Why American Loses Money Flying 777s & 787s Domestically

Why American Loses Money Flying 777s & 787s Domestically

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I don’t think this should surprise most people, though it’s always interesting to hear an airline executive provide some insights…

American SVP explains carrier’s domestic wide body strategy

All of the “big three” US carriers operate wide body aircraft on some domestic flights. Sometimes this is due to having spare wide body aircraft, while other times it’s to reposition wide body aircraft between long haul flights.

Historically, American has frequently flown wide bodies on some frequencies between Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX). Last week, Simple Flying reported how as of September 4, 2024, American no longer shows any wide body jets flying between the two airports for the fall and winter.

Now, personally that didn’t surprise me, since American often only adds wide body aircraft to the schedule closer to the actual flight date, to maximize flexibility. Following the above story, a Reddit user sent an email to American’s SVP of Network Planning, Brian Znotins, who provided a surprisingly detailed explanation for this decision. Here’s what he wrote:

We generally don’t prioritize a widebody on MIALAX. Our widebodies are really meant for long-haul (trans-oceanic) travel, and only when we have surplus time on them they will end-up on MIALAX.

You probably aren’t too interested in the financial reason for this, but if you are, the short explanation is that it’s really difficult for us to monetize the flat beds in the business class cabin on domestic routes. A flat bad consumes about 4x the space of a coach seat, so we generally need to get 4x the fare on those seats vs coach to make the widebody work. We can do that on long-haul flying, but domestically, we’re lucky to get 2x. So a widebody almost always loses money for us domestically.

I do understand that there’s a bigger picture here about overall loyalty and it’s not lost on me. So feedback like yours helps to keep that in mind as we build our schedules.

While I wish I had better news for you, for now we don’t have plans to put a widebody on the route. But it could appear anyway as we work through our schedule builds and see if there’s any available time left over for us to fit a round-trip or two in!

The Reddit user followed up with Znotins, seemingly asking about the possibility of putting specially configured A321Ts on this route, to which he responded the following:

We have our entire 321T fleet tied-up with NYC/BOS-LAX/SFO, but we do think about the 321XLR on LAXMIA deeper into its delivery stream. Still likely 2026 before we get anywhere near that, though. Airbus is almost as bad as Boeing at getting us our airplanes on-time.

We do need to move widebodies between hubs from time to time, and MIALAX (alongside the reasons I noted before) tends to be a priority for that. So while I can’t guarantee widebodies on the route, there are a number of reasons that they will “end up” there after all of our planning is done. Hopefully that happens frequently!

Huge kudos to Znotins for being so open to engaging with customers in this way! It’s not every day that airline executives respond to openly to questions like this.

It’s hard to monetize flat beds domestically

This explanation (of course) makes perfect sense

I don’t think the above should surprise anyone, but I think the rough numbers used by a network planning executive provide interesting context:

  • On average, American needs to command 4x the fare for business class vs. economy when offering flat beds; that’s possible on long haul flights
  • On domestic flights, it’s more common to get 2x the fare, which works when we’re talking about domestic first class, but flat beds take up a lot more space

While some domestic markets can command higher premium fares than others, I think some people overestimate how “premium” some markets are, and the extent to which they can profitably have service from a wide body aircraft:

  • On long haul flights, people are willing to pay huge premiums for first and business class, while people aren’t willing to pay those same premiums in most domestic markets
  • Some wide body aircraft don’t actually add much capacity; for example, American’s 787-8s have 234 seats (20 of which are business class seats), while American’s A321neos have 196 seats (20 of which are first class seats), and the 787 is a lot more expensive to operate in every way, despite capacity being only 20% higher
  • Miami to Los Angeles isn’t even a competitive domestic market, as it’s dominated by American in terms of frequencies, so it’s not like people will book away from narrow body aircraft

All that being said, I suspect we’ll continue to see American operate a large number of wide bodies on domestic flights, and I predict we’ll even end up seeing them between Miami and Los Angeles this winter. The reality is that it’s not about whether operating a 777 or 787 between those cities is profitable in absolute terms, but rather it’s a function of whether it’s the best use of resources.

