Will American Fly Three Cabin A321s Between Boston & Los Angeles?

New York to Los Angeles & San Francisco are two of the most fiercely competitive routes in the US, and they’re markets where the major airlines invest a lot in their onboard experience. American, Delta, United, and JetBlue all offer flat bed business class between the cities (Virgin America is also competitive in the market, but doesn’t have any planes with flat beds).

Boston has long been a high yield destination as well, though it hasn’t gotten the same love as New York. However, that has slowly been changing, thanks to JetBlue:


JetBlue Mint

This leaves American as the odd airline out, as they’re the only one not offering flat beds on any transcons from Boston. The irony is that American used to have a sizable hub in Boston, though they’ve mostly given up, and now JetBlue dominates that market.

This brings us to a rumor (I’m emphasizing that because this post is more about talking through this, rather than just sharing the rumor) from the eerily reliable JonNYC, who suggests that American is considering running their “premium” three cabin A321s between Boston and Los Angeles.

Flat beds between Boston and Los Angeles isn’t something I thought about much previously, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. American doesn’t fly between Boston and San Francisco, and they’re not going to try to jump into that market and compete like Delta did.

However, what’s interesting is that even though American, Delta, JetBlue, and United all fly between Boston and Los Angeles, JetBlue is the only one to offer flat beds. I suspect this is largely a function of yields, and that Boston to San Francisco is more lucrative. Boston is more about technology than entertainment, so that makes sense.


American A321 first class

However, American is trying to establish themselves as LA’s hometown airline, so it seems logical enough to try and take the lead on the route. While Boston to Los Angeles isn’t as high yield as Boston to San Francisco, it’s my understanding that there’s still a lot of premium demand. I know upgrades on the route are generally tough.

In looking at the frequencies various airlines offer between Boston and Los Angeles:

  • American offers 4x daily flights
  • JetBlue offers 3x daily flights
  • Delta offers 2x daily flights
  • United offers 2x daily flights

As believable as this seems, there’s one major hurdle — I don’t know where American would get the planes from. American has a limited number of A321Ts, and they have 4x daily flights between Boston and Los Angeles. So I could see them maybe changing up rotations so that they have one daily A321T flight to Boston, but there’s no way they can get enough of these to operate four daily flights, at least without reconfiguring existing planes, making drastic cuts to their existing markets, etc.


American A321 business class

For now I’ll say that I find this to be an interesting rumor. I could see American wanting to do this, though the logistics seem challenging. At best it seems like American could maybe operate one daily flight with an A321T. However, without a consistent product across flights, I’m not sure this move would help them gain all that much premium market share.

I’ve reached out to American for comment, and will update this post if I hear anything.

What do you guys think about this rumor?

Comments

  1. American routinely flies the A321T between BOS and JFK (usually there’s at least one per day) – not sure if that’s to utilize the plane between transcons or because they have extra planes laying around…

  2. They’d have to be very confident/ there’d have to be truly high high yields to make this happen. This could only happen if they get more A321Ts. Is it worth it? Only American can make that decision

  3. I would need to look at the data more, but I remember thinking that AA was leaving their A321Ts on utilization runs between JFK and BOS on the ground in BOS much longer than I thought they would. I think there are only two nonstops between JFK and BOS per day. I am not sure if any spend the night in BOS. Someone could probably play around on Flightradar24 and get some more info to see if it’s even possible.

  4. Being a big fan of jetBlue’s Mint product, I find Mint prices are consistently higher for BOS-LAX vs BOS-SFO, probably due to the competition. I found a ton of availability on Delta One at $549-$599 one way over Christmas and New Year’s. I finally did manage to snag a couple Mint Suites return at $599. No $599’s from LAX-BOS. Maybe increased competition will keep Mint prices from escalating too much.

  5. I am a regular LAX-BOS flyer, and an AA EXP and jetBlue Mosaic customer. On this route, I have done the horrible AA 737s and even in F, the flight is not ideal (sometimes you get a plane that doesnt even have seatback entertainment). So, on this route, I often pick the JetBlue Mint flights–the fares are often very reasonable and product is amazingly great.

    Now, AA often sells LAX-JFK-BOS on the A321T. I have made that flight periodically too… but the cost is fairly expensive and involves an unnecessary layover in JFK which is usually very short (and often its the same aircraft as the inbound LAX flight).

