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American Chases European Profits With New Copenhagen, Naples, and Nice Flights

Edward Russell
August 17th, 2023 at 10:00 AM EDT

An American 787 and Iberia plane in Madrid

American Airlines will add three new European destinations to its map next summer, as U.S. domestic fares fall and airlines post record transatlantic profits.

Copenhagen, Naples, and Nice will join the Oneworld Alliance carrier’s map in May and June. American will offer daily flights from its Philadelphia hub, which has been among the slowest of its hubs to recover from the pandemic. The airline will also add new flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Barcelona in June.

“It’s all related to wanting to find year-round homes for airplanes,” American Senior Vice President of Network Planning Brian Znotins said in the latest episode of the airline’s podcast, Tell Me Why. The four new transatlantic routes are counter-cyclical to other recent additions, like Dallas-Fort Worth to Auckland, that only fly in the winter, he explained.

The growth comes as yields in the U.S. domestic market — by far the largest for American — have begun to fall from last year’s highs. Recent data from analytics firm Hopper found that domestic airfares have plateaued at down roughly 11% year-over-year, and are expected to stay down through the fall. Conversely, international airfares to Europe are down just 2% compared to last year and expected to rise this fall.

In the second quarter, the latest data available, American saw domestic passenger unit revenue, or PRASM, decrease 3% compared to 2022. Passenger unit revenue across the Atlantic was up nearly 16%. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, both of which have larger longhaul international franchises than American, posted similar unit revenue gains on transatlantic routes. And both Delta and United have said strong travel demand to Europe has prompted them to extend flights on several seasonal routes through October that would have otherwise ended in September.

American had hoped to add some new European destinations this summer but decided to put off any additions until next year owing to uncertainty over new Boeing 787 deliveries, Znotins said. The airframer has struggled to deliver the widebody jets on time with delays over the past two years forcing American to cut some previously planned longhaul routes.

With the new additions, American expects its transatlantic seat capacity to be up in the “low- to mid-single digits” next summer compared to this summer, a spokesperson said.

The new routes are something of a break from pandemic strategy and a return to the old for American. The airline shed routes to second tier cities — including Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Dubrovnik, and Prague — when it retired its fleets of older Boeing 757s and 767s early, in 2020. As it has built back its international schedule, it has focused on more flights to partner hubs, for example, London Heathrow and Madrid.

For American “international is hinged off of what we do out of our domestic hubs,” CEO Robert Isom said in response to a question on its longhaul strategy compared to Delta and United in March. “We’re probably less exposed to international secondary cities, that’s just the way our network is set up.”

Isom said providing customers the most connectivity by its own and its partner’s hubs was its longhaul priority. In Europe, American has a close joint venture partnership with Aer Lingus, British Airways, Finnair, and Iberia.

Copenhagen, Naples, and Nice are all second-tier European destinations that also lack a significant presence on any of American’s major partners.

Speaking of American partners, Aer Lingus separately Thursday unveiled two new transatlantic routes from Dublin: Minneapolis-St. Paul from April 29 and Denver from May 17. Both routes will operate four-times weekly with an Airbus A330 through the summer.

The growth from Philadelphia also comes as American winds down its alliance with JetBlue Airways in Boston and New York. That partnership, which officially ended in July (but which continues to honor existing reservations), saw JetBlue’s domestic flights essentially feed American’s international operations in the two gateways. Without that feed, American lacks the same incentive to add longhaul flights in Boston and New York. In Philadelphia, however, it has a large domestic schedule to feed international flights.

Znotins did not comment on the end of the JetBlue alliance but did say the three new European routes from Philadelphia were only possible with the U.S. domestic feed it has at the airport. Flights from New York JFK, on the other hand, are “really about the local market.”

Earlier in August, American confirmed that it would move its daily JFK-Doha flight to Philadelphia on October 29. The route began last year as part of American’s expanded partnership with Qatar Airways.

American does not plan to end any other longhaul routes from JFK, a spokesperson said. Seasonal New York-Athens flights that began in 2021 will resume in March.

American faces no competition on any of its four new routes, according to Cirium Diio schedules. However, Copenhagen is served by Delta from JFK; Naples by United from Newark; and Nice by Delta from Atlanta and JFK, and United from Newark. SAS, which is a partner of United and has a hub in Copenhagen, also serves eight U.S. cities from the Danish capital.

Details on American’s new transatlantic routes:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth to Barcelona: Daily flights on a Boeing 777-200 from June 5
  • Philadelphia to Copenhagen: Daily on a Boeing 787-9 from June 6
  • Philadelphia to Naples: Daily on a 787-8 from June 5
  • Philadelphia to Nice: Daily on a 787-9 from May 6

Updated with comments from American’s SVP of Network Planning Brian Znotins, and details of Aer Lingus’ new transatlantic routes.

Edward Russell
August 17th, 2023 at 10:00 AM EDT

Tags: Europe North America

Photo credit: An American Airlines Boeing 787 taxis past an Iberia Airbus A350 at the Madrid Barajas airport. Flickr / Anna Zvereva

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