by Michael Lowrey
One of the great uncertainties of the American Airlines/US Airways merger is what happens to US Airways’ service from Charlotte and Philadelphia to Europe. Which of these routes would still make sense post merger? It’s probably going to take another year or two (at minimum) to know for sure, but the airline over the weekend gave us a big hint as to one route that’s not doing too hot.
While the US Airways brand was completely merged into American Airlines in October, the two airlines aren’t completely integrated — you still have ex-US Airways crews flying formerly US Airways jets almost exclusively on formerly US Airways routes from previously US Airways hubs like Charlotte. It’s going to take new labor contracts to allow American Airlines to optimize its aircraft usage across its vast network between ex-US Airways and legacy American planes. Having all planes fitted to a common product standard would help too.
That said, American for the first time this past weekend updated its schedule to include using a legacy American Airlines jet — a Boeing 767-300ER — on a formerly US Airways’ route to Europe, in place of a larger (and nicer) ex-US Airways Airbus A330-200. (This is called “crossfleeting.”)
The route? Philadelphia – Zurich. That this route is getting downgraded isn’t horribly surprising. Swiss International Airlines is the dominate carrier in Zurich. It’s owned by Lufthansa and like Lufthansa is in Star Alliance, which is what US Airways was in until it merged with American. Zurich was also among the last destinations upgraded to an A330 from the even smaller 767-200ER when US Airways retired that type a year ago.
I would take this to be American giving Philadelphia – Zurich one last chance to work. If it doesn’t, then the route, which is seasonal, likely won’t return in 2017.
That American made this move so relatively late suggests other European route changes might still be in the works for the coming spring and summer.
(In case you’re wondering, the A330-200 that this frees up gets shifted to the legacy American Chicago – Dublin flight.)