Surprise: American Airlines Resuming Daily Sydney Flights

Filed Under: American

Airlines are having to adapt to constantly changing demand and travel restrictions, and as a result airline schedules are incredibly fluid. Well, there’s one international American Airlines route resumption I find particularly interesting.

American resuming Australia flights in November

In July American Airlines announced that it would suspend its Los Angeles to Sydney flight until mid-2021, but the airline has now backtracked, as noted by @xJonNYC. American Airlines will be resuming daily Sydney flights as of November 2020.

The airline will operate the route with the following schedule:

AA73 Los Angeles to Sydney departing 10:40PM arriving 9:00AM (+2 days)
AA72 Sydney to Los Angeles departing 11:15AM arriving 6:10AM

The flight will be operated by American’s flagship Boeing 777-300ER, which represents quite an upgrade over the Boeing 787-9 that used to operate the route.

The flight will operate daily, though it will only operate as a scheduled passenger service four days per week, while three days per week it will operate as a cargo-only service.

Passenger service will operate westbound on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and eastbound on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

American Airlines will fly the 777-300ER to Sydney once again

What makes this route resumption interesting

As mentioned above, American Airlines is moving forward the timeline for this route from mid 2021 to late 2020, so that’s pretty significant. It’s especially noteworthy when you consider that Australia’s borders are more or less closed, with only residents being allowed to return with a 14-day quarantine.

What’s American’s motivation for operating this route? Clearly the airline sees a significant amount of cargo demand, and that’s the primary motivator here, because there’s no way that these flights would be profitable purely based on passenger traffic.

While cargo seems to be the primary motivator, the airline clearly thinks it might as well subsidize cargo revenue with some passenger revenue:

  • American and Qantas do have the biggest joint venture between the US and Australia, and Qantas isn’t operating any international flights at the moment
  • Currently all international flights to Australia are capped at 50 passengers, due to quarantine limitations; however, American is selling these Sydney flights to capacity, so I guess the airline expects this restriction will be lifted
  • Not only is American restoring Sydney service early, but it’s using a bigger plane than it did pre-pandemic, which clearly reflects the 777-300ER’s additional cargo capacity over the 787-9

American Airlines is resuming Sydney flights in November

American’s aggressive international schedule

Los Angeles to Sydney isn’t the only route where American is taking an aggressive approach out of LAX. As of the start of the winter schedule (late October), American’s schedule also shows:

  • 2x daily Boeing 777-300ER flights from Los Angeles to London
  • 2x daily Boeing 787-9 flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda

I suppose it’s possible that there’s just that much cargo demand, though personally I’d be shocked if the schedule sticks, especially with current entry restrictions.

American will fly 2x daily to London & Tokyo

Bottom line

American Airlines will be resuming daily Los Angeles to Sydney flights as of November, operating 3x weekly as a cargo service, and 4x weekly as a passenger service. There must be quite a bit of cargo demand, as that’s the only way this route could make sense, given current travel restrictions.

While American is generally scaling back its LAX hub significantly, there’s still quite a bit of long haul service planned for the winter schedule. I’m curious to see if it all sticks.

Are you surprised to see American moving forward daily Los Angeles to Sydney flights?

  1. AA employee here. What makes you say that the flight is being sold to capacity? If you’re referencing JonNYC’s screenshot, note that not’s necessarily accurate. That screenshot is from the employee Travel Planner, and what those numbers represent are seats sold vs. AC. AC stands for “aircraft capacity,” i.e. number of physical seats on the plane. This is different from AU = authorization level, which is the number of seats that can be sold. Usually AU is a little over AC (i.e. overselling), but it can also be less in cases like this, weight restrictions, etc.

    Not trying to win a*hole of the month again, but it is always a little frustrating when people on the Internet work off of speculation and bad intel, because my co-workers and passengers have to deal with the fallout of that. Ultimately, though, I know that there’s a lot of interest in the frequent flyer world, and so I always want to help/educate in the most patient way I can. Just getting on my soapbox :).

    Oh, and it could be that AU = 300-ish here, I haven’t actually checked in RES, but just saying that the Travel Planner is not a reliable source of what’s selling.

  2. At the moment arrivals into Sydney are limited to 500 passengers per day so I really cannot imagine the 4 weekly flights going out full (assuming there are that many permanent residents / citizens still looking at returning). With there being a limited number of hotels being used for hotel quarantine it’s unlikely they will allow airlines to carry max passengers, so we may see economy pax get bumped in favour of first/biz as we have been seeing with the likes of Qatar and Emirates. Most Australian diplomatic missions are suggesting that stranded citizens should try book a premium seat as so many people have been bumped off flights when ticketed in economy. Certainly very trying times, especially with how strict the Australian government has been. I arrived back in Sydney in early July and the the rest of the month flights were ranging from 5-7k on united one way out of SFO. Insane!