    Would I book on AA if they put the A321T on LAX-BOS— yes, if the price was competitive with JetBlue. Otherwise—- NOPE.

    Now… what we need is a good transcon from LAX-PHL (the only choices are horrible ex-US aircraft).

  6. Doesn’t AA have A321s being delivered as part of their Airbus order from years back, that they could possibly convert into 321Ts.

  7. AA is the master at promising too late and then under delivering.

    Watch corporate contracts. If they start leaving AA over people finding 7 hours in their crappy 738s too much, expect AA to put out a press release announcing a proper long-haul business class on the market in 2018 (really, meaning ‘as late as possible in 2018’) .

    Smart corporations will keep their employees productive and switch to jetBlue, negotiating a market carve-out with AA until AA has the product in place. To your point, AA doesn’t have the equipment to do this anytime soon, nor the relationship with Zodiac to get more of the seats it currently has in the 321Ts anytime soon.

  8. Iam gettingt on an A321T today from JFK to BOS, they sold the business cabin as MCE… interesting that this came up. Haven’t seen it on this route before.

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised if this comes to fruition. They already fly the 321T between JFK-BOS with the LAX flight scheduled not too longer after. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them to fly to LAX to turn it around for the red eye back to JFK.

  10. Josh I am not sure why you are implying that AA long haul business class is not good. All aircraft now have flat beds. And how does that relate to the discussion, anyway?

  11. I recently flew LAX-BOS in JetBlue Mint and returned BOS-LAX on AA in First. No comparison. None. Nada. Mint blows away AA First. The hard (bad AA 737 first seats) and soft products (AA food, need I say more) weren’t even close to the Mint product. I recognize that AA flies 4 flights daily, but that “convenience” factor will not offset an otherwise inferior offering.

    I hope the AA rumor is correct, but if JetBlue flew a midday flight with Mint from BOS-LAX they’d win my business in both directions.

  12. Jet blue not only offers the better seating but sometimes at lower fare ($598each way sometimes) than AA . Airlines maybe don’t know but BOS is a huge transport hub for New England part time ( spring to autumn) residents and tourists alike. 2 or 3 Coach companies operate pick up from BOS terminals to a variety of popular costal destinations in New Hampshire, Maine and RI.
    I hope AA gets this one right. I used to like it back when they operated the 767s between LA and BOS. It was much easier to score a worthwhile upgrade.

  13. AA could utilize a pair of refurbished 757s to operate 3x roundtrips and probably increase utilization of the a321t subfleet to squeeze in the fourth roundtrip. There probably is demand for business, but can’t imagine needing 40 first class seats on the route each day.

  14. @ELW lots of IFs there… it looks like no matter how bad AA’s service and product is, you still favor its convenient schedule over B6… that’s one of the advantages that smaller carrier are not able to match and that makes it less relevant for big players to have a competitive product when they do not necessarily need to.

  15. I have heard from our corporate Airpass group that they are going to start marketing a 4x daily BOS-LAX 3 cabin transcon with a ~45 minute stop over (single flight number and no change of plane) at JFK where additional pax would board but none would be allowed to de-plane. Then on the LAX-BOS return flight pax would only be allowed to de-plane. Basically a modified play out of the US Airways playbook.

  16. AA has gone on record as wanting to keep the 757/767 fleet out of LAX, in order to maximize efficiency and also to be able to utilize their gates as much as possible, though the 757s on LAX-BOS would be a nice way to not worry about A321 range issues and also get a premium product on the route.

  17. Seriously doubt it would happen, to reconfigure an existing 321 to 3 class requires whole reconfiguration of existing galleys and lavatories. There is no reason for AA to compete when they charge routinely double or triple what JetBlue charges for mint seats and planes continue to go out full. You will probably see a reconfigured 757 on the route earlier than a 321.

  18. Unless you’re on the red-eye from the West Coast to the East Coast, these seats are a novelty. Does anyone actually sleep on daytime west-bound flights?

  19. “Unless you’re on the red-eye from the West Coast to the East Coast, these seats are a novelty. Does anyone actually sleep on daytime west-bound flights?”

    I sleep on flights all the time, for all sorts of reasons, at different times of the day.

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