Wow: American Airlines Will Fly Ultra-Premium A321T To Orange County

Filed Under: American

A few days ago American Airlines and JetBlue Airways announced a slew of new routes as part of their new Northeast strategic alliance. While I covered those new routes big-picture in a separate post, I dedicated a separate post to what I found to be the most interesting route addition.

I wanted to provide an update on this, as the flight is now on sale, and in the process the schedule has also been revealed.

American will fly A321Ts between JFK & SNA

As of July 2, 2021, American Airlines will launch daily nonstop flights between New York (JFK) and Orange County (SNA). These flights will operate with the following schedule:

AA991 New York to Orange County departing 5:10PM arriving 8:48PM
AA976 Orange County to New York departing 9:25PM arriving 6:25AM (+1 day)

The 2,437 mile flight is blocked at 6hr38min westbound and 6hr eastbound. It’s interesting to see the schedule on this — I’m sure some will like the flight timing (especially the evening westbound departure), while others may not like it so much (especially the eastbound redeye).

The most surprising part of this new route is the aircraft American will use — American plans to fly an A321T between New York and Orange County. For those of you not familiar with this subfleet of A321s, these are the planes that have historically been operated exclusively from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

These planes are unique, as they feature just 102 seats, and include four seating options:

  • There are 10 first class fully flat reverse herringbone seats with direct aisle access, in a 1-1 configuration
  • There are 20 business class fully flat seats, in a 2-2 configuration
  • There are 72 economy seats, with 36 of those seats being Main Cabin Extra, featuring extra legroom

American Airlines’ A321T first class

Seeing American schedule A321Ts in this market is both surprising and not surprising:

  • On the one hand, this has historically been reserved for the transcon markets that are known to have a ton of premium demand, particularly among business travelers and the entertainment crowd
  • While Orange County is quite affluent, it doesn’t have quite the entertainment or business demand of the other markets; I would have expected to see an A321T between New York and Burbank before something like this
  • I wonder if this might have something to do with SNA’s runway length; the airport has a short runway, and the A321T is lighter than the standard A321, so has better performance for airports like this


American Airlines’ A321T business class

Could we see more A321T routes from American?

American has a significant surplus of A321Ts, and it seems like that will continue to be the case:

  • This is especially true during the pandemic, given the complete lack of demand between New York and California
  • In general there had been rumors of American reconfiguring A321Ts into a more standard configuration, though there has been nothing concrete there

With the new American & JetBlue Northeast partnership, it seems that we can expect a reduction in American service between New York and Los Angeles:

  • American and JetBlue will operate a combined 14 daily flights between the New York-area (JFK & EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX); that flying will be split pretty evenly between the two airlines
  • Previously American operated up to a dozen flights per day in the market using its own A321Ts

American & JetBlue will split flying between JFK & LAX

It goes without saying that American will have more A321Ts in the future than it needs, assuming American and JetBlue do in fact plan to decrease transcon service to the extent that has been revealed.

Only time will tell whether American chooses to launch more A321T routes, or if some of these planes will simply be reconfigured.

Bottom line

American Airlines will launch daily A321T flights between New York and Orange County as of the summer of 2021. This will only be the third route to have this aircraft regularly scheduled.

This announcement definitely caught me off guard — while Orange County is a premium leisure market, this still seems surprising.

We’ll have to see what the future holds for American’s A321Ts — will the airline reconfigure A321Ts, fly these planes in more markets, or eventually increase service from JFK to LAX and SFO?

Are you surprised to see American flying A321Ts between JFK & SNA?

Comments
  1. I’m surprised AA doesn’t fly premium routes out of BUR considering that’s where all the entertainment studios are located. I would think it would do better than LAX.

  2. Some of the physical studios are there (not all), but the executives certainly are not. By and large they are on the westside, much closer to LAX.

  3. SNA is in the middle of a very affluent area, so this plan makes sense. And it’s SO much more user friendly than LAX. No contest.

    Luis’ comment about BUR is true as well, great access for affluent folks from the hills, SF Valley, Pasadena, etc. Not sure if there’s enough runway there though.

  4. With PHL becoming more-and-more of AA’s European gateway, I always felt a LAX-PHL A321T would make sense to connect the West Coast to Europe via PHL. I believe there’s currently one A330 between the two, but otherwise, it’s an outdated LUS A320.

