American Airlines Is Interested In More Ultra-Long-Haul Flying

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Some of the longest flights we’ve witnessed come from carriers like Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, and Emirates. In North America, it sounds like American Airlines is eyeing more of its own ultra-long-haul routes as it rebuilds its international network post health crisis. We recently sat down with the airline’s Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, to discuss what could be next for the carrier in this realm.

Ultra-long-haul flights would be made possible by aircraft like the Boeing 787-9. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Just warming up

In recent times we’ve seen American Airlines announce its intention to begin a few ultra-long-haul services. These include the likes of New York to Delhi (6,360NMI), Seattle to Bangalore (7,020NMI) and Dallas to Auckland (6,465NMI), as well as a number of other services to New Zealand. 

While Seattle to Bangalore has been delayed a number of times and will now start January 2022, Executive Traveller states that the carrier is currently hoping for the following NZ launch dates:

  • Los Angeles-Auckland will be a daily service starting December 16th, 2021
  • Dallas/Fort Worth-Auckland is slated to run daily from January 4th, 2022
  • and Los Angeles-Christchurch will begin on January 5th, 2022, with three flights per week

But it doesn’t seem like the airline will be stopping there…

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Ultra-long-haul? Absolutely

During an interview with American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja, Simple Flying’s own Jay Singh asked if there was an opportunity to do more ultra-long-haul flying, perhaps operating flights as long as 14 or 15 hours.

To this, Mr Raja said, “Absolutely, very much,” adding:

“Indeed, a major part of our interest in a 789 is to be able to go and fly that long- and India is a great example of international build-back. India’s a really great case study where between AA and its partners, we can offer something really, truly unique to customers both in India and in the US.” 

Raja adds that having markets such as Seattle, New York, and Boston creates “more jumping-off points” for the airline.

Configuration is key

During the discussion, Raja also noted that aircraft such as the 787 need to be configured in just the right way to achieve optimal range and profitability.

For an extreme example of this, we can look to Singapore Airlines’ Singapore-New York service, which uses a premium-heavy configuration on the Airbus A350-900ULR. Indeed, the jets deployed on this service are void of economy seats, and feature only 67 seats in business class and 94 in premium economy. This allows Singapore Airlines to fly a lighter load a longer distance while being able to (theoretically) turn a profit with enough seats sold.

At the same time, this is an extreme example, and we are highly, highly unlikely to see American operate flights of this length with such a niche configuration. However, we mention all of this to say that the airline will have to look at more premium-heavy configurations, which may ultimately result in fewer economy seats and perhaps a larger premium economy cabin.

What ultra-long-haul flights would you want to see American Airlines operate in the years to come? Let us know by leaving a comment!