  3. FWIW, lots of open business class awards (pricing out at 72,000 miles for me) on the return. Not seeing any space at all outbound.

    I’m certainly gonna speculatively grab one of these seats 🙂

  4. Lucky,
    AA has continually operated LAX-SYD for months now as cargo only service. All they seem to be doing is converting it to passengers a few days a week.
    Delta and United similarly have been operating the route for cargo as well.

  5. My initial reaction was ‘WTAF?’ I can’t see the Australian government relaxing the arrival restrictions by November, but there is an undercurrent of discussion that they should be building a permanent quarantine facility and relaxing restrictions. That is, allowing more ‘normal’ travel for people who are prepared to pay for the quarantine period when they return. The federal government is being aggressive in trying to make the states open up internal borders (they can’t force them to) so that may translate into pressure on them to open the external border.

    As for American, if they see value in operating the service as cargo-only on some days, that implies that the pax on the other days aren’t really needed commercially. And although inbound capacity remains limited, they may believe there is demand for outbound flights for non-Australians.

  6. I believe the current correct passengers per day allowed per flight is down to 30 and has been for some time.

    All you dreamers believing in booking a points flight, save yourself the heart ache as you aren’t going unless you hold that Australian passport and even then you have to stump up for 2 weeks quarantine costs.

  7. @vicky you are correct. It is MASSIVELY contentious among the expat community or those stuck in countries such as India that closed borders overnight. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 unable to get home. Some people have had flights cancelled 6 times. For those of us who are here, we can not leave the country except for exceptional circumstances. Then there is Melbourne.

  8. I wouldn’t risk miles or money on a leisure flight to Australia until July 1st of next year, at the earliest. Even with an early vaccine, an adjustment period of several months is going to be needed for various countries to relax their entry restrictions.

  9. weight restriction. They will leave non revs behind in order to accommodate cargo.

    Did you see that American will fly 2X daily to Shanghai next year ? With the 772 out of SEA and a 789 out of DFW that is 66 business class seats. Not bad.

  10. Peter, you probably think you are being hilarious with your comment about Nauru, however you are doing a great disservice spreading misinformation. There are so many people out there who are desperate for valid information as they endeavor to find a way to their home wherever that maybe. As MDA has indicated there are well over 20k+ Australians unable to get flights back to the motherland so you saying that have to quarantine in Nauru would only add a further layer of stress for anyone coming across your comment which at this time does not have an ounce of truth.

  11. Cannot see any way these passenger services run. They’ll continue running the cargo services, but people are dreaming if they think they’ll be visiting Australia anytime until mid-2021.

    Bizarrely optimistic scheduling from American…

  12. Maybe the joint venture (AA & QF) decided that AA should run the flights as QF has put most of its widebody fleet in storage. Also from a union POC, it is much easier getting Americans to fly to Australia where there are only a few cases then the reserve.

  13. The reality is that we in Australia can not cross state borders, so unless you are an Australian citizens or a residents, you have zero chance of coming in. The target to open up all state borders is before Christmas, but I doubt that will happen. We have to get approval to leave Australia as well.

  14. Maybe they’ll shove US pax out the door in the middle of the outback with a parachute before heading to SYD to pick up/drop off cargo. It will take pax at least a couple of weeks to walk anywhere, if they don’t die of Covid19, thirst, starvation, or bumping into one of the deadliest creatures on earth first. They can market it as an adventure trip. Saves on needing to monitor quarantine compliance or paying medical bills.

  15. @Aaron better not ‘grab one’ of those seats if it’s earlier than 2021. Incoming arrivals of non-Australian residents are prohibited until then, and Americans are particularly unwelcome by the populance while Covid-19 remains out of control in the US.
    Even returning Australians are subject to 14 day supervised hotel quarantine immediately on arrival (at their own expense), so not a good start to your vacation. This is something Ben overlooks in this article.
    I am mystified why AA is considering re-starting this route at this time given the almost no-existent passenger traffic. Surely the cargo component does not justify it.

  16. I reckon borders will remain shut until July 21 for citizens wishing to leave unless under the special circumstances

  17. I have a quick question for anyone out there, my partner is booked to depart LAX on Nov 11th to SYD on AA073z Booked last week by a travel agent after giving up hope he will ever get on his original return flight of Dallas – Doha – Melb with Qatar. Everything I am reading is saying that Wednesday is not a passenger plane, but that it is cargo only. Would they be selling a passenger ticket on a plane that was never intended for passengers?

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