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American cuts Asia capacity while growing to Europe

American Airlines will end nearly all of its service to Asia from Chicago O'Hare by December, shrinking capacity to a region that it has grown to rapidly in recent years.

The Oneworld Alliance carrier will suspend service to Shanghai Pudong from Chicago on 26 October, and reduce service to Tokyo Narita to three-weekly flights from daily on 18 December, it says today. However, combined with its joint venture partner Japan Airlines (JAL) it will continue to offer 10 weekly flights between Chicago and Tokyo.

The moves follow American's announcement in May that it will suspend flights between Chicago and Beijing on 22 October.

“These adjustments to our Asia service are necessary in this high fuel cost environment, but we remain committed to the network we’ve worked hard to build,” says Vasu Raja, vice-president of network and schedule planning at American, in a statement.

The airline is committed to serving Asia from its Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles hubs, he adds.

American will fly at least 11% less capacity to Asia in the first quarter of 2019 compared this year, FlightGlobal schedules data shows. This includes the Chicago-Shanghai suspension but not the Chicago-Tokyo frequency reduction.

The carrier operates the three routes from Chicago with 226-seat Boeing 787-8 aircraft.

China Eastern Airlines and United Airlines will continue to serve the Chicago-Shanghai route after American exits the market, schedules show. All Nippon Airways (ANA) and United also serve the Chicago-Tokyo Narita route, in addition to American and JAL.

EUROPE

Europe is a different story. American will add Berlin, Bologna and Dubrovnik to its network, end service to Glasgow, and shift service to Edinburgh and Munich in 2019.

American will grow its Philadelphia gateway in 2019, adding new seasonal service to Berlin, Bologna and Dubrovnik, as well as to Edinburgh that will shift from New York John F Kennedy. It will not resume seasonal service to Glasgow next year, and suspend service to Frankfurt in October and Munich in March.

Charlotte and Dallas/Fort Worth will gain new service to Munich, with year-round daily flights from the former and seasonal daily flights from the latter in 2019. The airline will also add seasonal daily service to Dublin from Dallas/Fort Worth next June.

American's Chicago O'Hare hub will gain a nonstop to Athens, Greece, in May 2019, while losing service to Manchester, UK. It will also suspend service between New York JFK and both Dublin and Edinburgh.

Phoenix, the carrier's sole hub without a long-haul flight, will land its first nonstop to London Heathrow on American, with seasonal daily service on a Boeing 777-200 beginning in March 2019.

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"Through our Atlantic joint business, we have seen increased interest to these markets from the US, and adjusting our network to introduce these destinations will provide more choices for customers on both sides of the Atlantic," says Raja.

All together, the network changes to Europe will result in a roughly 3.3% increase in seats in July 2019 based on July 2018 schedules, data shows.

The reductions come as American slows capacity growth in response to high fuel prices. On the domestic side, it is ending utilisation and underperforming flying this fall, including routes like Miami-Washington Dulles and New York JFK-Denver.

The carrier plans to grow capacity by roughly 2.2% in 2018. It has not released capacity guidance for 2019 yet.

In addition to the Asia and Europe changes, on 3 November American will end service to Port-au-Prince from both Fort Lauderdale and and New York JFK. A month later, on 18 December, it will end service between Dallas/Fort Worth and Puebla, and Los Angeles and Toronto.

The airline will also reduce frequency between Los Angeles and Mexico City to once daily from twice on 28 October.

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