American Airlines Ending Bolivia Flights

Filed Under: American

Historically Latin America was a gold mine for American Airlines. The airline is much bigger in Latin America than their rivals, and they’ve offered an incredible network out of Miami.

Unfortunately over the years this has changed significantly. While they still operate an impressive network to Latin America, they’re not as robust as they used to be. This is due to currency fluctuation, political unrest in some countries, and more.

Well, American has just revealed their latest route cut, which signifies them completely ending service to yet another country. Not just that, but they were already the only US airline to fly there.

American Airlines will be discontinuing flights between Miami and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, as of November 28, 2019.

American used to also fly to La Paz, and it was an interesting triangle route, as they flew from Miami to La Paz to Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Miami. As of June 2018 they cut that stop, and just started flying the ~3,200 mile flight between Miami and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Currently American operates 3x weekly flights in the market using a Boeing 757-200. Earlier in the year American announced that they’d instead use a 737 MAX 8 for the route, which is pretty controversial when you consider the plane doesn’t have a proper business class. However, they backtracked on that, given the 737 MAX situation.

Now the route is being discontinued altogether. It sure seems to me like this decision is being made because the route is truly no longer profitable for them with just about any aircraft type. In other words, I’m guessing they’ve decided it even doesn’t make sense with the 737 MAX, since otherwise they could stick it out for a few more months.

At this point the only airline flying nonstop between the US and Bolivia is Boliviana de Aviacion, which also flies to Miami using a mix of 737s and 767s. I see their 767 parked in Miami all the time (the flight operates as a redeye in both directions, so the plane has a lot of downtime).

Are you surprised to see American pull out of Bolivia?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Ironic AA claims to be the largest airlines in the world yet keeps cutting international routes.

  2. Wonder if this is a route JetBlue would give a shot with their Neo’s from FLL. Probably have bigger fish to fry first in Northern S. America/Central America, though. Also Airbus needs to get their act together with deliveries, too.

  3. *sad vicuña noises*
    they flew the triangular flights alternating directions a few years back, MIA-LPB-VVI-MIA and next day MIA-VVI-LPB-MIA, usually quite full when I took it in 2016, also there are so many Bolivians around east coast, perplexed as why it would not even work with a MAX8.

  4. i may be mis-remembering, but i flew the route a couple of times, and i’m pretty sure it was MIA-LPB-VVI-MIA and not MIA-VVI-LPB-MIA

  5. ah. per @beyounged, i must have happened to catch the flights in the same direction both times!

  6. It had to be MIA to LPB to VVI not other way around. LPB cannot loft off a loaded 757 to MIA due to its high altitude.

  7. American is still the world’s largest airline.
    Bolivia and Paraguay are among the poorest countries in South America as they are land locked which historically was a disadvantage for trade.

  8. American Airlines is pulling out due to the disloyal competition caused by the state-owned airline BoA (Bolivian Airlines), the only other airline with a direct flight to the US. In order to maintain full flights they’ve needed to go head to head with wholly subsidized airline BoA. Currently their DGAC is rampant with corruption and military brass in their ranks, hellbent on favoring state-run operators in aviation and looking the other way to BoA’s flagrant violations of safety procedures and irregular management. Meanwhile, American has been harassed by the local aeronautical authority. On top of all this, there is a pending ICAO visit to review Bolivia’s standing… All in all, it’s been an uphill battle for American. The incumbent president is seeking an unconstitutional re-reelection, which is extremely controversial from a civil unrest standpoint. The 737 Max debacle is the stick that broke the camels back and forced their hand. Too bad, this was an iconic route for South America.

  9. @Austin787 The points guy is wrong. Financial analysts can crunch all the numbers they want but It goes by fleet size. American is the world’s largest airline.

  10. @D3 King American, AA is only the largest by the number of planes and because it operates a lot of flights from Nowheresville to Somewheresville in North America. In the international market, it is barely Top 10, if at all. Same goes for the other North American Airlines – they are simply small players outside the continent.

  11. My guess is what did AA in on this route is not BOA (a bit low quality and unreliable) but rather Latam and Avianca. With hubs in Lima and Bogota, respectively, each flies 1-2 flights a day into La Paz and Santa Cruz then connecting to Miami, Europe, Mexico City, etc. In many senses Latam and Avianca offer better service than AA. AA just couldn’t compete.

