WHOA: American Airlines Will Fly From Seattle To India

Filed Under: Alaska, American

Today is a huge day for American, Alaska, and aviation in Seattle. Earlier I wrote about how Alaska Airlines is joining the oneworld alliance, but that isn’t the only big development.

Thanks to a strengthened partnership between American and Alaska, American Airlines is expanding in Seattle.

American Airlines’ new international Seattle flights

American Airlines will be launching two new long haul international flights out of Seattle:

  • American will fly daily from Seattle to Bangalore with a 787-9 as of October 2020
  • American will fly daily from Seattle to London with a 777-200 as of March 2021

American’s new Seattle to Bangalore route

American Airlines will be launching daily Boeing 787-9 nonstop flights between Seattle and Bangalore as of October 2020, with flights expected to go on sale later this month. WOW.

American Airlines 787-9 business class

This is huge. American Airlines cut their Chicago to Delhi route as of 2012, and they haven’t flown to India since. United has consistently had the most service to India among US carriers, while Delta just recently launched a New York to Mumbai route.

I can totally see how the route makes sense, though talk about something that most people weren’t expecting. I figured any route to India would involve Delhi or Mumbai, and would most likely be out of Dallas.

The Seattle to Bangalore flight will cover a distance of 8,078 miles, so it will be just marginally shorter than American’s current longest flight from Dallas to Hong Kong.

American will not only offer the only flight from Seattle to India, but will also offer the only nonstop flight from Bangalore to the US.

I wonder how American will staff this flight, since they don’t have a Seattle flight attendant or pilot base. Will the airline launch some other 787 flights to Seattle, or will they just have pilots deadhead from Los Angeles to Seattle to operate these flights?

As American’s SVP of Network Strategy describes this route:

“Beginning West Coast international service from Seattle will complement American’s strong existing international network from LAX. India is a grossly underserved market, despite the number of businesses with a major presence in both India and the West Coast. By adding Seattle to Bangalore, we’re giving customers from more than 70 U.S. cities access to India in one stop or less — versus the two, three or four stops they’d have to make to get there in the past.”

American’s new Seattle to London route

To me this is the less interesting of the two announcements. American Airlines will be launching daily Boeing 777-200 nonstop flights between Seattle and London as of March 2021, with tickets expected to go on sale as of May 2020.

American Airlines 777-200

Why is this less surprising?

Because British Airways already flies from Seattle to London, and American has a transatlantic joint venture with their oneworld partners. In reality I think it’s pretty likely that American will be taking over a British Airways frequency (even though that hasn’t been explicitly stated), as British Airways increasingly adds service to secondary markets in the US (Charleston, New Orleans, Portland, etc.).

It will be nice to have the choice of which “metal” you want to fly, between American and British Airways.

Alaska & American strengthening partnership

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, Alaska is joining oneworld, though this international expansion is also being made possible by closer cooperation between Alaska and American.

American and Alaska will continue to codeshare on domestic flights (which was supposed to be cut as of March 1), and will also offer a codeshare agreement on international flights out of Los Angeles and Seattle.

Beyond mutual participation in oneworld and codesharing, I hope the two airlines also bring back some of the reciprocal elite benefits that they cut in 2018.

American & Alaska will codeshare on more routes

Is this one-off Seattle expansion, or…?

Last fall, Delta shocked the industry when they purchased a stake in LATAM, causing LATAM to cut ties with American and oneworld.

In many ways this almost seems like a kinda-sorta revenge. This is an opportunity for Alaska and American to work together against Delta, which has expanded hugely in Alaska’s hometown airport.

This raises the question of whether these two additions are all American has in store, or if we’re going to see further American expansion out of Seattle for long haul flights, with Alaska providing the feed.

Seattle is a logical transpacific gateway, and Delta has nicely built up a transpacific hub out of there. Could American try to do the same? At some point, isn’t the logical evolution of this that American just buys Alaska, given how complementary their route networks are?

Personally for now I’d guess this is one-off expansion for international flights, but I guess we’ll see…

Could Delta also launch Bangalore flights out of Seattle?

Maybe this is crazy, but I also feel like it wouldn’t be totally out of character for Delta.

