American Airlines mistakenly posted a new splash screen on their website last night announcing the long-expected LAX-HKG service. Before the error could be fixed, the internet caught notice (on Flyertalk first) and Gary Leff has since reported confirmation from Casey Norton at American that the new service will launch from LAX to Hong Kong! Using their premium long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER, American will be going up against Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific in a play for the highly lucrative route.
The route will start 7 September, flight numbers and times will be announced later.
Why this is a big deal for American flyers
If you want to earn status with American and do not buy premium fares, it’s important to fly on American flight numbers and/or American jets when possible. This is even more important with the new AAdvantage program. Right now the only way of flying to Hong Kong on American metal is to fly through DFW and catch AA137. LAX is the perfect place for American to introduce a new route and I can imagine the only thing delaying the announcement was negotiations with Hong Kong authorities (since there is no open skies agreement between the USA and Hong Kong).
For Executive Platinum flyers who want to use their Systemwide Upgrades, the current DFW-HKG-DFW route is one of the hardest in the system, simply because so many people are buying the premium seats! I’m currently looking at my upgrade chances for one of those flights in a few weeks and it’s not looking good…
At any rate, the LAX-HKG flight will alleviate some of the upgrade pressure on the super-long DFW-HKG flight, which, selfishly, I’m excited about since I’m based in DFW for now. Hopefully this will mean more upgrades clear on both routes so EXPs can use their SWUs before any potential Premium Economy changes start hitting the SWU benefits.
The 777-300ER is American’s premium long-haul jet. Every seat has new in-flight entertainment and power outlets (both USB and AC). These jets also feature reasonably-priced satellite-based wifi, which I’ve been very happy with in my experience. Economy isn’t very comfortable unfortunately, since American has 10-abreast (3-4-3) seating, but the current edition of Main Cabin Extra (3-3-3) isn’t too bad. Unfortunately once the Premium Economy product is installed Main Cabin Extra will revert to 10-abreast seating with additional legroom.
Where the 777-300ER shines is the Business Class cabin. Seats are 4-abreast with a reverse-herringbone layout that gives every seat access to the aisle. I’ve featured this seat before and still make the claim that it’s the best business class seat in the sky. The First Class cabin is smaller on these jets (and will eventually be the only international First Class in American’s fleet once the 777-200s are refurbished) and their service is not competitive with the Asian carriers like Cathay Pacific and Singapore. But no matter First Class, because the Business Class seat is better than Cathay’s (it’s a little more private) and the jets have wifi, so that sets American apart from its partner/rival.
Why this is a big deal for American the company
American Airlines wants its planes in the air and full of passengers for as long as possible. Airlines have to pay to park planes at airports, and Hong Kong is known for being one of the most expensive places to park an airplane in the world. Currently American has to park their 77W (American’s designation for the 777-300ER) at Hong Kong for 19 hours between flights 137 (DFW-HKG) and 138 (HKG-DFW). This costs American lots of money. With the timing of the new route, American will actually be able to work this route into a really nice utilization window combined with LAX/DFW-LHR flights. Basically American can whittle their parking time at HKG from 19 hours from one jet down to 8-10 with two jets.
Contract Staff Utilization
It costs American a lot of money to staff a flight, especially at a global hub like HKG. American trained up contract staff (as well as full-time employees) to greet the arriving 137 flight and to check-in and get flight 138 ready for departure. Adding another flight allows them to make better use of these resources and spread the cost across multiple flights.
Jet Fuel Price
Jet fuel is at its lowest point almost in the past decade. Routes that may have been skirting the line of profitability a few years ago are now profitable for American Airlines, particularly because American ended its fuel-pricing program a few years ago. With jet fuel as low as it is this route will no-doubt be a moneymaker for American and can help them get a foothold into the lucrative premium-cabin Asian market.
How it benefits everyone
Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities in the world! More competition will hopefully drive prices down, allowing all of us to enjoy the beautiful city that’s a gateway to the rest of Asia.