The twin-ship Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has a range of more than 7,500 nautical miles, enough to fly passengers from Los Angeles to Sydney on a 15-hour non-stop trip. This summer, American Airlines plans to use the 285-seat aircraft on several much shorter routes such as Chicago to Orlando.
With many overseas travel still affected by the pandemic, American and Delta Air Lines are choosing to use some of their large jetliners on domestic routes or for shorter international trips.
This is one of the ways airlines are rethinking their service in the pandemic. The planes are said to fly long distances and fill up with higher paid passengers traveling abroad. When the demand for international travel returns, as Americans anticipate this fall, the airline would end the practice.
“It’s like buying a Porsche and driving it to church on Sundays,” said Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning.
Znotins said there is usually at least one domestic service that operates wide-body jets on high-demand routes or positions planes in cities for long-haul flights, but the airline is using them to reinforce domestic service.
Domestic vacation travel has largely recovered from a year ago, according to airline executives, but international bookings and services are on the decline due to quarantine requirements, closed attractions, and direct entry bans common to most non-nationals from much of Europe entering the United States. still pressed and vice versa.
The Fort Worth-based American plans to fly some Boeing 777s, his largest aircraft, from his Miami hub to Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy in New York this summer. It will use 787 between some flights between Philadelphia and Orlando and to Las Vegas from Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami.
Delta uses Boeing 767s, which are normally used for long-haul international flights on routes from Atlanta to Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego and its Minneapolis-St. Paul. These aircraft and the Airbus A330 will serve Hawaii from Seattle, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis-St. Paul, but also shorter flights like the Twin Cities to Phoenix.
The idea is “to fill the biggest boat you can find with very cheap seats and hope the fares come in,” said Robert Mann, industry analyst and former airline manager.
American is optimistic.
“During the Easter and Spring break, the widebodies we run did well on those days, but if you have a random Tuesday in mid-April, you won’t really get very crowded anywhere in the system, let alone on a widebody,” Znotins said. “But as we approach Memorial Day and summer like a typical year, all the days of the week fill up and this is where we see the higher occupancy factors.”
American Airlines will operate a total of 3,104 double-aisle aircraft flights on domestic routes in July and August, up from 563 a year ago and 2,846 consulting firms in the same months of 2019, according to data from an airline company Ascend by Cirium.
The airline has been one of the most aggressive of the major airlines, having reopened on the recovery of domestic vacation travel, the bright spot on travel as coronavirus cases have declined due to their spike and vaccination rates, and attractions like Disneyland. American said Tuesday it expects to restore capacity to more than 90% of its domestic 2019 schedule this summer.
“America’s current strategy seems to be to fly as much as possible and worry about the returns later,” said Brett Snyder, a former airline manager who runs an air travel assistance company, Cranky Concierge and the Cranky Flier Blog writes.
Single aisle aircraft like those of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families still make up the vast majority of flights in the United States, including those in America. Single-aisle mainline jet departures will increase in July and August from 92,391 in the previous year and 155,084 in the summer of 2019 to a total of 189,862, according to Cirium data. At American, Delta and United Airlines, these types of aircraft account for more than 70% of the planned domestic capacity in July and August, similar to before the pandemic.
United typically flies more domestic flights on wide-body aircraft than other US airlines. That year, however, flying was hampered by the effective landing of its Boeing 777 fleet with Pratt and Whitney 4000 engines, pending inspection after a failure shortly after a flight to Hawaii that took off from Denver in February.