US carriers have primarily neglected the non-stop India – USA market after running into losses over the years. Both Delta and American Airlines stopped flying to India, continuing to blame the ME3 for the fact that they could not expand in India, without any substantiation or making any attempts to capture the market. United on another end, kept its growth stagnant until last year.
Now, United has upgraded its Newark – Mumbai operations to a Polaris-equipped Boeing 777-300ER. United will also start a seasonal daily San Francisco – Delhi flight from December 5, 2019. Even Delta Airlines intends to come back to the Indian market, having announced that they will start a new non – stop flight to India in 2019. Delta hasn’t yet followed up with a firm announcement however. Maybe, they are waiting for Jet Airways to stabilise before committing to the Indian Market.
So is American Airlines feeling left out? I guess so. When Delta announced their Indian foray, Douglas Parker, CEO of American Airlines and Vasu Raja, Vice President for Planning at American Airlines, took a dig at it in a Crew News meeting with Senior Mangement by announcing that they will also fly to India at some point of time.
Vasu Raja explained various reasons at that time why American Airlines won’t be flying to India anytime soon: Fares are too low, no partner for American Airlines in India and so on. He did mention that in future service on a Boeing 787-9 from Dallas to Southern India might be a possibility due to increasing demand. Interesting. Bengaluru – Dallas or Hyderabad – Dallas?
You might think one would naturally add flights on either Delhi – Los Angeles or Delhi – Dallas before a South India – Dallas flight? Maybe I am missing something. Well, Brian Sumers recently interviewed Vasu Raja, and he said that American Airlines is considering adding flights to India as well as Africa.
American Airlines ordered 22 Boeing 787-8 and 25 787-9 aircraft last year. The 787-8s were ordered to replace the Boeing 767s in American Airlines fleet and will be delivered from 2020 onwards. The Boeing 787-9 are due for delivery from 2023 onwards. Some of them will replace the 9 A330-300 and a few older Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in their fleet. While others will be used for growth. So no India route at least till 2023? Or maybe they will find a spare 787-9 and launch before that.
Vasu Raja went to say that American Airlines wouldn’t fly from Chicago. It will instead look at flying from Philadelphia. American Airlines over the years build Philadelphia into their Eastern getaway and domestic hub, shifting focus away from New York.
Not adding flights to Chicago makes sense. Hear me out. Chicago is one of the few airports in the USA which has maximum one-stop connection flights from India. All ME3 carriers fly to both the airports, so do the European carriers. You may say Air India flies to Chicago and JFK both. Yes, they do. But Air India is a different ball game altogether.
|City||Hub Airline||Current non-stop||ME3 presence||Possible/Viable new non-stop|
|Atlanta||Delta||-||Qatar Airways||Delta may add ATL-BOM (or JFK-BOM) but no announcement yet|
|Chicago||United/American Airlines||Air India: DEL-ORD||Emirates, Etihad & Qatar Airways|
|Dallas||American Airlines||-||Emirates & Qatar Airways||DEL-DFW (Air India intends to add but no spare aircrafts)|
|Houston||United||-||Emirates & Qatar Airways||DEL-IAH (Air India intends to add but no spare aircrafts)|
|Los Angeles||American Airlines/Delta/United/||-||Emirates, Etihad & Qatar Airways||DEL-LAX (Air India intends to add but no spare aircrafts)|
|Miami||American Airlines||-||Qatar Airways||-|
|New York JFK||Delta/American Airlines||Air India: BOM-JFK & DEL-JFK||Emirates, Etihad & Qatar Airways|
|Newark||United||Air India: BOM-EWR, United: BOM-EWR & DEL-EWR||Emirates|
|Philadelphia||American Airlines||-||Qatar Airways|
|San Francisco||United||Air India: DEL-SFO, United DEL-SFO (begins Dec 5, 2019)||Emirates|
|Washington||United||Air India: DEL-IAD||Emirates, Etihad & Qatar Airways||-|
Philadelphia has a good Indian population but it still pales behind other cities like Dallas and Los Angeles. American’s huge presence at Philadelphia will ensure connections but will it be enough? American Airlines would be competing with many other operators, and given Philly would be a hub, perhaps they end up offering a 2-stop solution to markets in India (Origin-Philadelphia-India-Inside India)
- Philadelphia – India market: With Qatar Airways which provides one-stop flights with convenient connections to many Indian cities. The main point being would one prefer Qatar Airways A350 or American Airlines 787 on the long flight? They even belong to the same alliance for the time being.
- USA – Delhi: Against all carriers offering non-stop and one-stop flights to Delhi
- USA – India: Against all carriers offering one-stop flights to India
American Airlines is being pushed by corporate travellers to look at flights to India as Vasu Raja said,
U.S. carrier growth to India has drastically trailed that of most of the other nations on the globe at this point. It absolutely does trouble us. But I’ll tell you, we hear it a lot from our biggest corporate accounts. … It’s something they continue to ask for. There’s definitely something there. We just need to figure out how we can make something like that work.
American Airlines lost Jet Airways as a partner in India to Delta. Vistara which is building a strong base at Delhi and entering into codeshare agreements with some Oneworld carriers also might be the ideal choice that American Airlines will partner with in India.
Adding Philadelphia – India makes less sense. I get it that American Airlines’ focus is on low-competition high-yield routes. I don’t think Philadelphia – India is that lucrative or even high yield. And if you (American Airlines) want to rub salt in someone’s wounds, try considering LAX or DFW instead. Let’s see if American Airlines launches flights from Philadelphia to India and when?