American Airlines promised big growth in the Northeast as part of its tie-up with JetBlue Airways, but one new long-haul route isn’t living up to expectations.
Over the weekend, the Fort Worth-based carrier filed plans to cut service between New York and Santiago, Chile, as first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by a carrier spokesperson. The 5,097-mile route will end on Jan. 4, 2023.
American first launched service between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) in July 2021 with a three-times-weekly frequency. The carrier was planning to upgrade the route to daily service in November 2021, but that plan never came to fruition due to weak demand.
Instead, it continued offering three weekly flights between the two cities, available for purchase through the end of the schedule in August 2023. Aside from connecting the local New York market with Santiago, American planned to use the expanded domestic connectivity unlocked by the Northeast Alliance with JetBlue to offer plenty of convenient one-stop options for flyers headed to and from the Chilean capital.
In a statement confirming the move, a carrier spokesperson shared that:
American Airlines is discontinuing service between New York (JFK) and Santiago, Chile (SCL), effective Jan. 4, 2023, as the route is not meeting performance expectations. American remains committed to Chile, home to more than 200 of our locally based team members, and will continue serving SCL with existing daily service from Miami (MIA) and daily service from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) resuming Oct. 29. We’re proactively reaching out to customers scheduled to travel on affected dates to offer alternative travel arrangements.
American is proud to offer more flights to Chile than any U.S. carrier, operating up to three peak daily flights between the U.S. and SCL this fall.
The additional feed for long-haul flights was a big selling point of the partnership with JetBlue. In 2021, American successfully launched several other long-haul routes from New York, including services to Athens, New Delhi and Tel Aviv — all of which are scheduled to continue operating. Both carriers have also added a slew of new routes, expanded codeshares and a range of reciprocal frequent flyer perks as part of the pact.
That said, the timing of American’s latest network adjustment comes at an awkward time for the carrier as it goes up against a Department of Justice anti-trust lawsuit that’s scheduled to get its day in court beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
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American and JetBlue announced their alliance back in July 2020, saying it would allow them to better compete against Delta and United by codesharing on some routes and offering reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. In New York, Delta and United are entrenched as dominant players at the city’s capacity-controlled airports. American and JetBlue say their alliance allows them to compete at scale there, where expansion is hindered by the government’s slot and capacity restrictions.
The alliance received approval in the final days of the Trump Administration after the airlines agreed to forfeit several slots in New York and Washington and to avoid coordinating fares or revenue management. However, questions about whether the tie-up violated anti-trust regulations remained and became even more prominent after a Biden Administration executive order in July 2021 calling for increased competition in the airline industry, among others.
That culminated in the September 2021 DOJ lawsuit that’s finally getting its day in court on Tuesday. Despite the Santiago cut, the carriers continue to operate a number of new domestic and international routes that were added under the Northeast Alliance, which presumably will be a point the airlines argue as the case goes to court.
As for Santiago, American will continue offering flights from Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth. Travelers from New York can connect in either city for one-stop service to Chile.
Going forward, Chile’s flag carrier, LATAM, formerly of the Oneworld alliance and now a Delta partner, will be the sole airline connecting New York with Santiago with daily flights.