American Airlines will be starting a new long-haul service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH) from June 4th. The new route will be the airline’s only flight to Qatar and will target one-stop connections from New York to a plethora of destinations in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Here is an inside look at the new route.
Targeting connecting travelers
This route is all about connecting traffic for American Airlines. Brian Znotins, American’s Vice President for Network and Schedule Planning, stated the following to Simple Flying in an interview on the new services:
“There’s very little demand to Doha itself. Obviously, you do have the World Cup there next fall, and that’s something that we will see a lot of local demand for. But in terms of the run rate performance of this flight, it’s all about connections to India, Africa and the Middle East.”
Based on schedules filed with Cirium, American’s flights are scheduled to depart JFK at 01:00 and arrive the same day in DOH at 20:30. The return flight will leave DOH at 01:35 and land in JFK at 08:30. All times are local. Qatar Airways has 18 flights per week between New York and Doha, including a four-weekly service that lines up with the American Airlines flight. American Airlines may be taking this specific flight time over from Qatar Airways to enable more consistent daily connections.
This is timed for connections across the Qatar Airways network. This includes operations to places in the Middle East, like Muscat, leisure destinations like Male, and destinations across parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Doha is a hub that is positioned well for this kind of traffic flow from New York.
Why New York and not another hub
New York already has a significant amount of service to Doha. American’s second-largest hub, Charlotte, has no service to Doha, unlike many other American hubs like Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. When asked about why New York over a hub like Charlotte, Mr. Znotins stated the following:
“There’s just more demand from JFK to all of these Indian and African and Middle Eastern points. Charlotte, we would be more relying on double connections. Charlotte is a great connecting hub for us. We have great success there. But in that kind of route, we’d be depending on double connects across our system, and we think the New York option just provides more demand for that flight.”
American Airlines is clearly targeting the New York-originating customer. For years, American has held a reduced position in New York because of a limited slot profile. Thanks to the partnership with JetBlue, American has grown in relevance to New York-area customers and used the JetBlue hub as a springboard to launch many new long-haul services ranging from Athens to New Delhi.
American will benefit from being able to sell some connections across its network and the JetBlue network, but that would be incremental to fill some extra seats on the flight to Doha. The goal is to drive more traffic through Doha to the Qatar Airways network and thus sell more one-stop itineraries to additional points in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This is in supplement to American’s flights to this part of the world. American flies to New Delhi and Tel Aviv from JFK, and more is likely on the way once American gets more long-haul widebodies.
New York is also an airport with premium facilities to handle the types of travelers American is looking to fly on its aircraft. The airline has a premium lounge space called the Flagship Lounge, which is accessible by premium international long-haul passengers and select other elites. Within this space, there is also the Flagship First Dining facility, which offers an exclusive on-the-ground dining experience. Charlotte does not have a Flagship Lounge, let alone Flagship First Dining.
From American’s international hub in New York at JFK, the airline will operate daily nonstop service to Doha starting on June 4th. At the start of the service, American Airlines will fly the Boeing 777-300ER on this route. The 777-300ER will operate through the end of the busy summer months. In September, American will switch the aircraft down to a Boeing 777-200ER.
The Boeing 777-300ER carries more passengers than the -200ER. American has configured its 777-300ERs in a four-class configuration. This includes eight lie-flat Flagship First Class seats. An office-style seat, this is the only long-haul international first class product American Airlines offers. This cabin is in a 1-2-1 configuration. Following this are 52 Flagship Business Class seats. These are reverse herringbone seats that are lie-flat and also in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Following this cabin are 28 premium economy seats. These are recliner-style seats that are similar to domestic first class seats and is in a 2-4-2 configuration. Lastly, there are 28 extra-legroom economy seats and 188 standard economy seats. Both of these cabins are in a 3-4-3 configuration. All passengers will receive access to on-demand entertainment via a seatback screen as well as WiFi for purchase. Power is also available at all seats.
The Boeing 777-200ERs seat 273 passengers in a three-class configuration. There are 37 lie-flat Flagship Business seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Following this are 24 premium economy seats, also in a 2-4-2 configuration. Lastly, there are 66 extra-legroom economy seats and 146 standard economy seats, both of which are in a 3-4-3 configuration. Like the Boeing 777-300ER, the same seatback entertainment, WiFi, and power are available for all customers.
New York is home to a Boeing 777 pilot base at American Airlines. Currently, American has no Boeing 787s based at the airport. As a result, the 777 is the airline’s choice of aircraft to make the route. American is separately facing issues with its Boeing 787 order book, as Boeing faces delays with delivering the aircraft.