  12. The flight definitely was MIA->LPB->VVI-MIA and not the other way around. Also, Avianca has flights from the US to Bolivia.

  13. They are suppose to cancel that route but AA still selling that route on AA when you select awards.

  14. Sad. It may cause me to give up on a bucket list destination ( Salar de Uyuni). It may make the trip too complicated or time consuming to contemplate.

  15. @DC_Yukon: There’s actually a better way to reach by air Bolivia’s surreal and mesmerizing Salar de Uyuni: Fly to CJC (Calama, Chile) via LIM (or via SCL: many more connections but longer) on LA or AA/LA. The Calama airport is one hour northwest from charming, interesting and fun Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama (yep, right in the famed Atacama Desert). From there you can take 3- or 4-night road tours of Uyuni. I visited in April 2014 and it was amazing.

  16. @JCEdwards. What’s a road tour? Seriously though, some of us have little physical tolerance for that much absence of moisture. Going thru Atacama makes it a much more difficult trip. Makes me very nauseous. Nice thought for others, though. Being the driest desert in the world has its drawbacks.

  17. Isn’t the Miami-La Paz route one that Eastern Airlines flew for many years before American took it over?

    @JC Edwards: I flew to Calama via Santiago in 2012 and visited Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama. It was a wonderful trip. I took a number of excursions by bus from San Pedro to various places in the Chilean Altiplano. I saw the signs for the excursions to Salar de Uyuni, but my schedule didn’t allow me to take them.

  18. @DCYukon: What @JC Edwards is calling a road tour is an excursion by bus operated by one of the tour companies in San Pedro de Atacama. I was in San Pedro for four days and did not find the absence of moisture to be a problem.

  19. How does Atacama compare to Uyuni? I visited the latter a couple of years ago but am curious about the Chilean side.

  20. @Charlie: Exactly!
    One of the most common ways to visit the Uyuni salt lake is to hire an excursion from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: You clear Chilean customs a few miles east from San Pedro, then travel by Chilean shuttle (van) to the Chilean-Bolivian border, which takes a couple of hours, and then reach the Bolivian customs post, at a nearly 15,000 ft above sea level. After clearing passport control and customs, you take your backpack or luggage to a Bolivian-license plate jeep you are assigned to, and then make your way toward Uyuni. It does take several hours, but it’s 100% worth it!

  21. Chile’s Atacama desert is reputably the driest in the world. However, it’s not particularly hot. At the height of summer, in January and February (Southern Hemisphere), the highest temperature can reach 95ºF, but because it’s so dry, at night it’s commonly 50º or even lower. San Pedro is a good base to explore the desert (hikes, horse or bike rides, hot springs, petroglyphs, etc.)

  22. My family and I lived in Bolivia for 20 years. In February 1992 my wife and I were on one of AA #922’s first flights from Santa Cruz to Miami. It was a wide body with free drinks all the way and almost empty. The airline had high hopes. We lived in Cochabamba and for years AA’s service included free tickets on LAB to Santa Cruz and an overnight at the best hotel in the city to make the morning connection. For two decades that plane was my bus from Bolivia to the world. There was no better way to arrive in Bolivia than to see sunrise over the Andes out of AA’s window. But in recent years it’s service suffered from one cut after another — no more AA office in Cochabamba, no more connecting flight and hotel, aircraft in such bad shape that 1 in 3 times there was a mechanical delay. A few summers ago they cancelled our flight from Miami and left dozens stranded. But I loved that flight. I loved the feeling of heading down the tunnel in VVI and knowing I was heading out across the world. I wrote a novel a few years back and it began as AA#922 passed in the dark night over the equator. The end of an era. Que lastima, pues.

  23. Actually I think the real answer is that AA and BoA entered into an agreement sometime earlier this year or late last year according to Bolivian newspapers and the demand simply isn’t enough to enter into a war of attrition.

  24. @DC_Yukon: I just did the trip a few months ago and I flew into VVI from SCL on a red-eye. Then I connected to Sucre in the morning. Spent a few days there and then went to Uyuni and did the whole Uyuni safari shebang and exited from LPB. Super easy

  25. It’s a shame because Bolivia is a fantastic country. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an airline like Latam expand into Bolivia as American have pulled out leaving the market wide open for a new player.

