American Schedules 777-300ER On Surprising Route

Filed Under: American

American Airlines has scheduled its flagship Boeing 777-300ER on a route I would have never expected. Nothing really comes as a surprise in the airline industry anymore, but this has still caught me off guard a bit…

American will fly 777-300ER from Raleigh

American Airlines flies to London Heathrow from up to 10 US cities. Almost all of those cities are American Airlines hubs, with two exceptions — Boston and Raleigh-Durham.

Well, for the upcoming winter schedule, American Airlines has scheduled the Boeing 777-300ER daily between Raleigh-Durham and London. As of now the plane is assigned on the route from October 25, 2020, through March 27, 2021. Otherwise the route is operated by a Boeing 777-200ER.

For what it’s worth, the route operates daily with the following schedule:

AA174 Raleigh to London departing 7:25PM arriving 7:50AM (+1 day)
AA173 London to Raleigh departing 11:55AM arriving 3:50PM

Now, I do think it’s worth mentioning that aircraft types are always subject to change, so it’s possible American will backtrack on this aircraft assignment. However, the decision was clearly intentional, since this is the first time the aircraft is scheduled to operate this route.


American’s 777-300ER business class

Why American’s 777-300ER is unique

American Airlines has 20 Boeing 777-300ERs, and has historically used these for its most premium routes. American has flown them:

  • From Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York
  • To Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, London, Sao Paulo, and Tokyo

Not only is the 777-300ER American’s biggest plane, but it’s also the only wide body American Airlines plane to feature international first class (not that it’s much to get excited about).

American’s 777-300ER first class

In other words, American has been really purposeful about the routes on which they’ve scheduled this plane.

That’s especially true when you consider that American Airlines offers Flagship First Dining out of all four of the US hubs that typically feature 777-300ERs.

American’s Flagship First Dining Miami

Why this plane assignment is surprising

Looking at American’s plane assignments for this winter, the 777-300ERs are heavily focused on London Heathrow:

  • Four of four daily Dallas to London flights are operated by 777-300ERs
  • Two of two daily Los Angeles to London flights are operated by 777-300ERs
  • Two of three daily New York to London flights are operated by 777-300ERs

On top of that:

  • The daily Dallas to Hong Kong flight is operated by 777-300ERs
  • The daily Los Angeles to Hong Kong flight is operated by 777-300ERs
  • Two of three daily Miami to Sao Paulo flights are operated by 777-300ERs
  • The daily New York to Sao Paulo flight is operated by 777-300ERs

American has operated the Raleigh-Durham flight for about 25 years, and initially the route was almost an employee shuttle for GlaxoSmithKline. However, it’s my understanding that over the years the route has become less dependent on that traffic, as the company has downsized in the area.

Nonetheless American has kept using bigger planes on the route — initially it was operated by a 757-200, then by a 767-300, then by a 777-200, and not by a 777-300.

What should we make of this 777-300ER assignment?

  • It clearly shows that American just doesn’t have much use for 777-300ERs at the moment, between economic challenges in Argentina and Brazil, the general lack of demand for Asia travel, and Australia borders being closed
  • I’m sure there’s logic to this capacity increase, so I’m not sure if this comes down to cargo or something else; this must be one of their better performing London routes
  • Personally what I find surprising is that they’re flying the 777-300ER to London Heathrow out of Raleigh, rather than from Charlotte, Philadelphia, etc.

American Airlines 777-300ER

Bottom line

If you ask me, Raleigh-Durham to London is the most surprising 777-300ER route that American Airlines has scheduled so far.

I’m sure it makes sense, or at least as much sense as anything in the industry can make at the moment — the question is whether there’s actually some very compelling reason to operate this (cargo or something?), or whether demand is otherwise just so weak across the board that this is the best of the terrible options.

Are you surprised to see American fly the 777-300ER from RDU to LHR?

Comments
  1. This is surprising because I feel like it would be more valuable for American to fly the -300ER from Chicago rather than Raleigh. American has virtually no connecting traffic at Raleigh, except for from its hub cities, (which would be an odd way to route).

    Chicago is a large hub, with connecting traffic from all over the world. Or Boston would make more sense. American has some connecting traffic in Boston (such as Raleigh), and a large premium customer base.

    Im confused, but we should expect nothing less than confusing and lack of strategy from American as usual!

  2. Major multinational firms are the major support of the travel industry. Their rates are negotiated and they do not travel on low fares so the dollars add up.

  3. I live in the RDU area.

    All the international biopharma players have big offices here. Makes sense.

  4. Yes, it was 767 and then 777-200 from RDU. The load is high most of the time. Many paid J tickets.

  5. So if you’re going first class London to RDU…do you get access to the Concorde Lounge at LHR?

  6. Might be a result of the rumored Delta RDU downsize. You should also probably note that RDU is a former hub of American. I believe GSK continued to fund the route after American pulled out, but it wasn’t started exclusively for them.

