If you wonder why U.S. airlines are cozying up to Gulf carriers, it is helpful to look to Russia, the War in Ukraine, and the economics of operating a worldwide route network under a new set of constraints that have made many routes unviable. Indeed, Gulf carriers solve a practical problem for U.S. airlines.
While U.S. and European carriers avoid Russian airspace, Gulf carriers continue to use it. This “neutrality” may frustrate the effects of sanctions, but it provides a back door for airlines to continue service to destinations that simply are not otherwise possible.
Take Bangalore for example. American Airlines has teased Seattle – Bangalore for years. United Airlines has teased San Francisco – Bangalore. With the inability to use Russian airspace, those routes will not operate. No chance. Indeed, United cannot even operate its longstanding Newark – Mumbai service without using Russian airspace.
With a huge population essentially blocked off from U.S. carriers, U.S. carriers solve a problem. American’s cozy relationship with Qatar Airways provides a way for passengers from the Indian Subcontinent (and beyond) to continue to feed onto American Airlines. This gets to a central goal of the new United partnership with Emirates, set to be officially unveiled on September 14, 2022.
Emirates will do what United cannot: serve passengers in India. And if United launches service to Dubai on 1-2 new routes, United not only has access to a whole new base of customers but will still benefit from U.S. connections to/from Emirates long-haul flights.
Of course, the same is true with American Airlines and helps to explain its new service between New York and Doha (though that flight does not seem to attract many passengers thus far…a warning that Gulf carriers cannot provide such a soft product premium that customers are driven away).
I don’t think U.S. carriers have suddenly had a total change of heart about Gulf carriers. These are still competitors and both Emirates and Qatar Airways arguably receive the better end of the deal with these new strategic relationships in the USA, namely access to immense connecting traffic for its long-haul flights. But U.S. carriers have figured out that if they want a shot at the Indian market in the current conditions, working with these carriers represents the least of two risky choices (the other being abandoning the market altogether).
U.S. carriers are cozying up to Gulf carriers in large part due to the geopolitical realities of the day. While codeshares can theoretically be helpful regardless of airspace closures, it is the difficulty of serving key markets that now brings once-reluctant U.S. airlines to the table.
Matthew is an avid traveler who calls Los Angeles home. Each year he travels more than 200,000 miles by air and has visited more than 135 countries. Working both in the aviation industry and as a travel consultant, Matthew has been featured in major media outlets around the world and uses his Live and Let’s Fly blog to share the latest news in the airline industry, commentary on frequent flyer programs, and detailed reports of his worldwide travel.
Too bad they don’t seem able to launch flights to India and the rest of the subcontinent via European cities. Either way, people are either going to have to connect via Europe or the Middle East.
Maybe Europe would see those flights as competition they can’t afford to deal with, while the ME3 think the opposite.
“American Airlines and helps to explain its new service between New York and Doha (though that flight does not seem to attract many passengers thus far…a warning that Gulf carriers cannot provide such a soft product premium that customers are driven away).”
I don’t follow this. I thought hard product was the seat, and soft was the service. Don’t Gulf carriers excel on soft? Perhaps its the jargon I’m not following.
Probably a typo. He probably meant “American carriers.”
Well, Matthew is wrong here. AA’s flights to Doha arent as empty as he seems to think they are; they are rather standard for what is a ramp up period. What he fails to consider for why they may not be full every time? The schedule provides horrendous connectivity at Doha. The flight from JFK arrives just after a wave of Qatar flights departs at 9PM and there’s not another bank of flights for nearly 4 hours til 1AM. And even then, during that bank there are NO flights to India. There are flights to Europe, Pakistan, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Asia, eastern Africa, and the U.S. There are NO flights to India until nearly 24 hours after this flight arrives into Doha. So, no, this flight at least does nothing to solve AA’s India access “problem”. It does, though, provide access to many currently-popular destinations in the Middle East, Indian Ocean, Easter/Southern Africa, and Asia. Any broad/ generic comments about this flight not transporting many customers because of a lack of service quality on AA vs QR are premature at best, when the reality is that the flight is ramping up and has very long connection times to destinations that might not prove to be as popular as expected. Matthew should do some deeper analysis before making such grand pronouncements.
Do you work for American Airlines?
Jason, no offense here, but Matthew is right.
AA’s route to Doha is a failed route, much like AA is becoming a failed airline.
I don’t know how you can stand here and say it’s doing well, I looked at the seat map and can’t find a date it is more than half full. It is a complete disaster, and is getting downgraded from the “flagship” 777-300 to a 777-200, and soon it will be downgraded to nothing as it will be canceled.
Also, there is nothing “flagship” about any of American’s fleet.
I never said it’s doing well. I simply said it’s early and there’s really no way of telling. I also said that his supposition that it’s dependent on connections to India is false, as I can look at schedules and see that it’s technically impossible to connect to India from that flight. I can also see where the connections are offered as I’ve noted here. All of this through fljghtradar24. I’ve looked at seat maps too and seen that it’s it can be very directional. For instance, it’s pretty empty going to Doha these days, but it’s full the other direction. Which isn’t surprising. Summer is over, people are coming home. Either way, it’s too early to tell how it will do, I find a route whose whole purpose is supplying connections economically questionable at best, and will be interesting to see how it pans out. I also don’t think that AA’s lack
Of competitiveness in its soft product necessarily doom
It to failure. There are many reasons people choose a flight, with price being normally the number 1 consideration. AA has shown for years its ability to compete against airlines with plusher products, can’t see why they wouldn’t here
@Jason. “I find a route whose whole purpose is supplying connections economically questionable at best, and will be interesting to see how it pans out.”
