American’s 2018 Schedule Includes 52 New Routes, Chicago O’Hare Becomes a Shuttle City

American is offering “52 new nonstop flights and enhanced schedules” in its 2018 schedule Only 8 are actually newly announced today.

The 8 that hadn’t previously been announced are:

  • Philadelphia to Fort Wayne, Indiana; Oklahoma City; and Pensacola, Florida
  • Charlotte to Panama City, Florida and South Bend, Indiana
  • Dallas Fort-Worth to Panama City, Florida and South Bend, Indiana
  • Chicago O’Hare to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania

American Airlines at Chicago O’Hare

Like United, American Airlines is beefing up service to smaller markets where there’s less competition from ultra low cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier, and consequently less fare pressure. Each route in turn increases connecting traffic through their banked hubs supporting other routes as well.

Starting April 4 Chicago – New York LaGuardia is being upgraded to a ‘shuttle’ product along the lines of New York LaGuardia – DC and Boston, with dedicated check-in and close-in gates as well as complimentary beer and wine, offering 15 flights a day on the half hour.

Here American competes against United’s 17 daily flights (not including Newark service) and Delta’s 14 daily flights which are branded as a shuttle as well (along with Spirit’s two flights).

I asked American’s Vice President of Network & Schedule Planning Vasu Raja what will differentiate American’s shuttle product on the route from Delta’s, and he suggested “we are the best airline for the business traveler.” I suspect Delta would beg to differ.

Several airlines over the years have tried to focus on key business routes out of Chicago O’Hare offering dedicated close-in gates and extra amenities. For instance United Airlines called this ‘Business One’ back in 1992 and again about a decade later. I asked what’s necessary to make this oft-tried strategy a success, and Raja suggested that “the difference between before and now” is that American can better vary capacity, such as using regional jets, and that now they’re making money. That seemed to me to beg the question.

In response to a ‘why now?’ question from another reporter, Raja says that they’re just now able to plan their schedule as a single integrated airline, though that’s only true to a limited degree since flight attendants from American and US Airways aren’t yet on a single system.

American Airlines at Chicago O’Hare

Nonetheless, treating Chicago – New York LaGuardia as a shuttle market is an upgrade in the service in the market and may better position them to compete against United and Delta. And adding service to smaller markets may better leverage their network. Although the performance of any of these routes, some of which are acknowledged to be receiving subsidies, will be borne out over the coming year.

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. I have asked AA couple times, why is there no service from Central IL to PHL for connecting International flights. Which would be a lot better than the circus at ORD. No answer. But they give service to Des Moines which is smaller than Bloomington, IL. Makes no sense. They’ll lose the Cat business and then we will lose more flights.

  2. I don’t understand why AA thinks RJ service is competitive with full-sized aircraft. I avoid “crop duster airways” whenever possible.

  3. AA already offers what is essentially a Shuttle service between LGA and ORD on mainline aircraft. So if you read between the lines, what they really mean–by calling this a shuttle–that it’s going to be on legacy US aircraft and staffed by legacy US crew, then no, thanks. An E175 and the Doug Parker snack basket is fine for LGA-BOS, but not for a route like LGA-ORD.

    AA likes to talk about stepping up their game, however, the overwhelming trend since the merger has been a degradation in service and product (with limited exceptions).

  4. Jaymar01 – I’ve booked C PHL-ZRH for October. They’ve been opening some midweek flights every now and then.

  5. @brandnote – if they replace the AA737-8 fleet with the no power, no ISE, minimal MCE, legacy US fleet – it would appear AA is throwing in the towel on NY. Couple that with transition of international flights from JFK->PHL.

    I’m hoping it’s a consistently better experience with the new AA ISE 737-8’s and a few AA 321-B’s. I remember they flew 757’s ORD->LGA back in the day so the 321’s make sense during peak – as long as they’re the newer config. RJ’s don’t make any sense- maybe why Delta is abandoning their LGA->ORD shuttle.

  6. Even after de-reg in 1978, American continued its position as “the airline for business travelers” (while TWA was the airline for stars/actors; United was tagged as the carrrier for flying families).

    During the Golden Age of railroading, our private railroads threw themselves into actively competing in this important business Corridor. This was evident by the New York Central’s All Pullman “Twentieth Century Limited, Commodore Vanderbilt, and Advance Commodore Vanderbilt.” In competition, the Pennsylvania offered its own All Pullman flyers, including the “Broadway Limited and The General.”

    Out of the demise of our railroads sabotaged by overt federal subsidization of our airlines, Chicago-NYC used to be a very hotly competitive air market with hourly flights offered by AA, TWA, and UA ORD-LGA, as well as serving JFK and EWR. We used to enjoy close-in gates for AA at ORD, e.g., K1. Losing the dedicated shuttle fleet to run thru flights dissipated shuttle flights all over ORD.; making it very inconvenient to enjoy close-in gates to TSA checks.

    Today, AA persists in faltering in any definition of customer experience, succeeding only at mimicing Wiley Coyote always running to catch-up with the Roadrunner; but consistently failing. Throw in some RJs will only assure further market loss for AA—fine for ORD-Cedar Rapids, but a fiasco to foist upon a major Corridor route.

    AA CEO Parker, with his total lack of knowledge and concern for customer experience will be eventually relegated to a less sensitive role by an irate Board following the angst of investors. Between his bailout from JFK, and devastating the prime ORD-LGA route, a derailment is inevitable. Same for his offspring, Kirby, who sought refuge at United, only to pull them out of JFK while failing to properly institute a viable .conceot for Basic Economy.

    Who still wonders why nobody chooses to fly these legacy carriers overseas when they can be satisfied with WOW or Norwegian at the economic level, or, Lufthansa at the primo level? I am not thrilled by how the ME3 finance their ops, but they certainly understand customer experience and respecting the traveler.

    We can only hope that the politicos of Chicago and NYC (local and state) stop making decisions on airport gate access by how fat their campaign contributions are, and look at what’s in the public interest. Imagine if Alaska Airlines could offer an hourly shuttle between ORD-LGA…

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