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American Airlines will add Doha to its route map but I have no idea why


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American Airlines has announced that it plans to launch a new service between New York JFK and Doha from summer 2022 but despite the fact that I’ve had a few days to mull over this announcement, I’m still at a loss to explain what the airline is thinking. To me, it makes no sense at all.

American’s new route to Doha

American Airlines will launch a new route between New York (JFK) and Doha on 4 June 2022 and will operate the service on the following schedule:

AA120 JFK 01:00 – 20:30 DOH (Daily)
AA121 DOH 01:35 – 08:30 JFK (Daily)

At the time of writing, the route is scheduled to be operated by a combination of Boeing 777-200 and 777-300ER aircraft and will be offered year-round.

I don’t get it

American Airlines says that it’s launching this route “as part of its deepening relationship with Qatar Airways” and Brian Znotins, American’s Vice President of Network Planning, has said that the route has been introduced to help it “creatively find ways to build a network that gets customers where they want to go when they are ready to travel”, but that doesn’t explain who the airline thinks will actually book the new flights.

While American Airlines will offer 7 flights per week between New York and Doha, Qatar Airways (American’s oneworld partner) will continue to offer at least 18 flights per week on the same route…

QR706 DOH 01:00 – 20:30 JFK (Tue, Wed, Fri & Sun)
QR704 DOH 11:00 – 06:30+1 day JFK (Daily)
QR702 DOH 20:55 – 16:25+1 day JFK (Daily)

QR703 JFK 01:30 – 08:30 DOH (Daily)
QR701 JFK 08:15 – 15:15 DOH (Daily)
QR705 JFK 14:45 – 21:45 DOH (Mon, Tue, Thu & Sat)

…and you have to wonder who would choose to fly with American Airlines over Qatar Airways?

Yes, the American Airlines flights will offer a Premium Economy cabin which Qatar Airways does not, and yes, some of the American Airlines flights will offer a First Class cabin (such as it is), but neither of those things is going to be enough to make this route profitable.

Qatar Airways offers its Qsuites Business Class cabin with on-demand dining, good food, great beverages, and excellent service on all of its JFK – Doha flights while American Airlines can only really boast a good seat – the First Class service will be nowhere near what First Class service should be like, the food in the premium cabins will be mediocre, most of the beverages will be 2nd rate, and the Business Class service will swing between good and abysmal.

Things don’t get much better for American Airlines in Economy Class.

Sure, when it comes to the amount of personal space that passengers get there’s not much difference between the Economy Class cabins on the Qatar Airways A350-1000 and the American Airlines 777-200 (so that’s one thing that American Airlines doesn’t have to worry about), but when it comes to the food and service standards, Qatar Airways Economy Class blows the pitiful offering from American Airlines out of the water.

No doubt there will be some AA loyalists who will choose American over Qatar Airways because they can use their upgrade instruments on American Airlines flights and not on the flights operated by Qatar Airways, but as routes like this are made profitable by high-ticket premium cabin bookings and not by upgraders, that kind of passenger isn’t going to help American make this route work.

What is American Airlines thinking? What am I missing?

It’s not a secret that American Airlines can’t even compete against the likes of Delta when it comes to offering even a half-decent product so what makes it think that starting up a route that’s already dominated by one of the best airlines in the world is a good idea? How can this possibly succeed?

For someone to choose American Airlines over Qatar Airways one or more of these factors will have to come into play:

  1. American’s fares would have to be significantly lower
  2.  The traveler wants to travel in Premium Economy
  3. The traveler wants to use an American Airlines upgrade
  4. The traveler is uninformed

Factor 1 won’t help American Airlines because low prices aren’t going to make this route profitable, and factors 2 & 3 won’t really help either because there’s no volume.

That seems to leave American Airlines relying on uninformed travelers to make this route work and not even the most optimistic of American Airlines employees can possibly believe that there will be enough uninformed travelers to make this route viable.

If I was a gambling man I wager that this route won’t last a year.

Bottom line

American Airlines says that it will launch a new service between New York JFK and Doha from 4 June 2022 but I have no idea how the airline plans to make this route work or why it is even bothering. There must be dozens of other routes that American Airlines could launch that would be appealing to US travelers and don’t involve competing with a vastly superior airline so this choice of new route seems to make no sense. Can anyone see something what I’m missing?

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that there’s a regulation that requires anyone flying on government business (possibly including government contractors) to fly a US airline where possible. While I haven’t the faintest idea how much traffic flows along this route, maybe there’s enough government money involved to tip the scales. Even an airline as dubiously operated as American must have some reason to initiate this route when they’re canceling others due to aircraft shortages.

  2. Any way to see what freight rates are between citi pairs? Presumably freight revenue will be pretty strong right now with supply chains backed up and international airtravel volumes down, but not sure how much that moves the needle.

  3. This flight is all about transit from North America to India. LH and even BA do quite well on connections through the middle east for Indians looking for an alternative to ME3 for onward travel. Different brands resonate differently with certain cultures. Arriving in US, New York nonetheless, on an American airline is still a solid commercial brand for many people, particularly if coming from an Indian city without direct flights to the US.

  4. Fly America Act.
    American govt personnel (military, diplomats, etc) must use an American carrier when available. JetBlue codeshared with Emirates for example, to secure the US-DXB market for military stationed abroad.

  5. I agree with you every point you mentioned above. Competing with QR by collecting high ticket fares are not at all profitable to AA. Yes, there are several routes AA can utilize, may be one more direct flight to India like DEL. I am sure if AA introduce non stop to HYD, India, this route will certainly profitable to AA by looking volume of traffic.

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