American Airlines has never flown to Africa, and the last time it flew to India, it lost lots of money. But the airline is now the world's largest, and it could soon expand internationally.
Among U.S. carriers, United Airlines has been the most daring with its route network in recent years, adding flights to far-flung destinations.
Now American Airlines may want to join it. American is poised to expand its international network after it receives a second batch of Boeing 787s beginning next year, an executive told me last week.
“That’s the airplane that is going to take us eventually to India and into Africa, and into markets which are very different from the ones that we have been in historically, but ones we believe will be very profitable,” said Vasu Raja, the airline’s vice president for planning.
This is a strategy shift. Since its merger with US Airways in 2013, American has taken a more cautious approach than United, bulking up its Los Angeles hub with transpacific flights to major cities and adding new routes to Europe and South America, where it is already strong.
A year ago, I asked Raja why American didn’t take as many chances with its network as United or Delta Air Lines. He told me the airline was focused on profits, rather than exciting new routes. He said American could make more money flying a widebody to Europe in the summer and Hawaii in the winter, than flying to a new country or region such as India or Africa.
“It’s all about the returns you get on the airplane,” Raja said in February 2018. “If you go and fly one Pacific route, on balance, that’s two airplanes. Are those two airplanes better in the Pacific or are they better flying in the Atlantic for six months of the year and flying to Hawaii for six months of the year?”
What do you make of this strategy change? Do you think American will go through with it? And where do you think American will fly?
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Welcome to Our New Skift Airline Weekly Editor
You may know that late last year, Skift acquired Airline Weekly, a paid newsletter crammed with important information about the world’s airlines. While editor Seth Kaplan is moving on, I’m thrilled to share that Madhu Unnikrishnan has joined to take his place.
Unnikrishnan and I worked together at Aviation Week. I can report he is a fine editor who knows more about the airline industry than almost anyone I know. You’ll get to know Unnikrishnan in the coming months as he re-launches the Skift Airline Weekly Lounge podcast, joins us on stage at Skift Forum Asia, and works on an overhaul of Skift Airline Weekly’s newsletter product and digital offering.
Unnikrishnan and I also will represent Skift at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Seoul in June. If you’re there, please say hello. Better yet, contact us in advance, and we’ll set a time to meet.
Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [[email protected]] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.
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Photo credit: An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 takes off in Los Angeles. The airline may use future Dreamliner delivers to open new routes in Africa and India. BriYYZ / Flickr