American Goes All In on Short Haul
The carrier says it is following the money and that's leading to a domestic-centric business.
Today I am implementing the long-awaited paywall, which you’ll see on many (but not all) of my newsletters going forward. To those who have already bought a subscription, thank you. To others, I hope you’ll consider joining as a paid member. As soon as you join, you’ll be able to read this and future newsletters in full.
Remember all that talk several years ago, before Scott Kirby got canned by the board, about how American Airlines was the world's largest airline? A carrier that could take its customers almost everywhere they wanted to go? An airline that was building a transpacific hub in Los Angeles, despite massive competition?
You never hear about it anymore. Instead, American is focused on adding connectivity within its profitable short-haul network, particularly at its hubs in the Sunbelt states of North Carolina and Texas. Elsewhere, the airline is relying on partners, including Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Japan Airlines, British Airways and, yes, Qatar Airways, to take passengers to their final destination.
Perhaps someday this strategy will cause problems. Maybe some of American's core customers will notice how the network has changed and whine about how the airline pushes long-haul customers to connect at a partner hub. Perhaps they'll defect to another airline, like the one calling itself “America's flag carrier,” that still tries to get customers most places they want to go. Or maybe the pendulum will swing once again and the big spenders who are now staying home in New York and L.A. will once again buy disproportionate numbers of premium tickets. Yes, American could simply shift capacity back to the coasts, but will it still be top-of-mind for the entertainment executives, consultants, and bankers who had their Airpass accounts cancelled? Or will those people go to Delta?
For now, this approach is paying dividends, American’s chief commercial officer Vasu Raja said Thursday on the airline's fourth quarter earnings call. It announced quarterly net income of $803 million, and full-year net income of $127 million.
You know where to find the other headlines from American’s earnings call — but read on for my take on how American has changed its network, the positive signs it’s seeing from these changes, and some other items that piqued my interest.