Long haul demand is highly seasonal — there’s huge demand to Europe in summer, while Asia (and particularly China) continues to be challenging. Sure, American can shift some capacity to Latin America and the South Pacific during the northern winter, but there’s only so much that can be done.

Unless American gets aggressive about retrofitting 777-300ERs with the new business class this winter, I have to imagine the airline will have excess wide body aircraft, and we’ll see more of them on domestic flights.

It’s hard to fill all these seats profitably on domestic flights

Bottom line

Flying wide body aircraft on domestic flights often isn’t profitable for airlines, but may still be the best use of resources. American’s SVP of Network Planning has provided commentary on how the carrier goes about allocating wide body aircraft on domestic flights, and I think it’s something that many avgeeks will find to be interesting…

What do you make of these insights on wide body aircraft on domestic flights?

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  1. Scot Soodak Guest

    Great article. Let’s see more like this please.

  2. CrAAnkyinCoach Guest

    One of the things to understand here is that there's a difference between "losing money" and "not making as much money".

    I doubt that AA is losing money in an absolute sense on the route, but they're not making 4x the price of a coach fare. That's not "losing money" - that's "not making as much money" which is not what Znotins seems to imply.

  3. Scott Guest

    That was a good answer, informative. Wide-bodies on long haul domestic would be great, but seems like those days are gone. I wonder if a domestic designed wide body to offer a more premium experience domestically would ever make sense. Probably not with the cost of fuel (United used to run 747s and DC10s across the country, and 767 they helped design...(a great plane)). US Airlines have mastered squeezing out costs and shave the notion...

    That was a good answer, informative. Wide-bodies on long haul domestic would be great, but seems like those days are gone. I wonder if a domestic designed wide body to offer a more premium experience domestically would ever make sense. Probably not with the cost of fuel (United used to run 747s and DC10s across the country, and 767 they helped design...(a great plane)). US Airlines have mastered squeezing out costs and shave the notion of service to a minimum. The market wants low fares and upgrades. So we are getting what we the market are demanding. Travel is a commodity not, not an experience. A means to an end.

  4. Arthur Guest

    Open question.
    I'm flying LAX to jfk in Coach to connect
    JFK to London in First Class
    Same day.
    Am I able to use First Class checkin and Flaship lounge in LAX?

  5. Paper Boarding Pass Guest

    The worse sin in the airline business is to have a jet sitting idle on the tarmac sucking up capital. Better to have it generating some type of revenue then none at all.
    Also, the Euro carriers only have one mega hub a piece. Therefore, wide bodies are assigned to 4+ hour flight with a quick turnaround back home. The US legacy carriers have multiple hubs each. For a wide body to move among...

    The worse sin in the airline business is to have a jet sitting idle on the tarmac sucking up capital. Better to have it generating some type of revenue then none at all.
    Also, the Euro carriers only have one mega hub a piece. Therefore, wide bodies are assigned to 4+ hour flight with a quick turnaround back home. The US legacy carriers have multiple hubs each. For a wide body to move among the hubs as part of repositioning is not unusual . Agree with the comment that the B767 and A330 were more focused on domestic service. However, ETOPS completely changed the playing field.
    I dread the day when all Euro flights will be A321XLR. Give me a wide body any day.

  6. George Romey Guest

    I suspect for wide bodies to really work on domestic routes they'd need far more coach seats, think the A300s AA used to run between JFK, MIA and SJU. But widebodies between hubs are often used for repositioning of a/c or utilizing a/c (specifically in winter) that would be sitting idle. Other than a winter flights to MCO/BOS I don't think you will see wide bodies on non trunk routes.

  7. Wolfie52 Guest

    About 5 years ago I had a flight from CLT to DFW. I was gold then and was upgraded (so many seats avail!) in one of these wide bodied planes (don't recall which) with lie flat seats! Got to enjoy them for for a while 2 hours!

    Don't think I'll ever see that again flying short haul from CLT.

  8. Chris Guest

    You should dive into the economics of how Japanese Airlines make all those domestic widebodies work.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      JAL and ANA's widebodies are configured in high density configurations.

      Japan is a long country so there is a market for air travel even though Japan has a good high speed train system.

