American Airlines will drop its flights between Chicago and Shanghai in October along with reducing frequency on its services from the Windy City to Tokyo in December, as the carrier contends with high fuel costs and reduced profitability on the routes.

The carrier has sought a dormancy waiver from the US Department of Transportation (DoT) that would suspend the service but allow it to return to the market “once conditions improve”, American Airlines said in a statement yesterday.

American Airlines’ final flight from Chicago (ORD) to Shanghai (PVG) will depart on October 26 followed by its last eastbound flight the following day. Affected passengers will be re-accommodated on alternative flights.

Meanwhile beginning December 18, the carrier will be dialling back frequency on its currently daily service between Chicago and Tokyo (NRT) to just three times per week.

Speaking about the decision to pull back on the two Chicago routes to Asia, Vasu Raja, vice president of network and schedule planning at American Airlines, said that the carrier remains “strongly committed to Asia” and will continue to offer non-stop services to both Shanghai and Tokyo through its hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX).

“Our Chicago-Shanghai service is unprofitable and simply not sustainable in this high fuel cost environment and when we have opportunities to be successful in other markets,” said Raja.

“These adjustments to our Asia service are necessary in this high fuel cost environment, but we remain committed to the network we’ve worked hard to build.”

This is the second route to mainland China that American Airlines will be suspending this October, following the carrier’s announcement in May that it would be similarly suspending its Chicago-Beijing service as of October 20. At the time, Raja noted the airline would be seeking access to operate flights at the upcoming Beijing Daxing International Airport, which is set to open next year.

The decision came shortly after the long-awaited launch of American’s non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Beijing last November – a route the airline fought hard to set up, having first filed its request to launch the route with the DoT back in March 2016.

The service’s initial planned launch that December was eventually pushed back, owing to a lack of suitable slots, and in the interim the carrier had to fight off advances from rival US carrier Delta Air Lines to launch its own service on the route.

American Airlines has stated that it will continue to operate its non-stop services to Shanghai from DFW and LAX, alongside flights from Chicago to Shanghai via Tokyo Narita, in conjunction with its Pacific Joint Business partner, Japan Airlines.

The Japanese carrier is also set to compensate somewhat for American’s reduction to its Chicago-Tokyo service. Together the two airlines will offer 10 weekly flights between the two cities from December 18 onwards, with Japan Airlines set to increase this to a combined twice a day offering during the peak summer months between June and August next year.

American Airlines’ reductions to its Asia services were announced alongside a raft of expansions across its European network with nine new routes set to launch next summer, including:

  • A daily year-round service between Charlotte (CLT) and Munich (MUC).
  • A daily summer seasonal service between DFW and Dublin (DUB) and to MUC.
  • A daily summer seasonal service between ORD and Athens (ATH).
  • A daily summer seasonal service between Philadelphia (PHL) and Edinburgh (EDI).
  • Summer seasonal services between PHL and Berlin (TXL), Bologna (BLG) and Dubrovnik (DBV)
  • A daily seasonal service between Phoenix (PHX) and London (LHR).

Last month, American Airlines began offering premium economy on its Dallas/Fort Worth-Hong Kong flights for the first time, as part of its aggressive overhauling of its entire Boeing 777 fleet with the cabins.

The airline aims to roll out premium economy on all of its flights to and from Asia-Pacific within the next 12 or so months.