American loaded its most recent short-term coronavirus-related April schedule cuts over the weekend, and the airline cut deep in some geographies. It promised a 60 to 70 percent domestic cut in April, and while it didn’t get there on a network level (yet), Los Angeles is getting close with more than 50 percent of domestic available seat miles just gone completely. That just happens to be the hub I was most curious about since it seems like it could be at risk in the future.
Overall, American will drop two-thirds of its flights at LAX from April 8 through April 30 (May cuts haven’t loaded yet) with 34 of the 51 existing North American destinations disappearing. That means it’ll be down to a mere 57 flights per day on average. All of these flights will be on mainline aircraft. That’s not much of a surprise since the airline providing the bulk of the American Eagle service at LAX, Compass, is being shut down April 7.
This has to mean that the dreaded Eagle’s Nest remote terminal at LAX will be closed for the forseeable future. In fact, with only 57 flights a day, American should be able to easily keep its entire schedule operating from Terminal 4 with ease. I don’t know for sure if that means it will stop flying from Terminal 5 for now, but it would make a lot of sense.
So what’s left? Well, here it is visually. American already cut its entire long-haul network from LAX in a previous schedule change. That means previous service from LA to London, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Auckland won’t show on this map. But this is what American will operate up through April 7.
And here is the map for April 8 through April 30.
It’s a whole lot more barren these days. In fact, the vast majority of flights go to other American hubs. The only ones that don’t are:
- 7 weekly flights to Boston
- 7 weekly flights to Cabo San Lucas
- 7 weekly flights to Honolulu
- 13 weekly flights to Las Vegas
- 6 weekly flights to Mexico City
- 7 weekly flights to Orlando
- 15 weekly flights to Seattle
- 1 weekly flight to St Louis
Some of these are really odd, like the St Louis weekly flight which is westbound on Tuesday and eastbound on Wednesday. There’s also a very strange westbound-only weekly flight from Atlanta which I didn’t even put on this map. I’m assuming this is either to route airplanes for maintenance or crews. After all, a cancellation this close to travel means crew pairings and maintenance schedules are much harder to move. That’s why I assume we’ll see some interesting things whenever the May schedule gets loaded; there is more flexibility then.
Of these remaining routes, all are on narrowbodies except for single daily flights to Chicago and Honolulu which are on 787-8s. This is the only flight remaining in the American network to Hawai’i, so even if people don’t fill the airplane, cargo likely will. And I assume the Chicago flight is simply to route the airplane into the rest of the American network.
Compared to Delta
What’s particularly interesting about this hub is that everyone plays in the sandbox. United has only done some limited cutting for April so far, and that means I can’t compare yet, but it looks like Delta has already done its damage.
While American cut about 100 daily flights over the weekend, slashing destinations from 52 to 16, Delta was busy with its own plan. Delta will cut only a bit over 50 flights a day and it will thin destinations from 47 to 37. American used to have more flights than Delta, but that won’t be the case in April.
Here’s a chart that shows this with a little more detail.
Looking at competitive markets is most interesting. Prior to this weekend’s changes, Delta and American had 33 markets in which they both had nonstop flights. They both pulled out of Columbus, Indianapolis, Raleigh/Durham, and San Diego, but what about the remaining 29?
Delta cut exactly NONE of those markets from its schedule. (Ok, it cut Mexico City while American didn’t, but joint venture partner Aeromexico is still there.) In the meantime, American walked away from an incredible 18.
The differing strategies seem to be clear here. Delta has gone for breadth. It is cutting frequencies in many markets, but it hasn’t cut a lot of cities. Those that it did cut were mostly non-competitive markets like Liberia, Costa Rica as well as the couple long-haul flights that still hadn’t left the schedule. American, however, is hyper-focusing on serving its hubs and important business markets. Breadth is out the door. This is just about operating the most utilitarian schedule that fills the needs of its most important clients.
This doesn’t necessarily indicate that American is leaving LA behind. It could just be a differing pulldown strategy that will get reversed in the future. But there are some other tea leaves we can read here.
American has never done well in Los Angeles. Then again, nobody has. It’s a tough market with a load of competition and low fares. But American was hell-bent on making LA the airline’s Pacific gateway. And while there likely is a future for the Australia flying thanks to the joint venture with Qantas, there is little else beyond joint venture markets that are worth flying.
When American decided to renew ties with Alaska and start long-haul flights from Seattle just a month ago, this looked like an opportunity to eventually shift away from LA. Sure enough, Seattle is keeping two mainline American flights a day from LA through all this. That may very well be more about Seattle than Los Angeles, which would be quite the shift. Considering how many routes have disappeared in this cut, the retention of Seattle is an outlier.
I was also surprised to see that San Francisco isn’t being served at all. Sure, it was on Eagle before, but that doesn’t mean American couldn’t route mainline to keep a presence there. Apparently it didn’t think that was important enough to bother, even though it’s a key business market that will matter in the long run for an airline trying to serve LA’s needs.
It’s hard to say what American’s long-term intentions are for Los Angeles from this. Maybe the May schedule will tell us more when that comes out, but it seems unlikely to me that we’ll see the operation return the way it has existed until now. This is a market that’s ripe for a change, and the current state of the world could be the push that American needed.