  9. KC Guest

    AA1092 CLT-MIA is very frequently a 777-200 and is always around 70% full. It’s to position to MIA for GIG. I’d say this is a money maker for AA since we’re ripped off here in CLT with the super hub tax.

    1. Chewie Guest

      A hub-to-hub widebody that's only 70% full is nothing for an airline to be proud of... it probably bleeds money!

  10. Barry Guest

    Can anyone confirm that the typical lie flat uses 4x the space of economy? I would have guessed between 2-3x. 4x would jive more with the obscene long haul business class prices we see these days, I guess. We clamored for better business seats, but now I can't afford them!

  11. Andy 11235 Guest

    I can certainly understand why its more difficult to get a premium for lie-flat seats on shorter flights. I also think that it doesn't help AA get a premium for these seats when they do not offer any sort of guarantee that your flight will have these seats nor do they offer any compensation if they swap out for a regular domestic aircraft. How much more would you really pay for the chance that you...

    I can certainly understand why its more difficult to get a premium for lie-flat seats on shorter flights. I also think that it doesn't help AA get a premium for these seats when they do not offer any sort of guarantee that your flight will have these seats nor do they offer any compensation if they swap out for a regular domestic aircraft. How much more would you really pay for the chance that you might get a nicer seat, but you might just waste your money? It's not as though their service is reliable.

  12. BVT New Member

    The 777s are better off on LAX to JFK

  13. Wayne Guest

    No click-bait here. Good article. Love the insight and it all makes sense. Appreciate the frank transparency from AA guy.

  14. Morgan Diamond

    Great transparency and response from the SVP

  15. Miami305 Gold

    Remember... he never once said 'unprofitable'. He chose his words very carefully. I know their numbers. (You can too if you search.) They don't lose money LAXMIA. They could just make more internationally... if they had the routes.

  16. Miami305 Gold

    @Lucky - I know AA's financials and use numbers.

    AA doesn't actually "lose money" flying MIALAX... They "lose" compared to international. aka they make less. But because they don't have a use internationally, the "loss" is on paper only.

  17. Marc O'Krent Guest

    I think it was an outstanding answer with candor you rarely see coming from the airlines who know they're writing into a public forum. I have flown a320s all across the States including JetBlue's hat do have Life Flat in them and if American ever gets to that I think it'll be fine but on balance do you really need a live flat seat for a 5-6hour flight Coast to Coast?

  18. Irving Schwartz Guest

    I guess it's not feasible to have economy seats available in MIA and LAX and swap out the business cabins for economy seats?

  19. D3kingg Guest

    The domestic legs with wide bodies are comming or continuing to Europe and Asia on MIA-DFW , DFW-LAX etc anyways. Also , I would manage my expectations for retrofitting planes “this winter” as in 2025 ? Me thinks late 2026 and 2027. El Paso is the priority. Wink wink.

  20. Brian W Guest

    Would love to see AA use some of those 787s in winter on non stop hawaii flights from JFK. Both UA and DL offer non stop Hawaii service from JFK/EWR, so they should be able to make the numbers work.

  21. BigG Guest

    Your conclusion is wrong . He didn’t say it was not profitable , he said it was not being monetized in the same way. At 2 times the price of economy does not mean they loose money it’s just not being optimized like on a trans con route . So given a choice they fly a no flat bed plane.

    1. Brian W Guest

      2x a domestic economy fare for a layflat seat is not profitable for any airline. Standard pricing for intl J is usually 3x the Y fare.

  22. Eric Guest

    Historically there were a few reasons for the morning wide body flight from Mia-lax. A number of widebodies arrive from overnight flights from deep south America and there aren't many long haul flights needing a wide body out of Mia at that time. However a trip out to LA can work well. 6am arrival into Mia. 3 hour turn, 6 hour flight, 2 hour turn, 6 hour flight back, 2 hour turn. 10pm departure back...

    Historically there were a few reasons for the morning wide body flight from Mia-lax. A number of widebodies arrive from overnight flights from deep south America and there aren't many long haul flights needing a wide body out of Mia at that time. However a trip out to LA can work well. 6am arrival into Mia. 3 hour turn, 6 hour flight, 2 hour turn, 6 hour flight back, 2 hour turn. 10pm departure back out to deep south America.