With American announcing this route, I almost wouldn’t be shocked to see Delta say “wait a second, we should do that too.” If they announce it right away, maybe they’d hope to get American to cancel the route before it even goes on sale.

Assuming the math works out (and I assume it does, given how conservative American is), I have to imagine that Delta would not only want in on this market, but also would want to defend an airport where they’ve become the dominant international airline.

I imagine Delta would have a competitive advantage, since presumably they have most of the lucrative corporate contracts for global companies out of Seattle.

While it may seem unlikely, I’m not totally ruling out the prospect of Delta announcing this route in the coming days in hopes of driving out American.

Could we see Delta launch this route as well?

Bottom line

I feel like American’s route planning department has been incredibly conservative over the past few years, while United Airlines has been innovative and launching all kinds of interesting new routes.

With that in mind, it’s fantastic to see American not only return to India, but more significantly, to launch Seattle to Bangalore flights. I don’t think that’s a route anyone saw coming for American.

It’s not only that they’re launching the route, but they’re doing so daily, which is kind of shocking. For example, American only recently announced that they’re returning to Tel Aviv, and that Dallas to Tel Aviv flight will only operate 3x weekly.

Meanwhile this flight out of a non-hub is daily…

What do you make of American’s Seattle expansion?

  1. If it’s a choice between an AA 777 or a BA 787-10 with Club Suite then it’s a no brainer. BA wins every time

  2. Considering how profitable, smart and efficient delta is, if they haven’t launched a Seattle to India route, chances are, it won’t be profitable.

    What I am suprised is that United was not the first US carrier to Bangalore, considering they have the biggest presence in India, with at least 3x the amount of daily flights from other carriers.

    Do you think we will see a EWR/SFO to Bangalore start soon from UNITED?

  3. AA will presumably also have to add a DFW-SEA or LAX-SEA flight on a 787 in order to get the 787 to SEA in the first place and rotate it through the rest of their network, so that will make for some cool domestic flying. (The London 777, on the other hand, might just rotate in and out of the rest of AA’s fleet on the London end.)

  4. No, American’s route planning has not been conservative. They have been using the dartboard approach to add new transatlantic routes to secondary and tertiary destinations even as they cut primary routes; the fact that AA doesn’t fly from Chicago to Asia or anywhere in Europe on a year round basis except for ORD shows how poorly they compete against UA. Add in that AA performs worse than DL in average fare performance in nearly all markets where it competes with Delta is indicative of how poorly they do competing against BOTH DL and UA.

    AA is using the dartboard approach to Asia just as they have used to Europe and think they will make it by flying routes that are part of their JVs or to destinations which Delta doesn’t serve – but out of Delta’s hubs.

    AA’s problem is its costs; adding a bunch of revenge routes won’t change the fact that AA has the highest costs in the US airline industry and 10% higher than DL’s for 2019 – and that comes right from their 2019 earnings reports.

    AA will sink the company using their revenge tactics and won’t change what DL does in Miami which so many seem to think is the basis for AA’s irrationality. It is simply incredible to see a large corporation being run the way American is run today.

  5. One thing to call out about the direct Seattle – London flight is that currently it is not ideal to redeem AA miles for that trip. Either book on BA metal and pay significant taxes on top of the miles or book on AA metal but go indirect. So that is a huge win for AA and Alaska members in Seattle.

  6. “I can totally see how the route makes sense…”

    Except it really doesn’t. Unless MSFT is giving them a big corporate contract as @SBS says (certainly possible), there’s very little O&D between SEA and BLR. Which leaves you with a market (US-India) with historically terrible fares that’s going to rely very heavily on connecting traffic from DFW/LAX/ORD/SFO. I’ve been begging for a US-India nonstop as much as anyone, but I don’t see how that strategy works – unless said strategy involves lighting large piles of cash on fire.

  7. I’m kind of surprised that the Bangalore and London flights aren’t operated by the same aircraft type. Would make more sense to do that so the plane’s ground time might be minimized and a small crew could be stationed there. I also wonder if Alaska made these flights a condition of joining oneworld.

    I’m curious if they looked at their Mileage Plan members and saw a lot of of flights being credited to Bangalore.

