Exclusive Interview: American Airlines Officials Discuss Boeing, Airbus Deal

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IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT/INTERNET ACCESS

TS: It is our intention to have all of the latest Internet and entertainment systems on the new aircraft because, clearly, our business customers tell us that that is very important to them.  We’re very much actively involved with [in-flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo] not only for our new aircraft that are coming online, but also getting some of their new product into our existing fleet.

JS: That brings up an interesting issue: Will the aircraft acquisition possibly slow down retrofit efforts for existing aircraft that don’t have Gogo because, in a couple of years, these aircraft may be parked in the desert?

TS: I don’t think so. In our new deliveries, we’re installing Gogo Internet ourselves as soon as [the new aircraft] arrive. We want to be out there with good products that these premium business travelers are going to be able to use long before we take our first new aircraft announced today in 2013.

JS: What is the target for Wi-Fi coverage on the current domestic fleet?

TS: As of the 4th of July weekend, 63 of our Boeing 737s have Internet installed, 150 of the MD-80s, and 15 767-200s, which adds up to 228 so far. Since at this point Gogo is a domestic, land-based system, I don’t have a firm number, but it could easily be on the order of 400 aircraft that will have it, maybe more.

ROUTES

JS: Is it premature to speculate on new routes or even possibly changes in the cornerstone strategy? 

TS: Yes it is. The cornerstone concept’s relatively new.  Maybe 90% of our flying touches the five cornerstones now. And you saw that in our financial report we talked about some flying that we were going to stop doing – San Francisco to Honolulu comes to mind.

JS: Has there been any discussion at all of what the routes that the 777-300ER will have?

TS; No, although in general it will fly the kinds of routes that we’re operating the 200s on: long-haul to deep South America, Europe, [and] Asia. So it would either be on existing long-haul routes or perhaps [on] some new ones that open up and make sense.

JS: It seems that the ER could easily do LAX to Sydney, for example.

TS: Yes, although we did just apply for the Joint Business Agreement with Qantas and they started flying into and out of DFW, which is great for both of us. We may want to put our ducks in Austrialia with the Qantas guys, but [the 777-300ER] certainly could do that route. Or there are a lot of markets that are kind of on the edge of development in South America. We’ve opened a couple of new ones here and there in the last year or so.

AMERICAN EAGLE/ONEWORLD

JS: Is there any word on American Eagle continuing in OneWorld?

TS: American Eagle is what OneWorld calls an affiliate member and there’s no reason to think that American Eagle will not continue to provide regional flying for American Airlines after any divestiture. There’s the possibility, at least in the long term, of having different companies providing regional flights, and that’s part of the strategy on the American side, but there’s no question Eagle is going to be a part of our regional flying for a long time. And, as such, they are fully eligible for OneWorld affiliate membership.

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Benjamin Rossi contributed to the research and reporting for this article.

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