    The local o&d first class fares were likely not a huge premium but the connecting fares to deep south America were likely very premium and this flight utilization works well for that.

    There might be less of a need to maximize widebody utilization in the winter. Narrow body utilization likely isn't maxed out.

    The other savings could be pilot training. There are a lot of mandatory retirements as pilots hit age 65. Many are likely on widebody equipment. Fewer widebody lines in the winter could delay widebody vacancies which create a number of training events.

  23. Gray Guest

    One thing I'll point out - American also doesn't offer a lot of XXX-MIA-LAX-XXX fares (or vice-versa), and even some XXX-MIA-LAX or MIA-LAX-XXX (and vice-versa) pairs don't show, in F. Now, admittedly F is going away, but the point is that American "locks out" quite a few smaller markets.

    Also, at least one of the MIA-LAX timings is lousy for inbound connecting traffic...but there's no good way to pull up a connecting fare coming in...

    One thing I'll point out - American also doesn't offer a lot of XXX-MIA-LAX-XXX fares (or vice-versa), and even some XXX-MIA-LAX or MIA-LAX-XXX (and vice-versa) pairs don't show, in F. Now, admittedly F is going away, but the point is that American "locks out" quite a few smaller markets.

    Also, at least one of the MIA-LAX timings is lousy for inbound connecting traffic...but there's no good way to pull up a connecting fare coming in the previous night.

    Furthermore, on MIA-LAX, Flagship Dining is still closed at LAX and the hours are limited at MIA...so that's another hit vs monetizing it when you're missing out on a significant benefit for F.

    TL;DR? Yes, American has trouble monetizing those legs...but they've got a couple of self-inflicted wounds thrown in alongside any market-side challenges.

    1. Rob Guest

      You mentioned the XXXX-LAX-MIA-XXXX or XXXX-MIA-LAX-XXXX flights not showing. To work around that problem, you can use Google Flights to search for those routes. Google Flights allows you to specify the connecting airport. And it will display more flights than will a search through AA’s system. Once you have found the flight you want through Google Flights, you’ll be given the option to buy it through AA’s system.

  24. Gray Guest

    One thing I'll point out - American also doesn't offer a lot of XXX-MIA-LAX-XXX fares (or vice-versa), and even some XXX-MIA-LAX or MIA-LAX-XXX (and vice-versa) pairs don't show, in F. Now, admittedly F is going away, but the point is that American "locks out" quite a few smaller markets.

    Also, at least one of the MIA-LAX timings is lousy for inbound connecting traffic...but there's no good way to pull up a connecting fare coming in...

    One thing I'll point out - American also doesn't offer a lot of XXX-MIA-LAX-XXX fares (or vice-versa), and even some XXX-MIA-LAX or MIA-LAX-XXX (and vice-versa) pairs don't show, in F. Now, admittedly F is going away, but the point is that American "locks out" quite a few smaller markets.

    Also, at least one of the MIA-LAX timings is lousy for inbound connecting traffic...but there's no good way to pull up a connecting fare coming in the previous night.

    Furthermore, on MIA-LAX, Flagship Dining is still closed at LAX and the hours are limited at MIA...so that's another hit vs monetizing it when you're missing out on a significant benefit for F.

    TL;DR? Yes, American has trouble monetizing those legs...but they've got a couple of self-inflicted wounds thrown in alongside any market-side challenges.

  25. FLLFLYER Guest

    I would often seek out the 777s on MIA-LAX. The domesic A321s are torture on a six hour flight, limited catering, not much premium about the experience. I would pay for Main Cabin Extra and the experience is almost the same.

    Gives me no incentive to use AA out of MIA. May as well stick with B6 out of FLL.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      I got the premium meal service this year Mia lax in F on the a321. The FA forgot whipped cream in my sundae. A blanket and pillow at my seat. Hardly torture. LOL the half mile pushbacks from some gates at MIA.

    2. Timtamtrak Diamond

      I wouldn’t call the A321s, regular or neo, “torture” per se. Obviously a widebody is far superior but torture is a bit excessive.

    3. D3kingg Guest

      A wide body is much more comfortable and enjoyable on the transcon.

