United is expanding at Chicago O’Hare and increasingly American is the number two carrier there. Years ago the city had a sprawling international route network, selling flights to Moscow and Delhi. Now American’s flying from Chicago is mostly domestic.
At an internal meeting earlier in the month led by Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja, an employee asked about the draw down in Chicago flying and in particular why American isn’t flying from Chicago to Hawaii. View From The Wing reviewed a recording of this conversation. The gist of the explanation,
- American has “scaled back Europe to just [London] Heathrow in Winter, even more so than usual because of resource constraints” like not enough pilots, and higher value opportunities such as flying to Cancun.
- Chicago – Hawaii flying requires a widebody aircraft and while customers “love flat bed seats” the airline needs “business or high end leisure travelers paying a premium” to make that work. There’s “lots of premium redemption up front.” Chicago – Hawaii didn’t make money for American when they tried it. In the future “if fares creep up” it’s something they’d look at again.
A business seat takes four seats of space, so unless they’re paying four times the coach fare they’re not making money.
American’s Vice President for Network and Schedule Planning Brian Znotins explained American’s “very conservative” approach to long haul flying for the winter, but getting more aggressive for summer 2023 and perhaps even a year from now as well.
This winter we’re taking a very conservative view of where people are traveling. Many travelers held their European and Asian vacations this summer because of the U.S. requirements to get tested to come home.. those restrictions were lifted very late in the game… for next summer we’re very optimistic now that those restrictions are gone, they’re probably not coming back again.
We’ll see all these flights surge back and then the following winter we should be able to [unintelligible]. Also we’ll have more 787s because Boeing is actually delivering them now. We have a handful right now but we should have the full cadre come next winter. We’ll just have more resources to be able to fly more of the winter-type things like Paris – I’m not guaranteeing Paris – but like Paris that we’ll be able to fly across our network in the following winter.
Chicago O’Hare remains one of my favorite American Airlines hubs because the terminal has a Tortas Frontera and a Flagship lounge. I’ll choose to connect there over Philadelphia or Charlotte when possible.