  5. I think more people left the urban centers like Los Angeles for more suburban/less dense environments like Orange County and Lake Tahoe during the pandemic. Making this already quite affluent area even more attractive in the subdued transcon markets than it otherwise would be. Leisure travel will be up and a bigger priority than business travel in this new climate for at least the next 6 mos to year or more— so providing the A321T to markets where it can sell more likely seems not as imprudent as it might seem, especially relative to the other subpar options that are much less affluent for leisure purposes.

  6. What about flying the 321Ts on TATL point-to-point routes? Given passengers’ preference for more direct flights these days, I would not be surprised to see more ‘creative’ TATL routes (say ORD-DBV for the summer) that avoid the traditional hubs (like LHR or MAD) and utilize smaller single-aisle aircraft. This may also fit into a presumable tightening of TATL capacity once the post-COVID rebound happens and airlines will try to extract higher fares.

  7. I’ve often wondered why B6 could never make SNA work…maybe because LGB was too close and they viewed it as a threat. The only consistent non-stops from SNA to the NYC area were the UA flights to EWR on a standard configured 737. I don’t know how successful this AA super premium plane will be, but I do think there is a market for SNA to JFK (and connections beyond). This will definitely be the best ride out of SNA now.

  8. This is great news for me. A premium flight out of Orange County. No more going to LAX for a NYC trip. What many people don’t get is a lot of Hollywood people are moving to Orange County (part COVID, part easier living since more meetings are being conducted via Zoom). It only takes me 15 minutes to get to SNA as opposed to roughly an hour to LAX. I love this! This means SNA will have to upgrade its airport offerings (lounges?). Hopefully, if this sticks, it’s the start of something great for the OC. Maybe a JetBlue SNA-FLL Mint flight?

  9. Leave the lie flat 20 business class seats . Remove the 10 first class seats and replace them with more economy seats. Problem solved.

  10. Once TATL starts to reopen, you would imagine that the A321T’s would be right sized for routes East Coast to Western Europe until demand recovers

  11. @Pat I can’t imagine anybody being willing to take a LAX-PHL flight to get to Europe over a non stop, no matter how nice the domestic plane is.

    LAX – PHL – LHR = 5 + 7 compared to 10 hours non stop.

  12. As a business traveler, I always prefer to fly into SNA vs LAX for local business. Flying there In 2 weeks. LAX is much more difficult as well with COVID and getting a rental car.

  13. I would say 1 daily from Phx to PHL and CLT would make not having any non-stop intl flight to Europe much more palatable. I even would say 1 flight to JFK on Mon – Fri might be doable as well. Won’t happen but it would be nice. I have more hope that a Mint JFK flight will come to PHX before AA brings a real premium product (consistently) to PHX

  14. Not sure that AA has secured ETOPs certification and equipment for the 321Ts. It could be done…with likely the additional expense hauling around a couple of rafts in the ceilings.

  15. @CSR 2.0 – London is the exception. Anywhere else in Europe would require a connection, at some point, for those wanting to fly One World. LAX-PHL-CDG is not much different than LAX-LHR-CDG.

  16. This is fantastic news and one can hope that it is successful and stays. Orange County has the demographic to support and if marketed right I see no reason why it won’t stick. Outside of rush hour SNA is easy to get to for OC and Inland Empire customers.

  17. Be great to see how United responds. EWR to SNA was always much more expensive than LAX and my upgrades never cleared as a 1K because people always paid for first. Would love to see a lie flat 757 on the route now

  18. SNA is my home airport, but often I still have to go to LAX for long haul flights and flexible schedules. Trouble with SNA is curfew. What that means is either LAX or another hotel night for return home. I mostly still prefer in my own bed one day early so LAX is still the one I choose. American abandoned SNA long time ago. They stopped service to SJC, SFO, and JFK. After merger with US Air with Phoenix hub connection, it didn’t add that much choices. Before they shut down St. Louis, it used to be a Greta alternative.

  19. Here’s a modest proposal: AA should use this plane on a few routes from west coast cities (SEA, SFO) to MIA and CLT. Why? Because if you need to connect in MIA or CLT to a destination in Latin America, you have that first, long, transcontinental flight (SEA-MIA is about 6 hours, about as long as nonstop domestic flights get), and when you do that on a redeye (most flights from the west coast to MIA leave late in the evening), 6 hours in a 737 ovenight makes for a shitty way to START your trip (then you get a layover and many more hours of flying).