  26. Yoloswag420 Guest

    The actual answer is that JetBlue withdrew from LAX, which means no Mint service to Miami, so AA sees that as an opportunity to downgrade the experience since it means less competition.

  27. Michael Guest

    If you're dealing with a slot-constrained airport, a widebody can make sense, especially if you have a "regional" configuration you can use (pack people onto a flight and only use one slot pair), but the only "regional" setup I can think of in the US is UA's very old first-generation 772s, which are still a bit too heavy to be a good medium-range workhorse.

    Other than that, the other consideration would be cargo capacity, but...

    If you're dealing with a slot-constrained airport, a widebody can make sense, especially if you have a "regional" configuration you can use (pack people onto a flight and only use one slot pair), but the only "regional" setup I can think of in the US is UA's very old first-generation 772s, which are still a bit too heavy to be a good medium-range workhorse.

    Other than that, the other consideration would be cargo capacity, but I don't see LAX-MIA being able to fill the hold on a large plane.

    Many Asian airlines do very well running A330s regionally. Their airports are often slot-controlled, you have a lot of people living very close together (passenger demand), and the electronics industries in that part of the world create air-freight demand. It helps that the A330 performs quite well on medium-length routes, and it can fit standard cargo containers (unlike the 767).

  28. Tim Dunn Diamond

    This was a very honest answer.
    Part of the reason - not discussed - is that widebody aircraft weigh far more per seat than narrowbody aircraft because widebodies are optimized for long flights. That weight is not only not needed on domestic flights but actually becomes expensive weight to carry.

    The 767 and the A330 were designed to be efficient domestic widebodies. AA has gotten rid of both but DL still uses 1/3 of...

    This was a very honest answer.
    Part of the reason - not discussed - is that widebody aircraft weigh far more per seat than narrowbody aircraft because widebodies are optimized for long flights. That weight is not only not needed on domestic flights but actually becomes expensive weight to carry.

    The 767 and the A330 were designed to be efficient domestic widebodies. AA has gotten rid of both but DL still uses 1/3 of its 767-300ERs on transcon and Hawaii routes. DL carries millions of pounds of cargo between JFK and LAX each month and you can't do that on a narrowbody.

    Given AA's large MIA hub and the double overnight flights that are part of serving deep S. America, AA has to park some widebodies in MIA if they don't fly some of them domestically.
    They still have to figure out how to get the money out of the heavier airframe and out of the size of the business class cabins.

    UA does have a fleet of 777-200s which are very high capacity widebodies that serve domestic and widebody markets but UA's average fares plummet during off peak periods on those aircraft; it is hard to fill 365 seats w/ decent average fares.

    and let's also not forget that AA loses money flying both the Atlantic and Pacific so flying domestically might not be as bad as international flying. AA's weak widebody order book is a reflection they don't see their international position improving and don't want to invest the money to try to improve it.

    1. LAXLonghorn Member

      Good comments all around. Indeed they don't have a significant wide body order pending, but I wonder how that might change with a new COO coming onboard...though of course any new wide-body orders would not arrive for years to come.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      widebody aircraft weigh far more per seat than narrowbody aircraft because widebodies are optimized for long flights. That weight is not only not needed on domestic flights but actually becomes expensive weight to carry.

      Very well put. It's a great descriptor, for AvGeeks who cling to this fantasy that every carrier is going to someday see the light, and start a slew of widebody operations on all manner of domestic sectors as a...

      widebody aircraft weigh far more per seat than narrowbody aircraft because widebodies are optimized for long flights. That weight is not only not needed on domestic flights but actually becomes expensive weight to carry.

      Very well put. It's a great descriptor, for AvGeeks who cling to this fantasy that every carrier is going to someday see the light, and start a slew of widebody operations on all manner of domestic sectors as a rule and not an exception.

      The demise of the 787-3 offering, should've been the end of that. Yet here we are.

    3. Andy Diamond

      Agree, it is both the seat configuration and the weight. The seat configuration could be changed, e.g., JL and NH operate higher density wide bodies domestically. Also TK and UX operate some high density wide bodies intra Europe and so did BA when they still had 767s with high density sub-fleet.