  8. @sharon, DL does not have the right aircraft for SEA-India, that’s more likely the reason why they have not started a route like that. The A350 is likely too much aircraft for that kind of route. Delta eschewing the 787 and being very conservative on long hauls generally is more likely the issue here.

  9. This was an absolute bolt out of the blue! Great addition, but BLR-SFO will be the holy grail for Bangalore techies. The AA execs must have already secured corporate contracts from Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing, all of whom have huge presences in Bangalore. I’ve heard that the premium demand on this route is really good and hopefully it will do well.

  10. @ LNYC — Don’t disagree, I don’t think Delta would have ever launched this route independently. Delta is notoriously conservative with new routes, though even more than that they’re notoriously competitive in their major markets. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    The A350-900 has capacity for ~20 more people than the 787-9 (in their respective configurations), so I feel like at least a 4x weekly service or so isn’t totally out of the question for Delta, if they want to stick it to American.

  11. @ Jeff — I don’t think Alaska really has the clout to tell other airlines what routes to start in cases like this. But the expansion does seem logical.

    Agree that it’s interesting that they’re using different planes, though my guess is that the 777-200 will “trade” at Heathrow. In other words, the flight could be staffed by JFK crews, for example, who operate JFK-LHR-SEA-LHR-JFK.

  12. @ SBS @ MeanMeosh — Given how out of the blue this route is, I have to imagine that they’re getting some sort of corporate contracts here, or have reason to believe this would work. American is soooo conservative with new year-round business routes, and this is the strangest they’ve launched in a long time. I have to trust they know something we don’t.

  13. As someone who has and will continue to make trips to BLR (as my family is from there), this is really exciting news. I am surprised that AA was the one to start serving BLR, as I figured that United would do this because of its consistent route network in India and its hubs at SFO and EWR, both in prominent cities for business and are located near massive clusters of the Indian Diaspora. Either way, I am excited that BLR is adding more international routes – especially to the United States!

  14. BA has 2 flight btw SEA and LHR on some days, and 1 flight by VS. If the AA flight is to be a replacement, I hope it replaces the BA one w the old Club seat. One of BA flight already switch to the new door-equipped seat.

    SEA has grown a lot this last 18 months. The issue facing the airport is space. Area-wise, the airport is located on a small area with ability to expand since there are neighborhoods surrounding it. The new international arrival facility cannot arrive soon enough. On the busy arrival time block – btw 10am to 2pm – planes sometimes are held off prior to docking at the South Concourse just to allow arrival pax to flow. Even if pax has Global Entry, if they are checking bags – they would just get delayed at the carousel.

  15. How can an airline that has not even got the basics of politeness and kindness, fly to a country that is?

    I predict that this route on AA will barely have any passengers, hopefully Delta will take the route over then.

  16. @MeanMeosh
    SFO or the Bay Area is the largest local market for Bangalore. So AA is rebuilding a codeshare relationship with AS in order to a route targeting UA’s hub which will be flown out of DL’s hub.

    Someone tell me again how AA is going to succeed given that AA underperforms DL and UA in nearly all northern hemisphere markets other than to Tokyo and London and a few Spain routes.

  17. @Paul American will still route us Seattle-ites through PHL before offering an award ticket in business without outrageous surcharges.

  18. Everyone here hating on AA saying this route will fail. Maybe it will but everyone is just mad that AA did this out of no where and caught everyone off guard. It’s a creative idea and more power to them for trying new markets.

  19. This could be a temporary reaction to deal with the glut of widebody capacity released from coronavirus fiasco. Good for Bangalore. This is the best time to try different long haul routes before China comes back online. China always wins on yields front compared to India.

  20. a direct flight from SFO to Chennai would be ideal given the following reasons although it could be economy heavy passengers there’s still a good demand for premium class (premium economy and business)

    1. Bay area has huge population routing back to the state of TamilNadu, lot of movements specially by Cathy Pacific, Singapore, Lufthansa, BA and Emirates.
    2. 9W no longer operates – since Jet airways stopped service between MAA to Paris no airline has filled in the void, slack has been picked up by other airlines mostly ME3.
    3. ME3 operates multiple daily flights to MAA mostly passengers connecting to North america, american airline companies could tap into this market share
    4. Increasing passenger traffic and new international terminal launching later 2020
    5. Recent launch of ANA has the worst layovers timings when connecting to NA, not ideal for parents travelling to bay area.
    6. Good Tech and manufacturing connection between the cities

  21. @LNYC @Ben SEA to BLR is just about the perfect range for an A330-900 at ~7019 nm vs the stated range of 7200 nm. It only gets better if, as it usually does, the stated range gets increased with more information about operations.

