Airlines continue to revise schedules in the face of reduced demand and new government restrictions related to COVID-19. With those changes, it is possible to read into not only how the airlines see the current situation, but also what expectations are for the recovery. With the announcements made on Thursday night American Airlines signaled a couple key considerations for itself and the industry at large.
Asia recovery will take longer
American’s flights from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires are suspended not just for a month or two, but through the entire summer season. Similarly, the carrier’s LAX-China/Hong Kong routes were previously announced as suspended through the summer, and Tokyo will fly with a smaller aircraft.
This all adds up to an indication that the recovery of traffic from Asia to the Americas is going to be a slog, not a quick return. At least that’s what American Airlines expects. Given that IATA and other projections were based on a quick “V-shaped” recovery this slower prediction suggests that the revenue hit will be even more significant than the already eye-watering numbers.
The old planes will leave faster
During the JP Morgan Aviation conference earlier this week CEO Doug Parker hinted that some of the companies oldest planes could be retired on a more aggressive schedule. While he specifically mentioned the oldest 757s and E190s, that wasn’t all that the carrier had in its plans. Now we know more details.
The company’s 767s are to be grounded by May 2020. That moves up the schedule by a year. The 757s are now going to leave the fleet by end of summer 2021, two years faster than previously planned.
While this could be seen as bad news for the company’s growth capabilities it should be good news for passenger comfort on board. These oldest planes are flying with interiors and amenities that significantly trail the industry in terms of passenger comfort. No entertainment screens, older seats, generally just not nice.
That’s not likely to offset the loss of service for passengers on routes being cut – anything is better than nothing in most cases – but the planes are not holding up great inside.
On the plus side, it means that new deliveries from Airbus and Boeing are more likely to continue, unless American needs to drastically shrink in the coming years.
Bonus Idea: Building to airline needs
Early schedule shifts were quick and selective changes, as if the airlines did not expect the outbreak to be nearly as bad as it is. The latest changes, from American and most others, are now rolling out based on how the airlines schedule their planes and crew, sharing with expectations of passenger demand rather than being driven by it. The airlines now know that this is a long-term issue and are planning for the cuts to roll longer than currently booked. United’s Kirby said essentially the same thing on Tuesday, noting that carrier is working about three months out at any given time.
More on COVID-19 and the airlines affected
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