  29. Big-J Guest

    Lie flat seats are not necessary for domestic flights. AA would be better off fitting some 787 or 777 with traditional first-class or now what we tend to call premium economy seats and get rid of the beds. That would increase the capacity. Then those jets would mostly make money on cross-country flights.

    1. OCTinPHL Diamond

      Foolish idea. The 787s and 777s are used predominately on international flights. They are only used domestically to either position for another flight or when there is down time, but the majority of time they are flown internationally.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      There's no seating arrangement that's going to make a 351 tonne 777 equally (let alone, more) efficient than simply using two 80-94 tonne 737s/A321s, on a domestic continental-US sector.

      None. If the intention is to move 300 passengers between locales, the latter two will do so for half the dead-weight.

      The only reason those aircraft are on the domestic segments, are either for positioning or because it's temporarily less-costly to have them parked during...

      There's no seating arrangement that's going to make a 351 tonne 777 equally (let alone, more) efficient than simply using two 80-94 tonne 737s/A321s, on a domestic continental-US sector.

      None. If the intention is to move 300 passengers between locales, the latter two will do so for half the dead-weight.

      The only reason those aircraft are on the domestic segments, are either for positioning or because it's temporarily less-costly to have them parked during the same time frame.

    3. Tim Guest

      UA high density 777s say hold my beer!

    4. Here Hare Guest

      Maybe wide bodies aren't required on short domestic, but in Canada say, where YVR-YYZ or YUL business flights are the norm, and many of us taxi from airport to office, a power nap is worth the extra AC charges for the intermittent wide bodies. And when you have to catch a red eye, exhausted, they're a godsend.

    5. Gray Guest

      So, I'll grant that lie-flats aren't /necessary/...but on a 5-6 hour flight, something a bit nicer than domestic F starts becoming highly desirable and lie-flats are the only option for that for the most part. Virgin America's old F recliners hit a sweet spot, for example - outside of the big transcon routes, they kicked everyone's butt.

  30. Ricky Guest

    I call BS. Examples on non-stop round-trip fares MIA-LAX on AA:
    September 7-14, 2024:
    Main (not basic economy): $268-$358 range, First: $2,007 -> Seven roundtrips with this range
    December 7-14, 2024:
    Basic economy: $327-$462 range, First: $1,977-$2,087 range -> Seven roundtrips with this range
    First is normally 4-6 times more expensive than coach.

    1. brandote New Member

      Yes, that’s the pricing AA wants. But you can buy cheap economy seat and get an upgrade offer for $300. Therefore, AA isn’t getting the revenue premium it wants/needs. It’s actually fascinating to watch them in this death spiral.

      I wouldn’t be surprising to see them cut frequencies to 1x AM and 2x redeyes, everything else between LA and MIA can go through DFW, that’s their entire business model now (after selling credit cards)

    2. LAXLonghorn Member

      I think I'm going to trust the AA Network Planning executive. And also the fares you quote are not what I see when searching, plus I only see narrow-body not wide-body aircraft operating, which would naturally have different revenue management capability because those F seats occupy less space. In short, BS on your part,

    3. Jason Guest

      Also keep in mind a lot of people on those lax-Mia flights are connecting on either end. So while you may see those fares trying to be sold for the local traffic- just going lax-Mia- a lot of traffic is connecting, so the fare on the leg will be diluted.

  31. Chris Guest

    American Airlines has made its main business the financial engineering of a fake currency (i.e., “miles”). The product/service of passenger air transportation is secondary. So their business model belies their marketing, “mission statement,” care about safety or cleanliness, blah blah blah…When the way a company actually makes revenue is so separated from their daily operations and “product,” such company is in a downward spiral. You can only manipulate such a fake currency for so long...

    American Airlines has made its main business the financial engineering of a fake currency (i.e., “miles”). The product/service of passenger air transportation is secondary. So their business model belies their marketing, “mission statement,” care about safety or cleanliness, blah blah blah…When the way a company actually makes revenue is so separated from their daily operations and “product,” such company is in a downward spiral. You can only manipulate such a fake currency for so long until the emperor has no clothes! Never buy American stock!