  22. folks who says SEA-BLR won’t work don’t probably know that how many carriers are flying into Banglore market – Let me put it this way
    Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Emirates, Cathay, BA, Singapore and now Japan Airlines have flights to Banglore – this all are one stop options from USA – American may have data on how many passengers are going from USA to Banglore specific via all other carriers and specifically from west coast – the load factor is there (indian Diaspora based off Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco)
    – the real question is how AA is going to compete on pricing side with other one stopper airlines –

  23. Jeez, talk about a low-yielding market. Best of luck to the folks at AA but they seriously need some sense knocked into their network planning teams. I’m struggling to see how any sensible person would think this is a good idea. Emirates has this market locked up with their loyal Indian following. Most of the spill traffic is going to Singapore and Lufthansa. AA with their subpar product and terrible crews is going to quickly burn through cash on this route. Vasu Raja….that name in itself should have a clue of how bad this is going to be!

  24. Boeing also has growing offices in Bangalore and Alaska caters to their needs (Flight 787 between Charleston and Seattle comes to mind). I got an email from Alaska today announcing this new partnership and the Bangalore flight.

  25. @CAROLYNNE LOREK You don’t seem to complain about American companies making billions of dollars profit by selling their products in India.

  26. AA will likely feed of SFO/SJC – SEA flights to get round the year traffic for this route.
    Ideally this will be a transit of 1.5 hours @ SEA. AI missed the boat here. I won’t be surprised if DL launches a SFO-BLR route later this year.

  27. There’s a chance I’d fly it one time. I might need to go to Chennai. However, I’d fly it only one way. When you arrive in India, you must be alert or you may be killed crossing (running) the street. It’s safer to fly to Singapore or Thailand and rest a day then go to India. On the way back, however, that proposed AA flight is great.

  28. @sa – a fifth freedom between (BLR-MAA)-SEA would have worked wonders or even (BLR-HYD)-SEA for securing passenger traffic. But its really tough to get the approval from DGCA without political play or bribe

  29. American need partner with Indian domestic airlines to make the SEA-BLR route successful like United is partnered with Air India and recently Vistara as there are lot of people flying to HYD, MAA and BOM

  30. We also need to keep into account of Fall of Air India – either it gets closed or continue loosing money – so once jet airways gone, Skyteam Joint venture got weakened, BA already has close relationship with Vistara – AA can do similar with Either Vistara or Indigo to serve other south indian destinations like Kochi, Hyderabad, chennai, manglore etc. – this will be in direct competition with BA – since they already deployed New club suites to BLR – Japan is also starting Banglore flight
    This is interesting route but also logical to build route network from Seattle – if this one works out good – won’t surprise to see either Dallas – BOM/Del or SFO/LAX – BOM/DEL (SFO-BOM non-stop will attract many compared to one stopper of UA, AI, CX, ANA, Korean, or any other European airline
    This is the test – if they serve all that routes then they will truly dominate from west coast on india route since east coast already have enough tight competition

    Truly we are talking million plus indians living on west coast in addition of regular visitors from India

  31. @MeanMeosh

    Except you also forgot all the subcontractors working for such companies.

    Will it last, maybe?
    Remember IAH-SVG. The only difference is it would be hard to fill 787 than a 737.
    But hey who am I to say, AA made RDU-LHR work for years that 767 isn’t big enough anymore.

  32. Being Seattle based, while the BLR flight is notable, I doubt I will fly it. The LHR one is much more likely for me to utilize. I am curious if this will replace the (sometimes) second BA flight per day. Virgin Atlantic is increasing frequencies to SEA this year (going from daily to 11x per week). Norwegian still has a seasonal SEA-LGW route. In the summer, if the AA LHR flight does not replace a BA flight, there could be 6 flights a day from Seattle to London.

  33. Lots of comment here are missing a key point made in the press release: one stop connectivity to BLR via SEA from 70+ markets in North America.

