American will begin cross fleeting on a couple of international routes this May.
- Chicago – Dublin (historically an American route) will be operated by a legacy US Airways Airbus A330.
- Philadephia – Zurich (a legacy US Airways route) will be operated by an American Boeing 767.
Even though from a customer perspective there’s now just one airline, American, operationally that’s not quite the case. Since they haven’t fully integrated the work groups, especially the pilots onto a single seniority list, they still have challenges in scheduling planes and routes as though they were a single airline. They have to continue to meet the terms of complicated separate contracts.
That’s why from a financial perspective the ‘synergies of the merger’ haven’t been realized yet to a large degree. They’re going to want to match the right aircraft with the right capacity to the right route. American believes that many of the legacy AA routes have too much capacity with too-big Boeing 737s, which could be deployed more effectively on some legacy US Airways routes for instance.
There’s been a limited amount of ‘cross fleeting’ — using one airline’s planes for the other airline’s routes — since the merger. Last summer they started flying Washington Dulles – Los Angeles with US Airways aircraft. But a full year earlier they were cross-fleeting on some domestic routes. They can do it without integrated seniority lists, but it’s a challenge.
Seeing cross-fleeting grow, and grow internationally, is a big deal because American still hasn’t even committed to add extra legroom seats in coach for the vast majority of the legacy US Airways fleet. That puts the passenger experience behind Delta and United for those planes.
I personally fly American as my primary carrier but avoid legacy US Airways routes and equipment because if my upgrade doesn’t clear I don’t even have the option to pay for extra legroom seats (other than exit row) let alone receive them as a loyalty benefit.
Here’s what we know about their (slow) progress:
- Legacy US Airways Airbus A319s are getting Main Cabin Extra seating as well as seat power. (Some US Airways aircraft had seat power prior to the America West merger but it was removed to save weight and fuel.)
- The legacy US Airways Airbus A330s will get Main Cabin Extra when they’re retrofitted to get Premium Economy. They hope to have certifications done to begin the process by the end of 2016, and this will take a couple of years to finish. (Existing seat power ports, which had been turned off, have been turned back on for these aircraft.)
- Some internationally-configured legacy US Airways Boeing 757s will retrofitted to a domestic configuration with Main Cabin Extra added and will be used for Hawaii flying. These aircraft will be based out of Phoenix.
The rest of the US Airways fleet? Two years into the merger with American, and as the airline declares they have no productive uses of funds and thus continue to buy back shares at the $5 billion dollar level, US Airways aircraft remain sans Main Cabin Extra. Unfortunately offering a consistent, high quality product continues to be too low on the priority list.