American Airlines and United Airlines are focused on adding new leisure destinations rather than simply revert to their former networks as demand for air travel returns.
With the traditional demand model “parked,” the legacy carriers are embracing the opportunity to “create opportunity out of crisis,” said United's Director Domestic Network Planning Mark Weithofer.
During the pandemic, United launched a number of new routes including Mallorca, Tenerife, Bergen, Johannesburg, Amman and Ponta Delgada in Portugal.
“We’re seeing pent-up demand for leisure destinations that are more difficult to get to,” Weithofer said. “Secondary leisure routes are very attractive to passengers and millennials want to do those bucket list items.”
He added that United could continue to explore these previously unserved opportunities “depending on results” of those currently being tested.
American Airlines Director Domestic Planning Philippe Puech (pictured) said that his airline would continue to be “opportunistic, and where we can see demand we will act fast and aggressively.”
“This will be something we keep pursuing.”
However, Puech added that it is likely to restore its widebody aircraft to “faraway places” rather than continue using them in closer Latin American destinations as is has been during the pandemic, despite the high load factors it has experienced.
“The widebodies to those places might disappear,” he said.
Another strategic priority for United is to “limit the number of spoke closures” which occur in its network as a result of the shifting capacity, said Puech.
“We realize that maybe some schedules are not what airports might expect, but we ask you to bear with us,” he said.
“Our system creates more O&Ds than anyone else, and leveraging this to create as many itineraries as possible is an advantage.”