Why Seattle will replace LAX as American Airlines’ new Asian gateway

Seattle will see more American Airlines flights to Asia from 2022.

By David Flynn, September 22 2021
Why Seattle will replace LAX as American Airlines’ new Asian gateway

American Airlines intends to transform Seattle into the gateway for most of its flights to Asia, with the north-west city becoming a secondary international hub alongside Los Angeles and Dallas, according to remarks reportedly made by an AA exec on a recent staff call.

The move is said to reflect increasing competition from Asian carriers at LAX, while also leveraging American's partnership with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, which also joined the Oneworld alliance in March 2021.

While American Airlines will continue flying to Tokyo from LAX, with services to Beijing and Hong Kong from Dallas, Seattle will increasingly see routes into Asia, along with the likes of a direct flight to Bangalore now scheduled to begin on January 4, 2022, followed by Shanghai.

Citing a recording of an American Airlines "employee question and answer session" last week, US blog View from the Wing describes remarks by  Brian Znotins, American's Vice President of Network Planning, that Seattle will become the carrier's "more predominant Asian gateway."

"LA has been a challenge to us to Asia for a number of years," Znotins reportedly explained.

"We have faced profitability hurdles because every Asian carrier feels like they need to serve LA so even though we were serving Hong Kong and Beijing and Shanghai prior to the pandemic."

"They all underperformed for us because every other Asian carrier served those routes as well (and) there was far too much capacity in the LA market."

Too much competition from Asian carriers

Znotins explained that one way American Airlines generates profits and differentiates itself is "through different schedules, being the only non-stop or one of a few non-stops, but in this case we were one of dozens of non-stops" offered by Asian carriers.

"And so for us what we've decided is to scale back LA widebody flying. Shanghai moves to Seattle… Beijing will focus more on Dallas. Hong Kong will focus more on Dallas as well. But then the Sydneys and the Heathrows will remain at LA because those markets aren't the Asian markets that are over-served."

Znotins said that while LAX would continue to see flights to Tokyo, Sydney and London, along with domestic transcontinental services and "a number of small [regional jet] routes out of LA to support the hub because LA as a domestic hub does very well for us, as an Asian hub it did not do very well for us."

"Going forward... we'll focus with our partner in Seattle on Alaska adding long haul routes like Bangalore and Shanghai out of Seattle once the Chinese bilateral opens up... and that will be our more predominant Asian gateway going forward instead of LA."

Executive Traveller has approached American Airlines for comment.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

emd
emd

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

17 Oct 2014

Total posts 4

This is sensible but will only work if Alaska Airlines is on board.

If Alaska harbour long haul ambitions the strategy will falter.

If it works,SEA-SYD may well be on the cards.

Expect a strong reaction from Delta.

Was looking at how to get to Vancouver in early January & via LAX or SFO is 1/2 or less the price of nonstops from Sydney. Looked at fly LAX or SFO to SEA or BLI (20 mins drive south of the Canadian border) & found that from either BLI or SEA you can rent a car for as short as one day & drop of in Vancouver(YVR). They stick you will a "healthy" one way fee though of course.

From Sea & Bli you can also catch a coach to Vancouver or just near SEA is a train station & train goes to Vancouver. Lastly, you can also get a Uber from BLI to border costs US$49 in a Uber X or US$78 in Uber XL or to YVR US$107/US$171. Divided by a few people & it's not expensive at all. By crossing border on ground, you also avoid all the Canadian air taxes. Can see any flights from Australia to Sea, therefore competing with flights from Australia to YVR. Obviously Air Canada can't fly nonstop Australia to Sea, only Australian or U.S. airline could.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1386

They have a formal alliance so unlikely. The move to Seattle was probably an outcome of the alliance.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 210

Sounds smart, Asian business and leisure travellers will naturally gravitate towards their own airlines anyway, and LAX is such a popular destination that it can support all those airlines competing. If travellers from Asia want to go somewhere else beyond LA, most of those big Asian airlines have partnerships with US carriers either through alliance groups or on a case-by-case basis which can allow onwards connections. I'd really like to see American decide to add Sydney-Seattle because that would be the sort of 'unique' direct route that could work for them and there's no competition.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1386

It would make sense for AA to move its LA route to Seattle on a QF code share and leave QF in LA and soonish Chicago.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 31

Personally I think Brisbane to Seattle is more likely with Qantas or even AA.  Qantas have talked about it in the past.  One of the factors is that Boeing have their largest operation outside the US in Brisbane with around 4,000 employees.  They are even going to build drones in Toowoomba.  I think Brisbane to Seattle will happen.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 469

That's a good point BCOZ. Seattle-Brisbane will probably be the first city pair served, based on that Boeing connection.

Can't complete on service or price so looking to monopolise alternative routes.

Sounds like an American carrier.

KKQ
KKQ

17 Nov 2020

Total posts 4

Head-on-head competition against Delta? DL has KL and MU to connect the rest of Asia and China mainland.

Southwest have large number of flights in & out of Seattle. Not saying try to connect with international flights, but could overnight in Seattle, then get cheap Southwest fares to almost anywhere in USA. Think Southwest have 700 plus B737s.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 83

Excellent initiative if Seattle Pass control clears its passengers at a much faster rate than the dreaded snail pace LAX

cmj
cmj

Alaska Airlines - Mileage Plan

23 Sep 2021

Total posts 1

There are already quite a few Asian Carriers in Seattle (ANA, JAL, Asiana, Korean, EVA, Hainan and Singapore), so it's not like they will have carte blanche for Asia service.  PVG pre-pandemic was served by both Delta and Hainan.  Perhaps if they're daring, they'll try where Delta and Cathay Pacific failed and launch Hong Kong (connecting to oneWorld partner).  The only Asian opporunities to monopolize would be Manila (Philippine Airlines filed to serve Seattle in 2019, but an objection from Untied and the pandemic put a hold on those plans); Bangkok (no nonstops from the West Coast); and Vietnam (before Bamboo does)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 452

Bangkok and Saigon would generate reasonable pax numbers, predominantly US citizens.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 469

I agree with John. Years ago THAI used to fly to Seattle. The airline is currently in a state of crisis, but if it ever gets back on its feet, non-stop US services are likely to resume. THAI has previously mulled serving SFO, DFW or possibly even SEA rather than going back to LAX, which was the last US port it served before it was forced to stop flying there in 2015.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1272

There's no such thing as too much competition. American is threatened by the Asian carriers because it knows it cannot compete with the superior product offerings of the latter.


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