Sep 13, 2020 | Dallas Morning News
Move over Los Angeles, DFW International Airport is poised to become the gateway to the Asian Pacific for American Airlines.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines is moving much of its Asian traffic from the Southern California international flying hub to DFW, a move that could open more opportunities for North Texas to access business and leisure destinations but disrupt how much of the country gets across the Pacific.
American is making the move after decades of considering LAX its trans-Pacific hub to fly to destinations such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and even Auckland, New Zealand. But the landscape is changing with the growth of traffic across the Pacific.
“Dallas certainly doesn’t have the best geography for an Asian hub,” said Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network and schedule planning. “But it does have some advantages in connecting people in the Southeast [United States] to Asia.”
American made the decision in June when it was trying to piece back together an international schedule that had been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which first hit Asia and quickly affected travel to Asia from the U.S.
It was overshadowed at the time by the massive restructuring airlines were undertaking to survive the pandemic, including efforts to trim payrolls and convince passengers it’s safe to fly. While it could take years for international air traffic to recover to previous levels, American is starting to show why making DFW its trans-Pacific hub makes sense.
DFW's international passenger count grew in 2019
DFW International Airport's 9.5 million international passengers in 2019 was a 10% increase from the year before, the biggest leap of any of the 10 largest U.S. airports for foreign travel.
Growth at DFW
American’s emphasis on its DFW hub started even before the pandemic.
Last year, it fulfilled a plan to put 900 flights a day out of DFW, its fortress hub that can connect to nearly any other location it serves in the country. About 26% of all of American’s traffic goes through DFW, almost twice as much as what goes through its next biggest hub in Charlotte, N.C.
That makes DFW an attractive launching point for Asia because it would be a single stop for most of American’s U.S. travelers, said Nico Mirman, a Dallas-based aviation consultant with Ailevon Pacific. DFW is also a convenient connecting point for travelers from Latin America, Mirman said.
“What American is probably thinking is to capitalize on the huge amount of connectivity that they get here,” Mirman said. “That’s something Los Angeles cannot offer for them.”