American Airlines moving to make DFW Airport its gateway to Asia
Fort Worth-based American Airlines is moving much of its Asian traffic from the Southern California international flying hub to DFW, a move that could open more opportunities for North Texas to access business and leisure destinations but disrupt how much of the country gets across the Pacific.
American is making the move after decades of considering LAX its trans-Pacific hub to fly to destinations such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and even Auckland, New Zealand. But the landscape is changing with the growth of traffic across the Pacific.
“Dallas certainly doesn’t have the best geography for an Asian hub,” said Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network and schedule planning. “But it does have some advantages in connecting people in the Southeast [United States] to Asia.”
Last year, it fulfilled a plan to put 900 flights a day out of DFW, its fortress hub that can connect to nearly any other location it serves in the country. About 26% of all of American’s traffic goes through DFW, almost twice as much as what goes through its next biggest hub in Charlotte, N.C.
That makes DFW an attractive launching point for Asia because it would be a single stop for most of American’s U.S. travelers, said Nico Mirman, a Dallas-based aviation consultant with Ailevon Pacific. DFW is also a convenient connecting point for travelers from Latin America, Mirman said.
“What American is probably thinking is to capitalize on the huge amount of connectivity that they get here,” Mirman said. “That’s something Los Angeles cannot offer for them.”
DFW has room to grow, too. The airport property is roughly the size of the island of Manhattan. There are plans for a new $3 billion terminal F at DFW that would give 24 more gates, mostly to American Airlines. While the pandemic put those plans on hold, airport officials expect the project to only be pushed back, not scrapped.
However, the designation of trans-Pacific hub might not mean that DFW gets as much traffic across the ocean as LAX did. American also formed a partnership with Alaska Airlines in February and, as part of that, it created a new route from Seattle to Bangalore, India. That gives American another West Coast launching point.
“In a lot of ways, this is more about reducing L.A. than boosting DFW,” Znotins said. “Every Asian carrier feels the need to serve L.A. and that creates overcapacity. Even going into the pandemic, we were losing money on those L.A. flights.”
...“LAX is becoming very expensive for airlines to operate from and it’s extremely competitive, and that tends to lower airfares,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel consultant based in San Francisco. “It’s a matter of American focusing on where it can have the best return on a very expensive asset.”
“I would guess that it’s going to be several years before there are new markets for American or other carriers,” Donohue said.
But American’s choice of DFW as its trans-Pacific hub means North Texas travelers will have direct access to Asia, he said.
“From a long-term perspective, it gives us the strength of the service,” he said. " We are going to have service to the key major Asian business destinations."
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