American Airlines joined the Summer 2020 schedule cut party overnight, announcing several international routes that will not operate until at least October and a 7.5% cut in domestic capacity for April. The carrier also dramatically improved its change fee waiver policy, making it easier for passengers to reconsider otherwise non-refundable travel plans.
In addition to the changes announced on Tuesday American also hints that it would like to trim more from the schedule. Currently it is not doing so because it risks losing its slots at congested airports if it does not operate 80% of the allocated frequencies. In the release the carrier notes, “American has requested temporary relief from this usage requirement – otherwise known as requesting a slot waiver – to better align capacity with demand without the risk of losing valuable takeoff and landing slots for the future.”
A more generous change policy from American Airlines
Effective immediately, all tickets for travel through 30 April 2020 may now be changed without a change fee. This applies to all AA-issued tickets, including Basic Economy. Passengers are still on the hook for any fare difference and the new tickets must be reissued by the end of December or within 12 months of the original ticketing date, whichever is earlier.
American was arguably the worst when it initially launched its fee waiver as the coronavirus outbreak spread. With this new policy the company comes in line with Delta Air Lines that had been one of the most generous, particularly around making changes on previously booked fares.
These fee waivers eat into airline ancillary revenue. They are also polarizing in customer sentiment as travelers generally feel the need to change is not their fault. Limiting the waiver only to new purchases was seen by consumers as particularly egregious and now all of the Big 3 US carriers have adjusted policies to ignore that factor.
Major International Schedule Cuts at American
The American Airlines international route map will be a little less full this summer. A number of markets are wholly suspended while others will see a delayed launch or smaller aircraft operating.
- Mainland China flights are suspended through late October. Hong Kong is suspended from LA and will resume at 3x weekly from DFW in July.
- Tokyo service drops to a 787-8 from 7 May; currently operating with a mix of 787-9 and 777s
- Sydney reduces to 6x weekly in May and early June
Europe and South America will also see notable cuts including:
- Rome and Milan suspended through the next 6-8 weeks, and the previously planned second daily DFW-Rome flight will not operate. Delta also cancelled its planned second daily ATL-Rome flight.
- Charlotte-Barcelona, Miami-Paris and JFK-Madrid are suspended from 7 May through 3 June.
- Miami-Montevideo becomes a seasonal route, not operating from 7 May through 17 December.
- Santiago, Chile and Sao Paulo, Brazil also see cuts
A Domestic pull-back
While the international cuts are significant and relatively far-ranging time-wise there are also domestic cuts now in place. The carrier will trim 7.5% of its capacity within the US market. In its statement the carrier suggests it will “decrease frequencies in markets with robust schedule patterns and will cancel routes where customers can be easily reaccommodated.”
At the same time, however, the carrier will add a seasonal 787-9 flight this summer between O’Hare and Honolulu as it seeks to keep some of its wide-body aircraft in service during the international drawdown.
Compared to the others
American’s moves are significant and in line with other changes in the international and domestic markets. Compared to United, for example, the international cuts are comparable while domestic capacity does not drop quite as much. But the cuts are more significant than what Spirit Airlines or JetBlue put into place thus far.
More on COVID-19 and the airlines affected
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