  7. Not really surprising… AA previously used 772s for RDU-LHR even in the former configuration with 16 First Class seats

  8. GSK moved their R&D to Philadelphia more than 5 years ago. The pharma link to Europe isn’t there anymore. I agree with Lucky, I would have expected this for CLT or PHL. Perhaps they are expecting full planes from RDU and this is a way to increase capacity. For that to happen, Delta must cancel their RDU-CDG route.

  9. @Al: if you’re connecting somewhere else on BA from T5, yes. Otherwise, no – there’s no Concorde Room facility in T3.

  10. Interesting as RDU is not one of the designated US arrival airports for passengers originating from the UK under the current US travel restrictions. Could this be an indication of a relaxing of the travel bans in October.

  11. Has to be some corporate contracts and commitments. GSK may have reduced headcount at RDU, but it is still one of the US corporate hubs and where their sales, marketing and corporate function is based. Notable that their other corporate hub is Philadelphia a AA hub.

    It really makes no sense for AA to do this…why stage the aircraft, position crew, catering, etc for one flight a day, Don’t understand why they wouldn’t give the route to BA as would be more efficient for them to do out of London as part of the JV.

    Is this AA’s only non-hub international flight now? Ft Lauderdale – Port-au-Prince used to be another, but they stopped that.

  12. The flight was initially started during the RDU hub days along with CDG and both were operated by 767-200. As the hub was pulled down local business pulled together a revenue guarantee program, as you pointed out, but eventually it was no longer needed. Though there were times in the mid 2000s when it was a three-cabin 772 that it certainly was necessary.
    The route has been alternating 763s and 772s for the last 15 years and is supported by a local LSG flight kitchen, 100 strong flight attendant base, and a very robust cargo operation. Its no secret within AA that this is one of the strongest performing routes within the system and between premium cabin paid fares and cargo it might just do even better with this upgrade.

  13. Folks, one thing to note is that RDU area has a significant Asian ( particularly of Indian origin ) population and this flight is very convenient to travel to/from destinations in India from London. It is a good step. I hope that it will last for a long time. Way to go AA!

  14. @Matt RDU-LHR is American’s only international flight out of a non-hub that’s set to operate in the near future, subject to restrictions.

    There was also Austin to San José del Cabo which should’ve launched in early May.

    Boston to London has been delayed to October, Seattle to Bangalore postponed, and Seattle to London is unconfirmed.

    Not 100% sure but I believe Boston to Cancun, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Nassau, Providenciales, and Punta Caña have been suspended.

  15. Lucky,

    AA also flies the 77W on the GRU-JFK sector and plans on keep doing so in the fall….

  16. This boggles the mind. Though not to be unexpected with the current sad management in place. I agree with Sharon, this aircraft would be much better suited for ORD-LHR, which has seen the 77W in the recent past one summer season.

    I highly doubt they’re going to sell 8 F and 52 J every day on the route, social distancing or not.

  17. It’s not just GSK. Raleigh/Durham has a ton of Pharma, and is the home to 4 out of the top 6 largest CROs.

  18. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THIS IS CRAZY!!!
    SO SURPRISING AND AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I hope they do this from my home (Oklahoma City) to London too. Or Paris. I would love to visit those places.

  19. American Airlines never operated a 757 from RDU to LHR. RDU to LGW was operated with a 767-200ER. When the route transitioned to LHR from 2008, it has been a 767-300ER and then flown with a 777-200ER which has been the mainstay of the route for some time.

  20. Actual the 4 daily flights from Dallas to London are not all 777-300 it was 1of 3 prior to virus.

  21. Sorry, but there will be no Flagship Lounge or Concorde room for a long time. Get used to zoom or paying for your own tickets.

  22. Should be a F steal with Avios. 68k off-peak as it is under 4000 miles and minimal surcharges if you depart from RDU instead of LHR. However, as Lucky pointed out the F on AA isn’t something to get very excited about.

  23. Are you surprised to see American fly the 777-300ER from RDU to LHR?

    @UA NYC Maybe this is a question you should be asking CHINA.

  24. @HChris “Should be a F steal with Avios. 68k off-peak as it is under 4000 miles and minimal surcharges if you depart from RDU instead of LHR.”

    This assumes AA offers a saaver award (which it doesn’t even offer at 57.5k in biz anymore) and can I even book TATL first on AA using Avios?

  25. @fcflyer: BA hasn’t loaded the schedule of AA yet. However, dynamic pricing with AA will make it very hard to find 85k flights. The lowest I could find was 113k for that non-stop route. Secondly, I was day dreaming and forgot that BA of course still adds their huge surcharges on AA operated flights between the US and Europe or Asia. So you’ll still be looking at around $800 in added fees… bummer. However, if you are able to find 85k availability on AA it should also be bookable for 62.5k with Etihad Guest without the surcharges.

  26. @HChris

    Fair point! Thanks

    I haven’t seen 57.5k J on that flight in either direction in more than a year. 76k seems to be as low as they’ll go.

  27. This has nothing to do with WHO is flying, but is all about rotating the aircraft out. If you look at FlightAware, you’ll see that the plane rotates RDU LHR JFK. No other way to get the plane to an AA hub for any amount of maintenance as there are no domestic flights from RDU on the international bird.

