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American unveils 17 new routes, goes all-Boeing 777 between Miami and JFK in big summer expansion

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 4/14/2021 Zach Griff
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a tarmac at an airport © Provided by The Points Guy
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American Airlines is busy rebuilding its route network.

On Wednesday, the Fort Worth-based carrier finalized its summer schedule, offering travelers more than 150 total new routes, additional wide-body flying and capacity at levels just a few percentage points away from the highs of 2019.

Let’s take a look at the details.

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American goes all-in on theme parks

If you’re planning a visit to Mickey Mouse, odds are better than ever that American Airlines will have a flight for you.

“We’re offering 51 departures to Orlando on Saturdays this summer. That’s 2% additional capacity compared to the same period in 2019,” said Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning in an interview with TPG.

To support the pent-up leisure demand, American is adding eight new Saturday-only nonstops to Orlando (MCO), from the following cities:

  • Birmingham, Alabama (BHM)
  • Dayton, Ohio (DAY)
  • Indianapolis (IND)
  • Louisville (SDF)
  • Memphis (MEM)
  • Nashville (BNA)
  • Pittsburgh (PIT)
  • Raleigh-Durham (RDU)

All flights will be operated by American Eagle partners on the Embraer 175 aircraft from June 5 through Aug. 14.

The eight new Orlando routes join the airline’s previously announced daily service from Austin, which is slated to begin on May 6 with a Boeing 737-800.

a group of people walking down the street: American will offer flyers plenty of options to visit Disney World in Orlando (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy American will offer flyers plenty of options to visit Disney World in Orlando (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Despite Disney World and other theme parks operating with reduced capacity, Znotins believes that “I think it’s just pent-up demand. People want to go somewhere fun, sunny and nice, and they’re working around the limitations… What helps is that Orlando won’t be full of Parisians and Britons, so it frees up some capacity at otherwise constrained resorts.”

Related: 11 changes to expect at Disney World in 2021

Eight new routes to the great outdoors

In addition to the Orlando flights, American will add a host of other routes for the summer.

The carrier will fly between Nashville (BNA) and Raleigh-Durham (RDU) beginning on June 2 on a daily basis using both the Airbus A319 and Embraer 175. American will go head-to-head with Southwest on the route, which currently plans two daily departures this summer.

Turns out, according to Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium, the BNA-RDU route was in the top quartile in estimated profitability across Southwest’s network in 2019. AA’s likely hoping to capture some of the valuable market share when it launches service.

Video: Boeing 737 Max Grounded by Over a Dozen Airlines Due to Electrical Issue (Travel + Leisure)

Boeing 737 Max Grounded by Over a Dozen Airlines Due to Electrical Issue

Raleigh-Durham will also get a new Saturday-only flight to Destin-Fort Walton Beach (VPS) between June 5 and Aug. 15. American won’t face any competition on this 582-mile route to one of Florida’s most popular beach destinations.

Austin will also get its eleventh new AA route, when service to Nassau, Bahamas (NAS), launches on Saturdays between June 5 and Aug. 14. American recently unveiled a major Austin-focused expansion aimed at capturing both business and leisure travelers headed to and from the rapidly growing Texas capital.

From Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), American will launch leisure-focused flights to both Bangor, Maine (BGR), and Burlington, Vermont (BTV).

Miami (MIA) is also a winner with three new Saturday-only routes to Bangor, Maine (BGR), Huntsville, Alabama (HSV), Milwaukee (MKE) and Rochester, New York (ROC).

More American route news: The longest Hawaii flight just got a big schedule boost

The 777s are coming in hot

Instead of parking wide-body jets in the desert, AA will deploy them on some strategic domestic routes.

This includes Miami (MIA) to both Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK, which will exclusively be operated by 777s this summer. The upgauge isn’t coming at the expense of frequency — Znotins told TPG that American will fly two more daily MIA-JFK flights this summer, compared to 2019.

Flying a wide-body on a domestic route isn’t necessarily the most economical move. “If you have a wide-body plane, you bought that aircraft for long-haul flying… I can fly two [single-aisle] Airbus A320s or A321s for the same price as one wide-body on a per-seat basis. Economically, if I can offer two different schedule options on a narrow-body… that’ll be better for passenger choice than a single domestic wide-body.”

So, why is American adding domestic wide-body service nowadays? After all, AA recently upgauged a variety of unexpected routes, including Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Chicago (ORD) to Anchorage (ANC), MIA to Boston (BOS) and DFW to Seattle (SEA).

Znotins said that the government’s Payroll Support Program has allowed American to have both crews and widebodies “at the ready” to fly this summer as a rebound in domestic travel looms.

“And now we can offer as much capacity as we can given the infrastructure that we have,” he added.

American’s widebodies offer an elevated inflight experience (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy American’s widebodies offer an elevated inflight experience (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American’s move to increase domestic wide-body service will give travelers access to more premium seats. These jets feature AA’s lie-flat business-class product, as well as a premium economy cabin with recliners. Plus, each plane is equipped with seat-back screens and power outlets, making for a much more comfortable ride across all cabins.

More: How to fly American Airlines best lie-flat seat domestically

Getting much closer to 2019 travel levels

It’s no secret that domestic travel is rebounding.

American is hopeful that the strong demand will continue into the summer. In fact, AA’s planning to fly more than 90% of its domestic seat capacity as compared to summer 2019. Of course, the lucrative business travel segment hasn’t meaningfully returned yet. Instead, it’s mostly pandemic-weary vacationers looking for flights to the beach or national parks.

The recovery in international travel is still in its infancy. Despite American planning just 20% less capacity in networkwide international flying this summer compared to 2019, the numbers differ greatly by destination.

“We’re going to be down 71% in seats in Western Europe versus 2019. Japan is down 79%. Eastern Europe we won’t fly at all,” Znotins said. Due to low demand, American won’t fly to Edinburgh (EDI), Scotland; Shannon, Ireland (SNN); or Hong Kong (HKG) this summer.

Closer to home, the picture is much rosier. Znotins told TPG that countries like Colombia, Peru and Mexico are doing well. American plans double the number of seats to Colombia this summer than it had in the summer of 2019.

The rebound in short-haul international travel is primarily driven by both strong VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic, as well as leisure-focused tourism. Despite the CDC’s new COVID-19 testing policy for flights headed to the U.S., many resorts have adapted to the new reality by offering free testing and quarantine options, should a traveler come down with the virus while on vacation.

To match capacity to demand, American will deploy the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, as well as the 777-200, on select frequencies from Miami (MIA) to a variety of short-haul international destinations, including:

  • Cali, Colombia (CLO) (Boeing 787-8)
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE) (Boeing 787-8)
  • Lima, Peru (LIM) (Boeing 787-8)
  • Medellin, Colombia (MDE) (Boeing 787-8)
  • Port au Prince, Haiti (PAP) (Boeing 787-8)
  • Quito, Ecuador (UIO) (Boeing 787-8)
  • Bogota, Colombia (BOG) (Boeing 777-200)
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) (Boeing 777-200)

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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