If you actually believe this you should present your data to 80% of all the world’s airlines. Because, wow, they are in for a shock that for years they have been doing it all wrong.
Stuart- when you’re connecting your passengers all on your own metal and can keep all the revenue for yourself that’s one thing. When you have to split the revenue with another airline, as American has to do on a ticket it sells where jfk-doh is on AA and the DOH-XXX is on QR, it is a different thing. They dont share revenue, they have to split it based on a number of factors. AA only keeps the revenue for the JFK-DOH flight, and on a $1,500 roundtrip ticket (just making it up) from JFK to Colombo or whatever, the net amount that AA keeps is relatively small, and it’s questionable whether it’s enough to support a long haul flight such as this.
@Jason Yes, I am aware of how it works. But the craziest thing is that many airlines have successfully been doing this for years. I am not saying the AA and the JFK Doha venture is working, as I think AA is too weak at JFK to get the full results. But I do see feeding flights in both directions and with different metal is happening in many other cases. Ex…Star Alliance, LH from Bangalore to FRA, UA to IAD, UA to Asheville as an example of an itinerary where everyone wins. Or, the reverse, UA from STL to IAD, LH to MUC, LH to VIE. There needs to be connectivity on both ends. In these cases it works brilliantly in a tit for tat. And clearly, after how many years of alliances do you honestly think they are not succeeding?
Stuart- UA/LH, BA/AA, DL/kL/AF have a different type of alliance. They have, over their respective transatlantic networks, antitrust immunized alliances, blessed by their respective governments, that allow them to price, plan, market, and share revenue for all itineraries. They don’t care if you fly, for example, on delta or Air France to Paris. Revenue is shared. AA and QR don’t have that. They only get the revenue for the segments they operate. AA wants you on their flight, not on QR’s flight, on the North Atlantic segment. They do not share revenues. It’s a very type of relationship where they’re still competitors. Regardless, their relationship is nascent and will be interesting to see how it develops.
And Delta is left with… Saudia? Lol
Or they will likely rely on KLM/AF more to service that part of the region
At this point Etihad is going to have to take a serious look at SkyTeam. I mean, not sure what else they can do other than go the route of Gulf Air and be niche. But yeah, as well, Skyteam seriously needs to be courting Etihad or be left with, umm, as you said, Saudia, lol.
I have never flown with Saudia, and not keen on the Kingdom’s politics, but I understand that it’s quite a decent airline nowadays.
As someone who used to be SkyTeam E+ for a decade before being forced to switch to *A due to the virtual disappearance of my home airline (CSA), I have to say that it always came across as more accommodating and passenger-friendly than Star does. Even the lowest status gives you extra luggage, while access to contract lounges for E+ isn’t being taken away like what happens with SK and UA (and TP and LH until a while ago), and I had gotten into lounges on super cheap Air Europa domestic flights even if it technically isn’t part of the status benefits. I think that a lot of people overlook the alliance because of the lack of ‘aspirational’ first class options and some members which are solid airlines with relatively limited brand recognition (e.g. MEA, VN, or even Aeroméxico) but it’s at least as good as its competitors.
These partnerships may be good to start with until AI gets DL’s B777’s this October and also new A350’s starting March’2023. AI is mostly going to double capacity on current routes and also launch new routes like DFW, LAX etc. With improved soft and hard products, most Indian travellers will prefer travelling non-stop rather connecting in Middle East and United Hubs in US
Who is AI? If you’re referring to American Airlines people typically type AA not AI.
He probably means AI, the code for Air India.
Ah that makes sense, thank you. Why can Air India fly over Russia from SFO but United can’t? Just curious
Interestingly, both United and AI fly from Chicago to Delhi, but United’s flight is longer since they don’t fly over Russia, but AI does.
Because India has not imposed sanctions or any restrictions on Russia. Same for the ME countries (and Turkey) and why they are all able to fly there and over. They attempt to take the neutral ground with the idea that they serve as a bridge towards peace. You can surmise what you like from that. Follow the money.
Yeah, AI doesn’t seem to have any issues with flying over Russia.
Its other way around. Russia trusts India as their ally and they have no issues with AI flights over their airspace
Nothing to do with Russia trusting India, it’s because as Stuart said above, “India has not imposed sanctions or any restrictions on Russia. Same for the ME countries (and Turkey) and why they are all able to fly there and over.”
Well, Russia has not officially banned anyone from its airspace. UK started it first by banning Russian Flights from its airspace. Rest of Europe and USA/Canada/Japan followed and ended up shooting themselves in the foot. Guessing all their leaders and their experienced advisors skipped elementary school geography and never knew Russia was a vast country and that Polar flights had been a thing for over two decades. Hope Climate Change activists never get to know about the extra Carbon Footprint of all their Airlines.
“It’s Putin’s fault”
It’s Trump’s fault.
I used to fly EWR-BOM roundtrip on UA once a month for years pre-pandemic. It used to be an easy way to book PE and upgrade using PP. My options to get to BOM on UA are limited now and it has also made requalifying for 1K tougher.
United should add more service to Delhi , even a second one out of EWR and connect customers there with with partners Air India and Vistara to other Indian cities .
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