    Give me one of these out of SEA or SFO to MIA or CLT. Just one evening flight per day eastbound. I’ll happily connect onward from there. Give me one late afternoon westbound return per day and I’ll be happy as a clam.

  20. @ Pat – I still think 9/10 people would choose LAX – LHR – CDG over LAX-PHL-CDG. Flight time of 10+2 is much preferable to 5+7.5, particularly heading to Europe, as most people are trying to get sleep.

  21. I will second SEA-MIA. That is such a long route and very much in need of some kind of premium travel competitor. Jetblue Mint or an A321T would be so well suited for that flight.

  22. Love this! Incredible idea giving us more options than PHX, DFW, or ORD out of SNA. Premium transcon from SNA makes a lot of sense for those who don’t like traffic to LAX. Only downside is the lack of Business and Flagship Lounge at SNA but I will sacrifice that for convenience.

  23. AA would have spoken with corporate and wealthy clients. This plane is not being put on this route blindly.

    I’m telling you now, I can name 20+ Sr VP’s+ (FT500) and other major entertainment folks that I know, who will not take the covid experimental vaccine under any circumstances until its proven (think 2-5 years) and will not be nostril swabbed once a week or once a month to travel. No fuss will be made publicly, they are just going to make calculated excuses for much less travel

    So when they do have to go, they would rather go from close to home (SNA). We should expect to see more of this. One still wants ones A321T F or J seat. There is a reason why 30-40% of frontline health workers, and now 25% of military are refusing the vaccine. No one wants to be called an anti-vax nut. But they have clout, and will make it work in other ways.

  24. Wondering if the choice of a 102-seat jet was made to keep the weight down to support the A321T traversing SNA’s 5700 ft. runway?

    Regardless, just the service itself between SNA and JFK is great news. I think B6 made some $$ on its LGB-JFK route and I can’t imagine AA wouldn’t on this one, especially offering 30 premium class seats that those residing in OC might actually pay full price to occupy. My only concern is the schedule: if it turns out there’s only 1 flight per day in each direction, the schedule will likely favor JFK-SNA, i.e. a westbound morning flight, and an eastbound afternoon flight. SNA-JFK travelers will be landing in Queens late at night and returning on that aforementioned morning flight.

  25. JFK-SNA has looked appealing for decades now, but the enthusiastic commenters here should also know that it has a long history of, well, not succeeding. Multiple carriers have tried it and pulled out.

  26. CSR 2.0… prior to the pandemic 60% of the international passengers landing in Philly were connections. With LA and Vegas being the top connections. It’s all about pricing. LA to Rome via philly was always cheaper than an LA – heathrow- Rome .

  27. The reason for this aircraft is due to restrictions at John Wayne. This aircraft cannot take a full load on this route due to the short runway. This is the only plane in the fleet that has so few seats so that is why the selection. The Boeing 737-700 is the only jet that can make this route with a full load and American does not have this aircraft.

  28. JFK-SNA has been tried several times, and failed. DL was the most recent operator, and it barely lasted a year. AA flew it in the 2000s with a 757 (so the A321T will have no issue operating from SNA-JFK) and it too did not work. Only CO, and then UA found success with SNA, and used the smallest Boeing it has, the 737-700 out of EWR.

    Also, the article is factually incorrect. AA does not have a surplus of 321Ts. It has 16 total, all were previously dedicated to JFK-LAX (up to 13 daily) and JFK-SFO (up to 5 daily). Right now, LAX is 2 x daily on the 772 and a third frequency is returning on the 321T next month. SFO has been the only 321T operation since the pandemic and it goes to 2 daily next month. So, temporarily, there is a surplus, but one frame was written off (the one involved in the AA300 take off incident).

    Eventually, AA will ramp back up to nearly what it had before the pandemic on JFK-LAX/SFO and that will be enough for the rest of the 321T’s. They can also use the plane on MIA-LAX, and have done so, in December 2019 (and one frequency from BOS to LAX).

    SNA is a rich market in a wealthy area and has a fighting chance of success now that LGB has no service to JFK as B6 ended the station. It is though a business route and its unlikely biz travel will rebound for at least a year so this route will face many headwinds.