  28. Al and Sorin – no because CCR is only for those flying BA F (or who have CCR card)

    CCR isn’t a one world F lounge either.

  29. It’s not shocking at all we are upgauged to a 77W. Yes, Big Pharma almost guarantees the belly cargo – in fact, the route was originally subsidized by GSK, but no longer – but there’s also the market for it. CLT and PHL are separate markets, and rely on connections. It is O&D traffic in our area. I know this comes as a surprise to some, but we’re stuffed to the gills in the RDU area with three major universities, plus numerous other colleges and universities in our large catchment area, pharma (including those critical COVID-19 tests), and the looming tech industry. I’m sure AA is also taking advantage of Delta’s currently nonexistent CDG route. Also, General Electric is five minutes away from my house. The 77W is catering to, not just cargo, but businesses and young professionals, who are more than willing to fork over the cash to fly this particular airplane. We’re proud to have her.

  30. My DFW-HND flight in November 2020 got downgraded from 77W to 772. Now I know where the 77W went.

  31. @Michael C
    Me too my HND DFW changed from 77W to 772 for Feb ‘21. I got a mileage refund almost instantly and I could have sworn they said the $70 taxes and fees will be returned in 72 days.

  32. This might have more to do with London than Raleigh-Durham. If you think about it from a crew base perspective this route operates from London to RDU and not the other way around. (Meaning RDU doesn’t operate AA 777s to multiple locations, LHR does) Maybe it’s just a side effect of what aircraft types AA plans to have based out of LHR in the coming months. It may not make sense to have an extra 777-200 based out of LHR to serve RDU while also having idle 777-300s. You said yourself… London is a 777-300 focal point for AA.

  33. @Donna

    Travel snobs? This is a larger plane being put on an existing route. You’re talking about starting new routes with very little demand.

  34. RDU is / was also a major Telecomms hub. In its heyday Nortel Networks used to fill a good few seats up front as well

  35. @Donna, your comment was enthusiastic and born out of good energy. Sometimes there are know-it-alls on these chains but don’t let them dissuade you.

  36. I think they chose RDU because I think CLT, ORD, BOS, and PHL don’t have the infrastructure in maintenance to support a 77W

  37. Thank you for your kindness Nil.
    I saw on Good Morning America that people are being kinder in these times but maybe not on this website.
    I can’t control how other acts and if it makes them feel better to put me in my place, then go ahead, you won, you’re better than me.

    But I’ll continue to dream about taking a nice trip someday.

  38. RDU is my airport. Flew the 200 LHR-RDU last November in Business. Great service, food was ok. Were scheduled to fly RDU-LHR May 16 but cancelled our trip.

    Very excited about flying the 300ER perhaps later this year. Hope AA doesn’t change back to the 200.

  39. Oh, please. Charlotte is a dumpy hillbilly backwater with nothing but domestic banking operations.

    RDU is the largest metro area in North Carolina. It is home to one of the best universities in the country (Duke), one of the best public universities in the country (UNC), and one of the best public universities in the region (NC State). It has a gigantic (monied) international population of students, scientists, and medical professionals. It is, for all intents and purposes, the location of Big Pharma in the US. It has more PhDs per capita than any metro outside of Silicon Valley. It has more GE and IBM employees than New York. It is a tech and software epicenter, and still enjoys a large telecom and consulting and wealth management presence. And thanks to the universities and area businesses, it is home to an insane amount of wealth. Insane.

    That anyone finds this routing surprising or remarkable, speaks volumes.

    [My genuine apology for being a snob and a boor. I beg your leniency, as I spent a sizeable stint in the Triangle.]

  40. Tortuga: the unfortunate thing about living where I do, is I’m scared of eventually getting gentrified and run out of my hometown, as it is the last bastion of cheap property, much like the rest of the city. (I live in a place that begins with “D” and ends with “urham.”) But the negative aspects of the Triangle boom aside, all of it is homegrown and we made it a place that was worth living for, for folks from the world over – any basic understanding of North Carolina, especially the start of Research Triangle, and RDU Airport history, would’ve answered these questions the author left hanging, as if they were the deepest of mysteries. We sit on IMMENSE capital. I do love Charlotte, though, as I do the rest of my state… variety is the spice of life! 😉 I don’t think people realize RDU is (or was) gunning for China after the new runway is laid. Using the logic being applied here for RDU, CLT shouldn’t have Lufthansa service, and yet…

    I’m surprised American wasn’t directly asked about the wisdom of their decision anyway?

  41. I travel quite a lot between LHR -RDU on AA173 and I work for Phrama Company. This route is a life saver for me making my work commute smooth . This flight is loaded with corporate passengers..always full in business and PE . Its exciting that they put 777-3 on this route. One thing is guaranteed that it will be a premium heavy service .

  42. Route MIA/JFK/DFW-RDU-LHR and enjoy the Flagship Lounges in those cities (if/when they open).

  43. The reason for that is probably cargo. Companys shipping medical supplies to london as a EU hub to be sent around Europe through the BA system. American can run RDU-LHR half full on a -200 and break even.

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