American Airlines zaps San Francisco-Boston nonstops

A neon American Airlines logo at Boston-Logan International Airport (photo: chaostheory)

American Airlines has confirmed to The BAT that it will eliminate its nonstop flights between San Francisco International and Boston-Logan on November 17.

Despite American’s departure from the route, frequent travelers can still jump on a nonstop between here and Beantown on Virgin America, JetBlue or United. In fact, the preponderance of other carriers on the route is part of the reason American is bowing out.

Nonetheless, the move seemed odd to me, given the fact that American is clearly making a significant investment in SFO’s Terminal 2, which includes a new 10,000 square foot Admirals Club. (See my recent report and hardhat tour video of SFO’s Terminal 2.)

But there are larger forces at work. “We are realigning our domestic network and concentrating on flights to, from or between what we are calling our ‘cornerstone’ or hub cities- Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami and Los Angeles. You’ll see a lot less point-to-point flying between non-hub cities,” said American spokesman Tim Smith.

That of course forced me to ask the question…What about American’s nonstops between San Francisco and Honolulu, both non-hub cities? Are those in jeopardy?

“The San Francisco-Honolulu market is a specialty market for us with lots of traffic and I don’t see American taking any actions on that route. Plus, it’s a huge market for our frequent flyers,” said Smith.

To dig in a little deeper, I called on my friend Henry Harteveldt, a San Francisco-based travel industry analyst with Forrester Research. Here’s his take:

“It’s possible that some of American’s decision-making, both here and in Boston, may reflect the loss of some corporate account business. In the Bay Area, American’s utility has steadily declined — it closed Oakland after the 2008 fuel price spike, and has not added any new routes from SFO. The airline also dropped its San Jose, CA-Austin “nerd bird” route . . . . Since American has decided it’s not going to ‘fight’ for business at OAK, SJC, or SFO, it’s possible that corporate travel managers at Bay Area companies shifted business to other airlines. Hence, a route like SFO-Boston is no longer financially viable for AA.”

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