  29. @shoeguy delta pulled due to slot restriction opportunity cost, so not a fully failure. It could have been profitable but other routes out of sna were more profitable

  30. shoeguy is right it’s a challenging history. doesn’t mean it won’t work but some factors that were challenging are still in place. 3 cabin seems overkill since the big wealth uses private but a 20 seat lie flat 2×2 would be great.

    i’m surprised SEA, MIA didn’t get the upgrade but i guess need more airframes to be consistent on those deeper routes.

  31. @Marco

    SNA is John Wayne Orange County airport.
    I hope Hobby Houston is renamed Donald J Trump Houston. I could see him taking Dallas Love Field .

  32. @Bob
    That’s really interesting, I didn’t know that. But if pricing is the reason people will connect in Philly over LHR, adding a premium heavy A321T on the route doesn’t make sense, which was the whole discussion here.

  33. “There is a reason why 30-40% of frontline health workers, and now 25% of military are refusing the vaccine. “

    Right. The reason is, because they are morons.

  34. Marco Yeah except the airport is in Irvine, not Santa Ana. That’s a pet peeve of mine that makes people look clueless, when people call it Santa Ana. Even flight crews call it that sometimes and I want to yell out that it’s not in Santa Ana.

  35. As a OC travel advisor this will be successful. What took so long? OC travelers will purchase upgraded classes hand down!

  36. @shoeguy
    Great post, but I wouldn’t necessarily call SNA-JFK a business route. My fellow passengers on UA’s SNA-EWR are a healthy mix of business & leisure. B6’s now discontinued LGB-JFK seemed more a leisure route. I know these aren’t precise comparisons (e.g. different airports, no premium class on LGB-JFK) but I expect to see a fair number of leisure travelers on SNA-JFK.

    @ David
    SNA sits on unincorporated land in OC. It may seem like it’s in Irvine because that’s where the primary access point is, but it borders Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach, and all of those cities could make a claim for it. The control tower, for example, is in Costa Mesa, and the general aviation terminal is in Newport. To me, saying SNA is Irvine is like saying Washington DC is in Maryland. 😉

  37. @jb
    You are 100% on that. And as its managed completely by the County, the address is Santa Ana (where the “seat” of the county is). There are other unincorporated islands throughout Orange County that are managed by their closest city of influence, but the Airport is an exception and County maintained.

  38. UA and AA are finally seeing value in SNA, at least 1/3 of Socal flyers would much rather fly from SNA than the dump that is LAX. Hope UA will add more regional flights to LAS, RNO etc.

  39. I wonder if they will ever train the lounge agents to allow access for J and F, or if they will constantly deny them like on the Boston and Miami 3-cabin routes.

  40. Still uncertain as to why LA-exit still exists, taking a shuttle to an uber when there is 0 traffic makes absolutely no sense. There are alot of people in the LA basin that choose the airport based on convenience, the more 17k transcon biz awards the better, I’m not going out of my way to ontario but this adds like 20 minutes vs LAX for alot of people.

  41. If they have the equipment, once Covid is over, the border fully reopens and flying between Canada and the US normalizes again, I can see AA operating a premium configured A321 between Toronto and LA. There’s a lot of entertainment industry traffic on that route, and AA has operated it with the A321t during the Toronto International Film Festival in the past. Plus, eventually, there’s plenty of onward/inbound traffic to Australia on Qantas over LAX. Wouldn’t shock me.

  42. That is absolutely bad news for us living under the path of these airplanes! SNA used to be a municipal small airport but now we have constant air traffic. I for one hope this will fail. Sorry inconveniencing some people but we are being inconvenienced all day, every single day. I am still hoping that the high speed train will be functional some day and will alleviate some of the air traffic.

  43. Forgive me for being unsympathetic to SNA flight path residents. Air Strips of SNA existed since 1923, and SNA as a commercial airport started in 1950. I as a resident of OC and business traveler skip SNA frequently because of curfew and aircraft type restrictions. I guess you don’t object to Private Jetters because even if you manage to shut out commercial jets, I’m sure private jets will dominate the air traffic at SNA. SNA perhaps has the largest private jet operation in Southern California. If you are lucky live in Newport, you’ll barely hear the jets. But if you are not so lucky in Costa Mesa, you should’ve known about the airport noise. Jets are getting quieter, especially Air Bus jets, and invest money in good windows and doors, you should be fine.

