American Airlines Optimistic About 'Vacation Travel' With Increased Schedule, Safety Precautions in Place (Video)
American Airlines is looking to the future as it has reintroduced international flights, is increasing its domestic service, and is looking to reopen some of its airport lounges even as coronavirus recovery efforts in the country continue.
The airline, which cut about 80 percent of its domestic service and about 90 percent of international service as COVID-19 spread throughout the country and the world, is now looking ahead and says demand is slowly coming back.
“For the first time in our history, the airline is probably carrying more leisure customers than business customers,” Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president of network strategy, told Travel + Leisure. “There’s a lot of pent up desire for vacation travel.”
While the future of what travel will look like still remains up in the air for some, American is focusing much of its plans on domestic destinations, Raja noted. For international travel, he added people appear uneasy regarding unknown factors including quarantines.
“What we're seeing is demand coming primarily from states that have reopened — places like Texas, Arizona, many states in the south,” he said. “And a lot of it is going to the obvious leisure destinations: Florida, the national parks, mountain destinations.”
In April, American Airlines averaged about 32,000 daily customers. During the last week of May, that number jumped to more than 110,000 daily customers. Raja said in June the airline will be flying a little over 2,000 flights on a peak day and will increase that to about 4,000 in July.
However Raja noted that the airline is being “as flexible as possible,” when looking to increasing its schedule.
“We don't know what August and beyond looks like right now — so much of the recovery we see is tenuous and there's a lot of things that could slow it down,” he told us, but added he was “cautiously optimistic.”
Additionally, American is increasing service at hubs like Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. They will also increase flights to spots in Florida as places like Disney World and Universal Orlando begin to reopen.
While domestic trips may be a focus, the airline has continued to operate flights to Tokyo, Mexico City, and London. American is increasing that schedule by resuming service from Dallas to Madrid last month and this week added flights from Dallas to Amsterdam, Paris, and Frankfurt, as well as Miami to Antigua.
Like many of its airline counterparts, American Airlines has introduced a number of safety protocols to assure customers going forward. The carrier is requiring all passengers and crew to wear face masks while flying and is installing plexiglass barriers at ticket counters and gates, Vice President of Customer Experience, Julie Rath, explained to T+L.
“We want to make sure customers feel safe, and we know a buffet on June 22 is not going to be the way to go,” Rath said. “Our job is really to make sure all of our customers feel… they're going to be cared for.”
The airline will also reopen several of its Admirals Club lounges on June 22 in 10 U.S. cities, including in Chicago, New York, Dallas, and Miami. Rath said the lounges will feature pre-packaged snack boxes, rearranged furniture, and kits with sanitation wipes and facial coverings available.
“I think it's the safest time to fly, ever. It's time for us to start flying again,” Rath added.