  32. Mfb123 Guest

    I’d like to know why US carriers generally do not optimize the configuration of a dozen (or so) older wide bodies for domestic or N America operations (ex UA to Hawaii). I know small/sub-fleets add complexity that airlines hate, but at a time of challenges with a/c deliveries and engine repairs, al9ng with staffing shortages, I would think an argument could be made.

    1. JB Guest

      US carriers value frequency over capacity. They would rather have 2 A320 flights in a market with 150 seats each than one 777-200 flight with 300 seats. This is the same reason US airlines did not buy the A380 (or 747-8). Air transport in the US is so prevalent and widely used that there is a lot of competition. The US also has a significant number of travelers who need to catch a flight at...

      US carriers value frequency over capacity. They would rather have 2 A320 flights in a market with 150 seats each than one 777-200 flight with 300 seats. This is the same reason US airlines did not buy the A380 (or 747-8). Air transport in the US is so prevalent and widely used that there is a lot of competition. The US also has a significant number of travelers who need to catch a flight at a specific time. As a result, US airlines prefer frequencies over capacity.

      The exception is in markets where the airline already has a lot of frequency but still has a lot of demand for a particular flight at a particular time of day, or a city with a lot of leisure demand. That is what United does. It uses its domestic 777-200 fleet between hubs, to Hawaii, and on a lot of flights to Orlando as well (especially when it's not summer). A lot of travelers to Orlando and Hawaii don't care what exact time they arrive (since they are leisure travelers), so one 777-200 flight on a domestic configured aircraft is more cost effective than 2 A320 flights around the same time.

  33. Lee Guest

    The A321T/XLRs are 20 to 25 percent less expensive per passenger-mile to operate than the wide-bodies. Take it from there.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      to be clear, the A321Ts are A321CEOs which have older generation engines compared to the A321NEO (or which the XLR is a submodel).
      And the A321Ts have very high seat mile costs because there are so few seats on it; the logic is that AA gets enough premium revenue to offset those costs but the fact that they are discontinuing not just the CEO on transcons but also increasing the number of seats says...

      to be clear, the A321Ts are A321CEOs which have older generation engines compared to the A321NEO (or which the XLR is a submodel).
      And the A321Ts have very high seat mile costs because there are so few seats on it; the logic is that AA gets enough premium revenue to offset those costs but the fact that they are discontinuing not just the CEO on transcons but also increasing the number of seats says that the A321T concept didn't work due to too few seats and also because it was based on an older generation aircraft; given the transcon flights are some of the longest in a US carrier's domestic network, the routes should be flown w/ the most fuel efficient aircraft.

    2. Timtamtrak Diamond

      The A321T was working fine up until the pandemic. There wasn’t even a hint of pulling back on this until then. The reality is the demand and expectation have changed so significantly since 2020 that it isn’t working *now* - implying that it never worked is a falsehood.

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      to be clear, the A321Ts are A321CEOs which have older generation engines compared to the A321NEO (or which the XLR is a submodel).
      And the A321Ts have very high seat mile costs because there are so few seats on it; the logic is that AA gets enough premium revenue to offset those costs but the fact that they are discontinuing not just the CEO on transcons but also increasing the number of seats says...

      to be clear, the A321Ts are A321CEOs which have older generation engines compared to the A321NEO (or which the XLR is a submodel).
      And the A321Ts have very high seat mile costs because there are so few seats on it; the logic is that AA gets enough premium revenue to offset those costs but the fact that they are discontinuing not just the CEO on transcons but also increasing the number of seats says that the A321T concept didn't work due to too few seats and also because it was based on an older generation aircraft; given the transcon flights are some of the longest in a US carrier's domestic network, the routes should be flown w/ the most fuel efficient aircraft.

  34. Jason Guest

    People think that LAX-MIA is way more premium than it is. It simply isn't.

    1. Super Diamond

      My impression is that people don't necessarily think it's overly premium, they think it's one of the longest domestic flights (comparable to some international routes) so therefore should receive an equivalent wide body service without fully understanding the economics behind that.

    2. Anthony Diamond

      Agree with Super here... Pre-Covid, there was a trend to compete by putting lie flats on a growing number of transcend flights between these airports:

      JFK/BOS/DCA/MIA
      and
      SEA/LAS/SFO/LAX/SAN

      I'm also ignoring Hawaii here, which is its own thing.