  44. I second what MIKE said. Its been there before you were probably even born. The noise that comes from that airport is barely anything. Go to LAX listen to the cargo 747s that take off from there. Thats loud.

    This airport has a lot of potential to grow and is a blessing because going to lax is a pain. I live in the middle between LAX and SNA. Its equal distance, but if I have the chance at it, even for a few dollars more, I will gladly take SNA or LAX anyway.

  45. @Pat you don’t appear to be familiar with the routes from LAX by claiming London was an exception. Pre Covid non stop flights from LA – Europe :
    Dublin Manchester London Paris Madrid Amsterdam Frankfurt Munich Zurich Warsaw Vienna Milan Moscow Oslo Stockholm Copenhagen Helsinki

  46. I know AA had a short-run with the plane on BOS-LAX that didn’t pan out. Particularly with the B6 partnership, I wonder if BOS-SFO wouldn’t be a better fit for the aircraft. I know its not a ‘natural’ AA route, but in general there’s really strong tech, financial services and consulting traffic between the two cities and SFO does seem like more of a business destination than LAX for BOS travellers.

  47. Wow,

    That schedule is cutting it super close to the curfew of 1000pm out of SNA. Throw a thunderstorm in @JFK prior to departure in the summer and I could see AA missing curfew even with the padded block time for the return. Guess we’ll see.

  48. @shoeguy

    Another reason (but probably not the only) that the Delta JFK-SNA flight failed was that the times were horrible for connecting to an evening transatlantic flight.

  49. Premium configured aircraft like the A321T don’t work because nearly all of the costs remain compared to a “normal” configured A321 but revenue generation is less than 60%. AA didn’t get the necessary revenue premiums on JFK-LAX even before covid which is why there have been consistent rumors that the A321T fleet would be reconfigured. Based on their average fares and aircraft types/configurations, B6 and DL either made a fortune on their transcon flights or AA lost a ton of money.
    DL lost some of its SNA slots which is part of why its flight ended; it is impossible to know if the flight made money in its short life. It was timed for local traffic, not transatlantic connections.
    WN has lost alot of slots at SNA over the past few years – to AS and DL among other carriers. Now the ultra low cost carriers are interested in SNA and Orange County does a pretty good job of making sure new entrants get a chance to fly into SNA if they want and incumbent carriers do not dominate the market.

    If slots are available, the A220-300 is probably the best and most economical aircraft to fly SNA to the east coast – B6 and DL both have it. But the AA/B6 agreement does not allow them to swap slots at SNA – only in NYC.

  50. Tim. SNA has the most first class seat being sold. One of the main reason I avoid SNA as a business traveler based out of OC because chances for upgrade are the lowest even compared to LAX (at least for AA). Airlines make the most money on premium seats. SNA has more paid premium seats than all other airports at least in southern California in my over 20 years traveling experience.

    When I used to work for a company based in Durham NC, AA flies direct from RDU to LHR. Business Class will sell out before the economy because all the business travelers. If you need to go to London for cheap, there is almost always cheap and open seats from RDU to LHR in economy. We even had corporate policy that if we travel from RDU to LHR, we must fly AA in order to save the RDU to LHR route. AA threatened the companies in RDU area to end the route if there is not enough business travelers. Before the company implemented the AA RDU requirements, we prefer to connect in PHL and JFK and hop on a nicer and bigger jets operated by British Airways. BA First class and Business award winning seats are much better than AA products.

  51. Does anyone know why it’s blocked at 6 hours eastbound? That’s almost an hour more than any red eye from LAX-JFK
    Even SFO-BOS is only blocked at 5:30 and that’s a few hundred more miles.

  52. Mike,
    that is all pre-covid. There is no way of knowing how corporate shuttle type flights like RDU-LHR or DL’s CVG-CDG will survive post covid. When companies have been without them for a year, they start asking if they really needed them at all.

    And fares at SNA are tied to fares at LAX. Part of the reasons why AA’s A321T has failed is because B6 Mint was introduced within months of AA’s replacement of their 762s with the A321T. High premium cabin fares fell apart with Mint. AA tried to hold on with First Class but their average fare data (from the DOT) doesn’t say they got enough of a premium. Now UA says they will throw their premium 767-300ER into the JFK-LAX market which will add a bunch more business class seats when the market least needs it (if UA starts the route)

  53. Would love to see more LAX-MIA on A321T. The current red-eyes are brutal. Glad Jetblue will be offering Mint on this route, and hopefully with the new partnership it will make codeshares to South America on AA easier to book.

