American to fly from London to Seattle

Feb 14, 2020

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Seattle is not a hub for American Airlines, but it will soon be home to one of the carrier’s highest-profile international routes.

The airline plans to begin serving Heathrow from Seattle in March 2021, operating the route with Boeing 777 wide-bodies. American’s flights would be in addition to the existing London-Seattle service already offered by Oneworld partner British Airways.

In addition to LHR, American plans to begin flying from Seattle/Tacoma (SEA) to the technology hub of Bangalore (BLR), an 8,078-mile route that would return the carrier to India for the first time since 2012. Service would be on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and begin in October of this year.

American did not give a specific start date for the BLR service, but said it expected tickets for the route to go on sale by the end of February. The flights would be the first ever to operate nonstop between Seattle and Bangalore and would become the second-longest in American’s network, based on the carrier’s current schedule.

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American’s decision to add long-haul international routes from Seattle comes as it and Alaska Airlines unveiled plans Thursday for a new “West Coast international alliance.” The tie-up — which must gain regulatory approval — would be part of a renewed codeshare pact between the airlines and a move by Alaska Airlines to join the Oneworld frequent-flyer alliance that already counts American as one of its pillar members.

The alliance would allow Alaska Airlines to feed connecting passengers to the American’s new international flights via its Seattle hub. For American, the feed from Alaska should help it support the Bangalore and London flights from a city where it otherwise flies only to its domestic hubs.

“India is a grossly underserved market, despite the number of businesses with a major presence in both India and the West Coast”, Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president of network strategy, said in a statement announcing the routes. “By adding Seattle to Bangalore, we’re giving customers from more than 70 U.S. cities access to India in one stop or less — versus the two, three or four stops they’d have to make to get there in the past”.

Also included in the pact is Los Angeles, where American and Alaska each operate hubs. As in Seattle, American hopes to tap Alaska’s presence in Los Angeles to help funnel more traffic to its existing network of overseas flights, with Raja adding that “beginning West Coast international service from Seattle will complement American’s strong existing international network from LAX.”

For Alaska, being able to connect its own passengers to a close partner’s international flights will help it expand the portfolio of destinations it can offer as it tries to win lucrative corporate contracts in its home market of Seattle, reports TPG’s Ned Russell.

“This alliance further opens the world for Alaska Airlines guests, whether travelling for business or pleasure”, Andrew Harrison, Alaska’s chief commercial officer, added in the carriers’ joint statement. “And importantly for our employees, and the communities we serve, this West Coast international alliance enables Alaska’s continued independent growth”.

Perhaps just as importantly, the proposed alliance between Alaska and American could also help each against rival Delta, which has gained competitive traction against the pair after being at the centre of failed pacts for the other two.

Alaska was once a close partner of Delta, funnelling passengers to Delta’s international flights from Seattle much in the same way Alaska now plans to do with American. That partnership unravelled in the early 2010s, with Delta slowly adding its own domestic network in Seattle before declaring it an outright hub in 2014. That move put it into direct competition with its one-time partner on dozens of routes.

In South America, American was dropped by longtime partner LATAM Airlines in favour of Delta after Delta bought a stake in the South American giant. As part of the move, LATAM said it would sever ties with American and leave Oneworld, sending shockwaves through the aviation industry. While partnering with Alaska won’t help American in South America, it does bolster the standing of its Oneworld alliance in the U.S. market. It also gives American ties to a partner that’s a major player along the West Coast, where rivals Delta and United have a larger region-wide presence.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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