    I travel to BLR 1-2x a year from PIT. Most times, it takes me two stops to get to BLR. I haven’t seen the timetables, but having one stop access via SEA on OW is a game-changer for me.

    The Indian diaspora in the US is ~ 4m people. That is a lot of return trips to India.

    I dunno. Maybe this AS/AA strategy fails, but at least AA is finally trying something different. i, for one, an excited by the breath of fresh air.

  34. @Lucky Do you see AA putting their codeshare back on Hainan’s SEA-PEK/PVG or did that partnership basically end with the investment in China Southern?

  35. Vasu Raja is a player! That dude has marbles. I hope they let him continue to “explore the space.” Would love to see him as CEO one day. Don’t know if he’s on the “track” though.

  36. I love non hub long haul flights, but I also love having multiple flights from BA. Hopefully the AA and BA operations coexist! What positioning flight do AA have in mind for the 787 and 777? Could be an opportunity for short haul widebody flying.

  37. @Burghdude: A 1-stop to BLR is available from all major U.S. cities. What this does is help smaller cities like PIT or CLE (better their equivalents on the western part of the country).

    BA, LH, AF, EK, QR, EY, SQ, CX, JL all fly to BLR already…..

  38. I flew AA from SEA back to PHL on a Web Special for 5k miles on Monday and was blown away at how many crew members in uniform were making the commute (at least a dozen). There could be a sizable population in the area already.

  39. Alaska Air will pick up business because SFO-SEA will be a feeder flight for Bangalore.

    As a leisure traveler I wish American was flying to New Delhi. At least then I’d be able to see the Taj Mahal. Cricket and street food alone wouldn’t be enough for me. Flying non rev back from Bangalore to Seattle in business class would be nice though.

  40. It’s smart and pretty much the only way the US3 can compete with the ME3 for one of the largest long haul aviation markets out there (US-India). Count me as shocked it was AA that beat UA and DL to a BLR non stop. BLR can only be served from a handful of US cities using non super specialized (77L/359ULR) metal so Seattle is a great choice for the flight.

    I don’t think people realize how different the BLR market is from the rest of India. While the usual low yielding volumes in Y are enough to make it the 3rd largest market in the country after DEL and BOM, its also got an extremely high proportion of business travelers flying in and out every day. I don’t think I’ve seen an empty seat in J or F the 4-5 times I’ve visited the past decade. Many multinationals have bases there and almost all of them fly their people up front. Just look at what the likes of QR, EK, BA, KL, LH, SQ, AF and (soon) JL fly there – its usually brand new, top of the line aircraft with premium heavy cabins. AMZN and MSFT will lock out large chunks of the J cabin on the AA flight.

  41. This whole AS/AA tie up is all about snatching contracts from DL. And SEA is no mature hub for DL. With twice the market share of DL at SEA and oneworld coverage in the entire west coast and especially SEA/PDX/LAX/SFO/SJC/SAN, they will will easily win over contracts from DL. Here is what I think will happen:

    Step 1: DL pulls out of PDX-LHR and PDX-HND – Bye bye Nike!
    Step 2: DL starts dropping weaker domestic routes out of SEA
    Step 3: Asia flights suffer due to lack of feed and contracts
    Step 4: DL announces that they are now able to make use of KE’s and MU’s premier gateways at ICN & PVG and drops other routes.
    Step 5: To satisfy all the DL fanboys, DL will announce SEA as their newest focus city 😛

  42. BLR -SEA will work wonders. Bangalore is silicon capital of South Asia. There are huge number of MNC – Microsoft, Amazon, Accenture, Intel, IBM, Deloitte, Wipro, Sony, Samsung, LG, IQVIA, Amadeus, Mathworks etc this list goes on. I can start writing all these names and may end up naming at least 30 huge MNC setups in Bangalore. It should be premium heavy and this will work wonders. Not to mention for leisure travellers to Goa, Chennai, Kochi these are well connected by domestic carriers in India and are less than an hour to reach from BLR.

  43. This will be a 5-day trip for crew as it will be a positioning flight for them. Not sure which base(s) will work it, though. My spouse is an AA flight attendant.

