I know I keep focusing on American lately, but that’s because the airline has been putting out more complete schedules than the rest and for a longer term. Yesterday I looked at May domestic schedules, but now I want to look further out on the horizon. Let’s take a look at American’s plans for long-haul international flying for the rest of the year.
In short, American is cutting to a skeleton schedule for May. In June it will bring back some flying, and then by the winter schedule it will be mostly back to where it wants to be. Of course, that winter schedule could be (and probably is) a lie. After all, who the heck knows what demand is going to look like by late October?
I went into Diio and looked at all Transpacific and Transatlantic flying as well as all flying into deep Latin America (southern Brazil/Argentina/Uruguay/Chile). Then I had to sync that up with what American said it was going to do since those did differ slightly. Here’s what I found.
Customs Facilities Will Not Be Busy in May
American clearly thinks that there will be no demand in May, and it’s right on that front. Here is the entire long-haul network for American in May, courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper.
It’s incredible, isn’t it? There will be a single flight across the Pacific on American in May. It doesn’t even operate daily. (It goes three times a week.) The Atlantic has a bit more, but all flights are from Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami. The Paris one surprised me, but clearly there’s some important connection with Paris that made it worth flying. And in Latin America, it’s the three big markets getting service… at least at this point.
All of these routes will operate at reduced service levels, between 3 and 7 days a week. Only Miami to London and Santiago were scheduled to operate about the same number of departures originally. We’ll see if further changes are necessary to comply with extended quarantines or other regulations.
Europe and Latin Spring Back to Life In June
American has set June 4 as its next ramp-up date. That’s when the delayed summer season will hopefully begin for Europe and Latin America, but it’s much smaller than the original plan. You can see those routes now in green.
It’s starting to get hard to see exact routes, so I’ll list them here.
- Chicago/O’Hare – Athens, Dublin, London/Heathrow
- Dallas/Fort Worth – Amsterdam, Frankfurt
- Los Angeles – London/Heathrow
- Miami – Rio de Janeiro/Galeao
- New York/JFK – Buenos Aires/Ezeiza, London/Heathrow, Sao Paulo/Guarhulos
- Philadelphia – London/Heathrow
- Raleigh/Durham – London/Heathrow
As you can see, this is American mostly playing to its strengths. Of the 12 routes that will re-start, 5 of them will go to London, American’s hub-via-partner and gateway to much of Europe. Another 3 go to Latin America, where so far, demand has seen less of an impact.
The remaining 4 routes are secondary European markets. At least, they’re secondary for American. American has been operating some flights to Frankfurt that are cargo-only right now, so I imagine that’s why this comes back earlier. The other three look like more traditional leisure routes that aren’t considered hot spots for COVID-19. Since this is for summer travel, leisure should give the most opportunity for any recovery.
Asia Returns in July and Europe Fills Out
By July 7, American is willing to take even more risks. That includes the reintroduction of Asia flying. It’s also when DFW gets its first Latin America flight back. You can see these adds in blue.
- Charlotte – London/Heathrow, Munich
- Chicago/O’Hare – Barcelona
- Dallas/Fort Worth – Dublin, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo/Guarhulos, Seoul/Incheon, Tokyo/Haneda
- Los Angeles – Tokyo/Haneda
- Miami – Madrid
- New York/JFK – Madrid, Paris/CDG
- Philadelphia – Madrid, Zurich
At this point, places like Latin and London are nearly back at full strength. But this is also the period where American assumes that coronavirus-ravaged areas will start to see demand again, starting with its partner hubs.
Of the 14 routes, 4 of them touch Spain with 2 in Tokyo. Charlotte also gets Transatlantic service back with London. The ones that stick out to me are the return of Charlotte – Munich and Philly – Zurich. Those seem odd.
An October Surprise
The official winter season doesn’t begin until October 25, but there are four routes that come back before then.
- Los Angeles – Sydney (October 23)
- Philadelphia – Amsterdam, Dublin (October 7)
- Phoenix – London/Heathrow (October 7)
The Sydney flight comes back 2 days before the winter schedule, so clearly that’s just a look at expected demand by day of week. But the other three, I frankly don’t understand.
Dallas/Fort Worth to Amsterdam goes away in September, so that might explain why Philly comes back earlier. That being said, there’s still a few-week gap in between with no service. And Dublin has service from Chicago straight until the winter schedule, so this doesn’t fill a gap there. As for Phoenix, well, British Airways is still in there for now. These dates are odd.
The Winter Schedule
On October 25, the winter schedule goes into effect, and American is almost at full strength.
- Boston – London/Heathrow
- Charlotte – Frankfurt
- Chicago/O’Hare – Paris/CDG
- Dallas/Fort Worth – Beijing/Capital, Buenos Aires/Ezeiza, Santiago, Shanghai/Pudong
- Los Angeles – Auckland, Beijing/Capital, Buenos Aires/Ezeiza, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo/Guarhulos, Shanghai/Pudong
- Miami – Barcelona, Brasilia, Milan/Malpensa, Montevideo (starts Dec), Paris/CDG
- New York/JFK – Barcelona, Milan/Malpensa, Rio de Janeiro/Galeao (starts Dec)
- Philadelphia – Manchester, Paris/CDG, Rome/Fiumicino
Note that this is the first time that American will return to Italy. It knows just how hard hit that place is, and the summer season is dead for sure.
This probably feels like a more substantial operation, but it’s far from what American originally had planned.
The Fallen Soldiers of 2020
As part of these changes, American has decided to remove 29 routes from the schedule this year. Orange are summer seasonal, blue are winter seasonal, and green are year-round… or at least, they were scheduled to be.
- Summer Seasonal
- Charlotte – Barcelona, Dubling, Madrid, Paris/CDG, Rome/Fiumicino
- Chicago/O’Hare – Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Rome/Fiumicino, Venice
- Dallas/Fort Worth – Munich, Rome/Fiumicino
- New York/JFK – Rome/Fiumicino
- Philadelphia – Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Casablanca, Dubrovnik, Edinburgh, Keflavik (Iceland), Shannon, Venice
- Winter Seasonal
- Dallas/Fort Worth – Auckland
- Los Angeles – Christchurch
- Dallas/Fort Worth – Tel Aviv
- Philadelphia – Lisbon, Prague
- Seattle – Bangalore
Most of these fit the profile you would expect. All the summer flights to Italy have been killed, and for the cities where that was supposed to be seasonal, it just won’t come back until next year. Many of the markets meant to cater to a small group of leisure travelers (Budapest, Krakow, Dubrovnik, etc) won’t come back. They’re too much of a risk in times like these. Besides, American would rather route those people via London to try to fill those airplanes.
Lastly, and I don’t think I need to say this, Seattle to Bangalore will be delayed until next year as well, if it happens at all.
This is the first time we’ve seen how an airline is thinking about international demand so far out, and my first thought was… it just feels like too much.
We certainly don’t know what the situation with COVID-19 will look like this summer. We don’t even know what it’ll look like a couple weeks from now. But it seems to me that even if things are better, demand will be hugely suppressed throughout the summer. Some of these routes just seem overly aggressive, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them cut back. It is good to see, however, that every single one of those 25 canceled summer routes will not happen. Take that capacity out and give other routes a better chance to succeed.
On the other hand, I think that the winter schedule is probably fiction at this point. My assumption is that all we really know about winter is the routes that WON’T be flying. Everything else that is still in the schedule is more of a placeholder than anything. There will likely be further cuts by then.