  54. Very interesting re “Santa Ana”!

    So I’d say, since the airport’s mailing address is Santa Ana, that’s still the best location marker for it. “John Wayne” definitely doesn’t help at all. 🙂

  55. @bill yeah strange – they’re only offering 2 cabins on AA.com – $500 or so for the ‘flagship first’ you talk about but when you try to buy it seats you in business

  56. LOL @ everyone suggesting SEA-JFK/MIA.

    AS bought VX. If they thought those routes could support premium transcon traffic, they wouldn’t have 86’ed the pmVX configuration. They would be flying it with a Mint clone.

    Even B6 doesn’t fly Mint out of FLL to SEA. That’s because it’s cruise ship business and it doesn’t generate revenue premiums like California-NYC. MIA isn’t different, really. If it was a huge market AS wouldn’t have left it for FLL.

    NYC isn’t that different: UA doesn’t fly their premium service on EWR-SEA. AA doesn’t fly it on JFK-SEA. B6 does but their A321s planes seat 159, not 102 like an AA 321T. You’re not selling enough premium seats to SEA to make up for such a premium heavy, coach light plane.

  57. coward,
    it is interesting that you exclude DL because they are the airline that flies lie-flat business class aircraft from NYC-SEA. DL’s lie flat business class 757s operated 28% of all NYC-SEA flights for all carriers for the year which ends with Feb 2021. B6 isn’t even operating JFK-SEA at all right now. DL will operate half of all SEA-NYC flights in March.

    Of course, SEA and JFK are both international hubs for DL so they have much more incentive to use premium configured aircraft. And Delta gets a healthy average fare premium in the NYC-SEA market which isn’t uncommon on a hub to hub route regardless of aircraft type.

    NYC-SEA is highly competitive with multiple carriers and so are both NYC and SEA as hubs. Other hubs are much less competitive and more captive. Airlines offer premium service where they have to for competitive reasons and use standard configurations otherwise.

  58. Did I read the schedule correctly? A :37 turn at SNA (transcon-SNA-transcon)? On a premium route? And only a :35 window between sked departure time and the dreaded SNA curfew.

    It may only have 102 seats, but there’s fueling, bags off/on, catering, etc.

    Did this schedule get Doogie’s blessing?

  59. @Tim:

    Cheerleading for DL here, too? Branched out from Crankyflier?

    (It’s OK, DL runs a fine operation even if they are accursed in this crowd because of continual unannounced SkyPesos devaluation.)

    I indeed didn’t mention it, but now that you do, DL has been off and on again with premium service in the JFK-SEA market. Right now it’s on again. This also seems to indicate to me that NYC-SEA is not a fantastic market- AA/UA/DL didn’t turn off premium service on CA-NYC for a while the way DL did for JFK-SEA, presumably because airline executives, like Mr. Krabs, like money. But sure, DL and B6 (I suspect B6 has some cost advantages if they’re flying A321neos as opposed to 757s/767s that are long in the tooth).

    I’m also not convinced that a lot of people are doing TPAC-SEA-JFK or TATL-JFK-SEA as opposed to nonstops if they’re dropping lots of coins for premium services, so I don’t think “international hub” has a ton to do with it. It’s probably point to point traffic that makes or breaks premium transcon mostly, maybe some domestic connecting traffic. That and DL wants to have a premium brand, as you say.

    My guess is SNA-JFK is an “ehhhh, why not?” just like LHR/BLR-SEA. I’m moderately skeptical given that UA is already counterattacking BLR out of SFO. Up soon: EWR-SNA in premium config, just to give AA execs heartburn.

    The thing is that a 321 with 159 passengers or a 757/763 that also carries a lot of passengers vs. an A321T is just, well… you have to have a LOT of faith that there’s some high value customers out there, because 102 pax is just so light. I don’t think it’s the case outside of SFO/LAX-NYC. Sort of like how all business class flights regularly flop hard outside of NYLON (and BA just gave up on BA 1 and 2).