      I think the expectation was that if you are flying cross country, some airline will have lie flats (wide body vs narrow body is less important to me for this analysis). Unfortunately this has not...

      Agree with Super here... Pre-Covid, there was a trend to compete by putting lie flats on a growing number of transcend flights between these airports:

      JFK/BOS/DCA/MIA
      and
      SEA/LAS/SFO/LAX/SAN

      I'm also ignoring Hawaii here, which is its own thing.

      I think the expectation was that if you are flying cross country, some airline will have lie flats (wide body vs narrow body is less important to me for this analysis). Unfortunately this has not continued, and has retrenched.

    3. Jason Guest

      Yeah but between New York/ Boston and La/sf, there are plenty of people who pay $1500-$2000 each way. That's premium. People are willing to pay for the space. South Florida-LA? Not so much.

  35. ImmortalSynn Guest

    People actually believe that that's anything other than an intern in that office, answering those questions?

    1. Pete Guest

      It could have been AI. The point is that's how the company plans to run things, whether we like it or not.

    2. Dolphin Guest

      I actually believe that's Brian. He's an avgeek and when he worked at UA (and still at AA) he was very open and good at explaining these kinds of things in employee town halls.

  36. Willem Guest

    A far cry from 2021 when AA (iirc) went all-widebody on LAX - MIA. His point about not making a profit likely still stands however, as I paid $389 o/w for SFO - LAX - MIA in business class on a 777-300ER lol

    It was also one of only 2 flights to date that the bump from landing, rather than the crew beforehand, woke me from my slumber. Appreciate the sAAfety!

  37. DWT Guest

    Frankly the times I’ve purchased lie flat J between LAX and MIA, the fare wasn’t necessarily at a premium compared to frequencies run by the A321neo so that short of shows that AA wasn’t getting much of a premium for lieflat swats on this route.

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Tim Dunn Diamond

This was a very honest answer. Part of the reason - not discussed - is that widebody aircraft weigh far more per seat than narrowbody aircraft because widebodies are optimized for long flights. That weight is not only not needed on domestic flights but actually becomes expensive weight to carry. The 767 and the A330 were designed to be efficient domestic widebodies. AA has gotten rid of both but DL still uses 1/3 of its 767-300ERs on transcon and Hawaii routes. DL carries millions of pounds of cargo between JFK and LAX each month and you can't do that on a narrowbody. Given AA's large MIA hub and the double overnight flights that are part of serving deep S. America, AA has to park some widebodies in MIA if they don't fly some of them domestically. They still have to figure out how to get the money out of the heavier airframe and out of the size of the business class cabins. UA does have a fleet of 777-200s which are very high capacity widebodies that serve domestic and widebody markets but UA's average fares plummet during off peak periods on those aircraft; it is hard to fill 365 seats w/ decent average fares. and let's also not forget that AA loses money flying both the Atlantic and Pacific so flying domestically might not be as bad as international flying. AA's weak widebody order book is a reflection they don't see their international position improving and don't want to invest the money to try to improve it.

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JB Guest

US carriers value frequency over capacity. They would rather have 2 A320 flights in a market with 150 seats each than one 777-200 flight with 300 seats. This is the same reason US airlines did not buy the A380 (or 747-8). Air transport in the US is so prevalent and widely used that there is a lot of competition. The US also has a significant number of travelers who need to catch a flight at a specific time. As a result, US airlines prefer frequencies over capacity. The exception is in markets where the airline already has a lot of frequency but still has a lot of demand for a particular flight at a particular time of day, or a city with a lot of leisure demand. That is what United does. It uses its domestic 777-200 fleet between hubs, to Hawaii, and on a lot of flights to Orlando as well (especially when it's not summer). A lot of travelers to Orlando and Hawaii don't care what exact time they arrive (since they are leisure travelers), so one 777-200 flight on a domestic configured aircraft is more cost effective than 2 A320 flights around the same time.

5
Miami305 Gold

Remember... he never once said 'unprofitable'. He chose his words very carefully. I know their numbers. (You can too if you search.) They don't lose money LAXMIA. They could just make more internationally... if they had the routes.

3
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