    BTW, Seattle was a base (not hub) for AA back in the 90s and early 00s. So this is a return. Very exciting and glad to see them grow a pair…LOL!

  44. Seattle area will fill the front of the AA 789 while AS will fill the rest of it.

    That’s the bottom line here for the route to work year round.

  45. I wish Delta did the SEA-BLR flight. I go to BLR every two years, and since I’m based in Boston, a BOS-SEA-BLR flight would be nice (on Delta).

  46. This is a move to compete with Singapore Airlines SEA-SIN route which is very popular among India bound travellers.

    Hopefully DL matches this with SEA-MAA route.

  47. The Bangalore route sure is curious.

    Not mentioned. This effectively provides AA a 10th hub in SEA, as well as sudden strength at SFO and PDX, plus the strength of AS’s Hawai’i network (and a pretty good West Coast-Mexico network)

    While United still has the best West Coast-Trans Pac fortress hub at SFO, the alliance will provide AA/AS a clear lead at LAX…the most critical West Coast market given the population and margins of the world’s largest O/D airport….and they are essentially co-located next to each other at LAX T4/5/6 (T5 will be completely taken over by AA in the years ahead when the new T9 is constructed), and a few gates they use at international T Bradley. AA/AS will now swamp DL and UA with their total number of gates at LAX.

    LATAM was a real loss, but AA just recouped the revenue and more with the AS partnership.

  48. @si Why would you spend 4+ additional hours going via SEA instead of taking KLM/AF connection from AMS/CDG ?

  49. Interesting. This route appears to target Singapore Airlines share of Indian passengers traveling from Bangalore, India to Seattle via Singapore for Amazon and Microsoft. If priced competitively it will reduce SQ share.

  50. It was not mentioned as to what will be the flight time. Another issue is whether the US carrier has entered into any code sharing deal with Indian operators.

  51. AA should look at codeshare with an Indian carrier so that people from other Tier-2 cities around Bangalore can connect to this service.

  52. I think that there’s two things that make this route possible:
    1.) Their connectivity with Alaska now – Alaska flies a lot of niche routes, (SJC-SEA, SAN-SEA, AUS-SEA) connecting other tech hubs in the country with very high frequencies. So does Delta for that matter, but they don’t have the capacity that Alaska does. American really needs a codeshare, and has to time this flight well if they have any chance at making this route work.
    2.) Lucrative contract with Microsoft or Amazon – this is honestly the most crucial thing that will drive this route – Seattle does not have the Indian population that other areas (Bay Area, New York, Texas) have so the primary motivation seems to be a route that connects tech cities. If they don’t have a contract, then this route becomes pretty difficult.

    I do believe that this route will be successful, but American HAS to play the cards correctly. I think a partnership with an Indian carrier that has a reasonably big presence in Bangalore (IndiGo, Vistara, or Spicejet) would really help – Bangalore has great connectivity to other tech cities in India (Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai).

    While I don’t see Delta launching this route (they’re very conservative with their long-haul expansion – if SEA-HKG didn’t work, this definitely won’t work for them), I can definitely see United launching a SFO-BLR route if they can score a contract with a tech company in the Bay – they have excellent connectivity in India with Air India and Vistara, and imo would be an even better route than Seattle.

  53. I definitely agree that Delta will not launch a rival service, but I have to disagree on the SFO-BLR route. While United is the other U.S. Carrier for whom service to BLR is plausible, it might not be out of SFO. In my opinion, EWR would be the likely origin for a United Flight to BLR. NYC is home to many of the tech companies that are based out of SF and Seattle, and the NY Metro Area (NYC and NJ) have around the same population of Indians as the Bay Area. EWR is about 500 mi closer to BLR than SFO is, and United already operates service to both DEL and BOM out of EWR.

  54. As an AA Million Miler super happy to hear AA is now labeling SEA an International Gateway. Also have high status on Alaska. If the route works, will be flying my 2x yearly Europe flights on AA through LHR. Can’t wait for the first SEA to Europe flight on AA!

  55. @Vinay – you’re right, I think EWR is equally as likely as SFO is – add in the fact that there’s more premium traffic as well. Point being, I think either of these routes flown by United (EWR-BLR or SFO-BLR) can definitely more be successful than this Seattle route – their connectivity in India is incredibly advantageous

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