by Michael Lowrey
From media reports, you might get the idea that US Airways has been fully absorbed into American Airlines. That’s true… except that you have former US Airways crews flying formerly US Airways aircraft almost exclusively on formerly US Airways routes from formerly US Airways hubs with those formerly US Airplanes planes have a different hard product (seat configuration) that legacy American Airlines planes.
For American Airlines and US Airways to be truly fully integrated, two things still have to happen: You have to have labor contracts bringing the work groups from both airlines together, and the fleet has to have the same basic product throughout. American announced earlier this month a key step in this direction, with a new a new premium economy product that will be fitted across its widebody fleet (except for the soon to retire 767-300s), including the former US Airways Airbus A330s that fly from Charlotte and Philadelphia to Europe:
American’s first plane with Premium Economy seating will be its Boeing 787-9, which is expected to enter service in late 2016. The 787-9 will offer Business Class, three rows of Premium Economy in a 2-3-2 configuration, Main Cabin Extra, which offers customers up to 6 inches of additional leg room, and Main Cabin seats. Premium Economy will also be installed on the Airbus A350, which arrives in 2017.
American will also add Premium Economy to all Boeing 777-300ERs, 777-200ERs, 787-8s and Airbus A330s over the next three years.
Working through the labor contract situation is also going to take awhile, so probably 2017 or 2018 is a realistic estimate as to when the airline can really start moving all the piece around to maximum effect. Until then, the ex-US Airways planes and crews are pretty much effectively trapped (for a lack of a better term) in the ex-US Airways hub cities.
Charlotte impact #1: Legacy American’s widebody jets have more business-class seats and fewer economy class seats as compared to similar formerly US Airways jets. Even presuming if there’s no impact on the European routes offered from CLT — and that’s far from certain – the move to a more traditional American Airlines-type widebody product mix will mean that there will be fewer seats available from Charlotte to Europe. While we don’t know exactly how big the hit will be yet as the new aircraft configurations aren’t out yet, I’d think we’re probably looking at about a 15 percent reduction in seats.
Charlotte impact #2: With the cancellation of Tel Aviv, there are two A330s available for flights to Europe from Charlotte and/or Philly. American hasn’t announced any new European flights from those cities, so I’d take it that there just are no good opportunities right now.