    Now if AA was to do a configuration more like B6’s, sure, this might be more viable. (I suspect that’s where DL and UA will eventually move as well- a more efficient plane than a 757.)

  60. Statistics are not biased.

    I quoted historical and future schedules. I also quoted a year historical which covers all of the pandemic period. I didn’t break it down by month but there couldn’t have been much of a break.

    Like it or not, DL has been and appears to the carrier that flies NYC to SEA.

    DL also has continued to operate 767-300ER and -400s on JFK-LAX as well as BOS-LAX which is largely down to B6 and DL right now.

    AA is not even consistently using premium aircraft on JFK-SFO.

    Premium configured aircraft on domestic routes are here to stay and they will work on some routes but not many. There is little incentive to make them work on captive hub routes. Most of the transcons, however, are highly competitive.

    Aircraft like the A321T don’t and won’t work because there are too few seats, as you note. B6 and DL use premium configured aircraft that have a normal coach configuration.

    Scheduling an A321T on JFK-SNA because it is the only plane in AA’s fleet that can make it back due to the runways at SNA won’t make the route work. There simply is not enough premium demand relative to the higher unit costs.

  61. @ Tim Dunn:

    AS is still a carrier in SEA flying SEA-NYC. Just not premium transcon. And they’re on record that they are very, VERY glad they didn’t invest in premium transcon. (Might be a case of “luck” rather than actual genius, given that a 100 year pandemic is the driver in confirming their decision was the right one.)

    DL removed premium services on JFK-SEA for a while in the 10’s, then brought them back, which is what I am referring to. It wouldn’t shock me to see it happen again.

    I think the market for premium transcon may be changed quite a bit post-pandemic. Businesses are going to realize that the money they capture from less business travel is theirs to keep (or give back to shareholders) if they want to de-emphasize travel for video. I am not sure a strategy of relying on rich people throwing down 3-5x the cost of coach to fill premium transcon seats is going to work for a lot of routes if any significant portion of corporate money in air travel is gone, never to return.

    I also think B6 is the likeliest to have it work out because an A321neo seating 159 is probably OK on the cost side/having enough Y traffic if you have an NYC/BOS wealthy-ish customer base backing up your revenue. I think DL, UA and AA will have some significant adjustments to make (read: more cost-efficient jets and moving away from 757s/767s/A321Ts).

    This blog is all about using the corporate gravy train (excess J/F capacity corporations don’t always buy) to finance your luxury trips, as you may have noticed (well, Lucky has dived into luxury travel lately since his businesses have gone pretty well, but it’s still “one mile at a time” and credit card coverage)… and I think we’re seeing how things are already going to shake out (A380s and 747s disappearing worldwide, international F “halo” products becoming fewer and farther between, cabins shrinking). I think the gravy train is going to dole out less gravy in the form of premium transcon or premium products (and commercial capacity overall).

  62. I simply noted that DL has provided the majority of lie flat cabin capacity in the NYC-SEA market which you did not mention.
    I agree w/ your statements overall including that the economics of premium transcon service will not be what they once were. AA’s 321T is the least likely to succeed in that environment.
    DL has A321NEOs on order which I would strongly bet will be used to replace the 757 premium cabin fleet at least in the US although the first NEOs are supposed to go for Hawaii flying. DL is already using its A321CEOs on longer routes that 757s used to operate while the 757s are increasingly being used for shorter flights like to/from ATL/DTW to Florida as well as still to Hawaii. Everything has been pushed back due to delayed deliveries.
    UA also has 737-MAX10s on order which are supposedly going to be configured with premium cabins but that will be a couple years out.
    If DL and UA’s moves are correct, they will be in a better position with fuel efficiency than B6 which is planning to use most of its NEOs for transatlantic use.

    JFK-SNA is all about an airplane and slots that are available now but with economics that won’t work if the government isn’t supporting the industry. and the A321T strategy won’t stick around just for JFK-SNA which means neither AA or B6 can serve the market after the A321Ts are configured to a normal domestic configuration which is bound to happen.

  63. I would say the A321T assignment on SNA seems temporary (2 years maybe?) given that A321XLRs are coming, and SNA/SEA/SAN/BUR/SJC… could all see lie flat flying on XLRs in the future, even SFO/LAX assuming that they will have a slightly more premium heavy version of XLR. Overall a great addition to SNA.

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