American Airlines will drop its long-standing flights between Los Angeles and Sydney from the end of August until at least the end of October.
The move effectively sees the Qantas partner airline pull out of Australian skies, given that LAX-Sydney was American's only route 'down under'.
American Airlines has recently begun flying its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners from Los Angeles to Sydney in cargo-only mode without any paying passengers, although uniformed crew are on the flight in order to bring passengers and cargo back from Sydney to Los Angeles.
"On certain days in July and August, the Australian government has advised that we’re not able to transport customers on the route due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic," American Airlines noted earlier this month.
However, an update to American's schedule – published this morning on the booking systems used by travel agents – now says the LA-Sydney flight AA73 would be suspended from August 31 until October 29.
The AA72 return flight has likewise been withdrawn from September 3 to October 31 (which marks the start of the Northern Winter 2021 period to which airlines align their schedules).
"Due to the ongoing travel restrictions surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19), American is suspending customer and cargo flights between Los Angeles and Sydney between September 1 and October 28," an American Airlines spokesman told Executive Traveller.
Asked if the suspension could continue beyond October 28, he said "it's too soon to tell what the COVID-19 travel guidelines will be at that time, but as of today we expect to restart the route at the end of October."
As of July 14, international arrivals at Sydney were slashed to 1,505 per week, after th federal government's decision to halve the number of international passengers allowed to enter Australia until early 2022 from 6,070 per week to 3,035.
This sparked concerns that some overseas airlines would suspend Australian flights
More airlines to follow?
The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, which represents 33 major international carriers who in normal times operate 90% of all international passenger flights to the country, last month warned that some airlines could have no choice but to pull the plug owing to the cut in arrivals.
"Despite all the effort they've put in, it gets to a point where the only rational response is to suspend operations to Australia, perhaps for a very long period of time," BARA executive director Barry Abrams said in a media statement.
"There'll be a reduction in the level of connectivity available to Australians overseas to get home."
Under the previous cap, many international airlines were carrying only around 35 travellers (or 10% of their total capacity) on each flight to Australia.
The government plans to boost the number of underwritten flights which operate as charter services – the bulk of which have been flown by Qantas – and arrive at Darwin's dedicated Howard Springs quarantine facility.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged that the additional repatriation flights "obviously can't fully ameliorate the impact of the reduction of 50%, particularly out of Sydney."