Zach Griff - THE POINTS GUY - 22 March, 2021
American Airlines is defending its home turf.
Over the weekend, the Fort Worth-based carrier made some interesting route updates, seemingly aimed at responding to its competitors.
The first route — between Miami (MIA) and Hartford (BDL) — will get a 200% boost in flights. Beginning on June 3, the carrier will start flying the 1,194-mile hop three-times daily, up from the current once-daily schedule. The two added frequencies have been loaded through the end of the schedule, in March 2022.
The move comes just weeks after American announced a sweeping Miami-focused expansion, with a brand-new long-haul flight to Tel Aviv (TLV) and increased capacity across Latin American and the Caribbean, including a new destination: Paramaribo, Suriname (PBM).
Right now, Florida is hot — both in its temperature and in terms of increased air traffic. Cirium schedules show that the Sunshine State will see about 177% more flights in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the same time period in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. With travelers looking for outdoor-friendly destinations, it’s no surprise that Florida’s beaches climb to the top of the list.
But American’s move likely isn’t about serving the record-breaking spring break crowds headed south. After all, the additional Hartford flights don’t begin until June.
Instead, it’s seemingly a response to JetBlue. In February, the New York-based carrier started flying to the American Airlines fortress hub, with four routes from New York-JFK, Newark (EWR), Boston (BOS) and Los Angeles (LAX). Less than a month since launching Miami flights, JetBlue announced that it’ll fly once-daily between, you guessed it, Miami and Hartford starting on June 24.
Related: JetBlue already expanding in Miami, takes on American with new Northeast route
Despite American’s new Northeast-focused alliance with JetBlue, the heat is on down south. The two carriers might be codesharing in New York and Boston, but that partnership doesn’t extend to the Miami-to-Hartford route, where the two airlines will go head-to-head in June.
For it’s part, American cited high demand for the extra flights.
“The bookings trend over the last four weeks has increased significantly from MIA to BDL and we’re adding frequencies to match the increased demand,” an American spokesperson said in an email to TPG.
The one upside to both American and JetBlue is that their Miami growth could help blunt some of Delta’s ambitions to grow service to the city. In 2019, the Atlanta-based carrier took a 20% stake in LATAM, designed to bolster the Delta’s presence in Latin and South America. Despite the pandemic, Delta still plans to turn Miami into a “gateway hub.”
Elsewhere, American is also responding to moves made by a competitor in another outdoor-focused destination. AA will add daily summer seasonal flights between Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Vail/Eagle (EGE) from June 3 to Sept. 7. If all goes according to plan, this will be American’s first time flying this route in the summer in at least 18 years, per Cirium schedules. (American flies to Vail from Chicago each winter season.)
So, why fly the route this summer?
For one, Vail seemingly fits the bill as an outdoor-friendly destination. With access to hiking, white-water rafting and more, pandemic-weary travelers can find plenty of socially distant activities there.
Related: United Airlines adds Mexico, Caribbean flights in major summer boost
The carrier also is filling a void left by United.
Earlier in March, United dropped two Vail routes from its summer timetable. The carrier was originally planning to fly twice-weekly EGE service this summer from both Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Houston Intercontinental (IAH), but that’s since been scrapped.
With United’s Chicago-Vail service out of the cards for the summer, American is perhaps betting that it can capture travelers headed to the mountains. With daily flights aboard a 128-seat Airbus A319, the carrier will have plenty of seats to fill.
The good news? It won’t face any direct competition.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with a comment from American Airlines.
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