American Airlines wants to fly to China, and it doesn’t really mind that Delta has already tried to secure the last access available. A couple weeks back Delta applied to the US DoT for rights to fly between Los Angeles and Beijing, This week American applied to serve the same route. It would be AA’s 4thnew route to Asia from Los Angeles, keeping CEO Doug Parker’s promise to grow Asia traffic from the west coast rather than from its other hubs.
“This new route would solidify Los Angeles as American’s West Coast gateway to Asia and it would be our only Beijing access from the western United States, creating new connections to one of Asia’s major business and leisure destinations,” said Andrew Nocella, chief marketing officer for American Airlines. “Beijing is one of the world’s great cities, and nonstop service from LAX would be a great complement to our existing China service.”
If approved, American would begin LAX-PEK service on Dec. 16, 2016.
When Delta applied for the route I suggested that the O/D traffic is probably sufficient but also noted that it would likely eat in to Delta’s Seattle-China flights. I also suggested that there was no competition for the route authority. Now that there is contention for the route that changes things a bit. AA makes the point that it has no such traffic to erode and, in a not so subtle way, suggests that it is the more appropriate carrier for the DoT to choose as it doesn’t have the existing west coast routes to Beijing like Delta does.
Either American or Delta could probably get away with moving an existing Beijing service to LA if they don’t win the route authority, though it is unclear whether that would be desirable in the form of adding two daily flights on the route versus just one. And the DoT would still have to approve moving the service.
And then there is United and most of the Chinese airlines, ignoring the kerfuffle over Beijing and Shanghai and opening up routes to secondary cities where the route authorities are far easier to come by, generally unrestricted in frequency. Much easier than fighting in the contested markets, though it also means smaller (but by no means small) markets to serve.
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American has no unrestricited U.S.-China frequencies. It cannot move any of its existing frequencies to LAX-PEK. Delta, however, has unrestricted frequencies that it uses on NRT-PVG and can move to LAX-PEK.
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