Saturdays
- Milwaukee (MKE) — EMB-175 — Saturdays
- Portland, Maine (PWM) — EMB-175 — Saturdays
- Rochester (ROC) — EMB-175 — Saturdays
- Billings (BIL) — CRJ-700 — daily
- Bismarck (BIS) — CRJ-700 — daily
- Calgary (YYC) — CRJ-900 — daily
- Cincinnati (CVG) — A319 — 4x weekly
- Cleveland (CLE) — 737 — Saturdays
- Nashville (BNA) — A319 — 4x weekly
- Pittsburgh (PIT) — A319 — daily
- Raleigh-Durham (RDU) — A320 — daily
- Tulsa (TUL) — CRJ-900 — daily
Notice all new routes from Miami are Saturdays only.
These interesting new route announcements from American Airlines underscore how much the airline industry has changed this year. AA’s new target of seasonal leisure travelers presents further evidence of the decline of business travel, which have forced airlines to improvise with previously unorthodox routes.