American Expanding Asia Flying With Dallas – Beijing Announced for Next Year

American announced that it plans to begin Dallas – Beijing service next year, talking advantage of allowable frequencies between the US and China that aren’t currently being used.

Beijing flying adds to the Hong Kong and Shanghai service from Dallas that began in June, and to the Seoul and Tokyo Narita service that’s already been in place.

American is adding a more substantial Asia presence than before, a presence US Airways never had at all.

The press release doesn’t mention a start date for the service, but does note that the route will be operated by a Boeing 777-200… which will mean their new business class product but no first class.

What’s important here, I think, is that it’s a new Asia route announced by new management. Pre-merger American went forward with Dallas – Shanghai and Dallas – Hong Kong. In some ways it’s surprising to see the legacy US Airways folks plow forward.

  • They’re building international flying from Dallas, and it wasn’t obvious that the US Airways folks were going to do that.
  • US Airways hadn’t flown to Asia at all, so Asia expansion wasn’t always in the cards.
  • My sense had been that US Airways management didn’t love Dallas, either, as an airport or an international gateway. So this is a big move in terms of their commitment to the city, in addition to their commitment to the pre-merger strategy.

Early on in the merger process, beginning of 2013 I’m told that Doug Parker visited with American Airlines pilots in Los Angeles. He was asked about new Asia flying and he replied that wasn’t in the cards.

Apparently Tom Horton stepped in and pointed out that they were just bringing on new routes, would need to learn from those before they added Asia flying. (In other words, he was rescuing Parker from himself.) You don’t tell your pilots they aren’t getting more long haul widebody flying when you want them to stay bought into a merger.

As I heard the story from more than one person, Parker came back to this later in the discussion and hypothesized that they might add Asia flying… from Phoenix.

That of course made no sense, there’s not a meaningful origination/destination traffic mass between Phoenix and Asia, except maybe positioning for a cruise. (Plus it wasn’t strategic to be telling American’s Los Angeles pilots that legacy US Airways would get the good flying.) In any case, LAX is the more natural place to do it, but of course that airport is hugely constrained for growth. Dallas is well positioned to feed traffic for much of the country but also South America.

This is great to see, on many levels. To me, especially, it could be a signal that new leadership may be adapting their thinking from pre-conceived notions about what works (from their US Airways days) and what doesn’t (everything American was trying to do). Now that they’re in place, and see the data, there are a number of things about the old American and its plans that likely do make sense. And when that’s the case, management can be persuaded to continue with it. And that’s a good thing for flyers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If they’re going to have extra 777-200s that aren’t going to EZE, maybe they should bump this service offering up by a few months…

  2. Since they already aren’t doing well DFW-PVG, why double down with DFW-PEK? Tomorrows DFW-PVG flight is currently at 33% occupancy in both F and J, and maybe 60% in economy. With the fuel costs of a 15+ hour non-stop flight, that has to be a major money loser.

    DFW-PEK is only about 400 miles shorter is no help there. Now deduct the fare premium of FC over business, and consider how many of those willing to pay that premium on the PVG flight really want to spend 15 + hours in J.

    I don’t follow the reasoning behind this flight at all.

  3. I see some serious holes in your narrative, Gary, but I agree that the added DFW-PEK service is very material to the airline.

    It certainly does strongly suggest that DFW-Asia “works.” If the new DFW Shanghai and Hong Kong flights weren’t showing promising results, there’s no way Parker would be adding Beijing.

    Obviously, the one place in the world where the new AA is weak is in Asia. They seem committed to correcting that, and they seem to believe that DFW is a promising place to start that process.

    As far as who convinced who, I’m skeptical. But certainly the numbers from Hong Kong and Shanghai show promise, or we wouldn’t be seeing today’s move.

  4. Robert —

    Thanks for that data, but I guarantee you those numbers cannot be representative of the situation. There is NO WAY Parker and Kirby would launch service that he thought would be a money pit. They’re obviously seeing a promising “spool” on demand on the new China routes, or they’d be way more cautious on PEK.

    Interesting that Texas seems to be seeing lots of new China service. I’m holding award seats on an Air China PEK-IAH flight (Star Alliance route). You wouldn’t necessarily think that would be a gold mine, either, but there’s apparently decent Texas-China demand. I suspect a lot of the profitable business is connecting China to Latin America.

  5. As Kirby mentioned at this week’s Routes conference in Chicago, Los Angeles will be the focus point of Asia expansion for American. It will move into four gates in Terminal 6 in just over a month (October 28th) and will move into four gates in Tom Bradley in early 2016. AA isn’t constrained for gates at LAX for much longer.

  6. Not sure what would give you the idea that management didn’t “love” Dallas. All I’ve heard and seen while there are more and more reports of the airport growing and adding new routes. I believe even adding a 6th terminal is in the cards by the end of the decade, although that decision is made by airport management, AA would have some say. Bottom line is if the new AA isn’t adding these routes, some other airline would step up to the plate. This has been the case with Middle Eastern carriers and several European carriers.

  7. It’s unfortunate that the US does not allow international transit without a visa or these routes would be perfectly positioned to capitalize off of the growing Latin American – China trade.

  8. US Air didn’t go to Asia, but America West did go to Nagoya Japan for a short time. It is speculated that contributed to America West’s bankruptcy in the early’90s. Since Parker was from HP, maybe that was the bad memories….

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