  26. Very sad to hear this news.

    I remember flying back from LPB to MIA (with a stop at VVI of course since a direct flight from LPB could not possibly take off from that altitude). We could not land in VVI due to weather. We came back to La Paz and they put us all up in a pretty great place. A free day in LA Paz !!! The next day there were two AA 757’s at El Alto airport and by opting for the one that took off 3 hours later we flew in a near empty plane. Drinks were on them by the handful. My girl and I sat in the back and she smoked a Camel light over the Equator. (It was the Summer of 1994 and one could still smoke if not over US soil then)

  27. It’s not just Bolivia … now it’s San Diego, CA, too. For 35 years, there has been a morning nonstop to JFK. Then there were two nonstops. They’re now withdrawing *all* nonstops. Delta, Jet Blue and others seem to continue theirs. Is there something in AA’s water?? I’m beginning to wonder …

  28. I just bought a flight on AA RIC to MIA to VVI and back for late January to early February. I just called AA reservations line and they said they didn’t know anything about it.

  29. Even in the times of the triangular route MIA LPB VVI MIA, the 757 was NOT the international version, which made the flight pure hell. I had stopped using it long ago, going instead via Lima and doing LPB LIM on Aeroperu (yes, at the time…), LAN or whatever flew between the two cities. So the MAX not being equipped with a real Business Class never was an issue.

  30. AA922 was always rammed full when I used it. The only AA flight to depart and land outside of the US (for part of the journey). I can’t help but wonder if this is political – the Bolivian govt aren’t fans of the US and want as little US influence as possible. BoA being state owned too…Such a shame to see an iconic flight go. Yes the aircraft was awful, crowded and usually a bumpy flight but what a shame.

  31. Actually, AA 922 wasn’t the only triangular route in Latin America. In the early 1990s, AA’s flew from MIA to EZE and from MIA to SCL overnight, both arriving in the morning. In the afternoon, the two planes switched locations, the EZE plane flying to SCL, and the SCL plane flying to EZE. Then they flew back to Miami overnight.

    In that same era, AA flew a daytime flight from SCL to LIM to MIA.

  32. The old Eastern Airlines flight was not direct Miami – LaPaz, it was Miami, Cali, Quito, Lima, La Paz, Asuncion. I used to work in Asuncion, what a flight in the 1980s.

    Then AA started the triangle flight always Miami, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Miami, never switched to reverse order since full fuel tanks needed for Miami stretch can not take off from La Paz airport

    Charlie says:
    July 25, 2019 at 9:44 pm
    Isn’t the Miami-La Paz route one that Eastern Airlines flew for many years before American took it over?

  33. @Bill Green
    What kind of aircraft did Eastern use on that flight? Each of the legs was sufficiently short that a Boeing 727 could probably have done it, but I’m going to guess it was a Boeing 707 or a DC-8.

  34. I honestly didn’t know they still flew anywhere in Bolivia until a few weeks ago.

    Also, you say they’re cutting a lot of international destinations when they’re adding new routes to Africa, Hungary, Poland, and Tel-aviv Israel.

  35. I flew AA 922 for decades and the aircraft was always in need of repair. There was such a difference after arriving in Miami and transferring into the connecting AA aircraft. I feel they always treated those flights to Bolivia as second class and quite frankly, I will not miss them.

    Back in the pre-AA days, Eastern Airlines flew 727s.

    It is time to move on to better things!

  36. Salar de Uyuni or the Uyuni salt planes. This is a must see and you might as well take a tour visiting colored lakes. Note that the altitude is high (yes and dry), but if you are coming from sea level you will end up with a head ache. Acclimatize for a few days is my suggestion. My route these days is via Panama, IAH-PTY-VVI is a daylight flight, coming back is a bit more awkward with a 2:30 AM departure

  37. So sad! I refuse to fly BOA from Miami! I have been enjoying AA direct to VVI for past 3 years several times a year and now will take my last flight back to MIA Saturday. Guess I will fly through Lima now…

  38. I don’t understand how this route isn’t profitable. Flying to LPB or VVI from most large cities in the US (other than Miami) are well over $700 RT, if not $1000+. Does Bolivia just tax the airlines a lot?

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