On June 2, American commenced a major expansion of its route network, with 21 new nonstop routes this month. This includes 10 new destinations just from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), marking the largest expansion ever at LAX.
Thursday saw the largest number of inaugural flights, with eight ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Los Angeles that day, something the carrier had never done before in its history. I was invited to be part of the festivities and join the entourage, which included Jim Moses, the Managing Director (MD) for American at LAX. What does a day full of ribbon cutting ceremonies look like, you ask…?
Originally announced back on January 20 during a special event at the Hollywood Bowl, June marked the largest piece of American’s aggressive expansion out of LAX:
- June 2
- Seattle (SEA), 5x Daily
- Portland (PDX), 3x Daily
- Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), 2x Daily
- Anchorage (ANC), Daily (seasonal)
- Hartford (BDL), Daily
- Kansas City (MCI), Daily
- New Orleans (MSY), Daily
- Omaha (OMA), Daily
- June 4
- Durango (DRO), Saturdays (seasonal)
- June 23
- Auckland, New Zealand (AKL), Daily
As a side note, you may have noticed that a few of the routes overlap with Alaska Airlines’ mainstay flights (SEA, PDX, ANC). When asked about the potential competition against a close partner and the optics possibly being detrimental, it was pointed out that Alaska actually placed its codes on these new flights as part of a quiet expansion of American’s and Alaska’s codeshare agreement, giving passengers of both airlines access to more flights.
Along with these new destinations from LAX, American also launched new routes from:
- Charlotte (CLT) to San Jose (SJC)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Boise (BOI), Bozeman (BZN), and Santa Barbara (SBA)
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Sacramento (SMF)
- New York LaGuardia (LGA) to Bangor (BGR), Louisville (SDF), Martha’s Vineyard (MVY), Myrtle Beach (MYR), and Nantucket (ACK)
- Phoenix (PHX) to Redmond/Bend (RDM)
With such a great opportunity to witness so much potential commotion, I set my alarm to wake up at an unholy hour and headed towards LAX to hit the ground running… because #AvGeek.
5:45 am: Leave for LAX, giving myself a little extra time in case of traffic.
6:00 am: Get caught in traffic. Welcome to LA!
6:50 am: Oh hey, there’s Donald Trump’s private 757. Hard to miss.
7:00 am: Park my car at LAX’s P4 parking lot, across from Terminal 4 (T4). Departure for the first new flight of the day (to Seattle, SEA) is at 7:55 am.
7:05 am: Arrive at American’s exclusive Flagship Check-In area in T4. Get escorted with a couple of New York/JFK-bound first-class passengers to the front of the security line. Thanks Tony!
7:10 am: Get through the T4 security checkpoint, check the flight departure boards; the flight to SEA is departing from Gate 60D in the remote terminal. D’oh!
7:15 am: Having missed the departing shuttle bus and watching it pull away, wait for the next shuttle to the remote terminal for regional flights by American Eagle, colloquially known as the “Eagle’s Nest.”
7:20 am: Next shuttle departs for the Eagle’s Nest. A couple of stoppages for crossing aircraft traffic; great at normal times, not so great when running late.
7:25 am: Arrive at Eagle’s Nest, just in the nick of time for Ribbon Cutting #1. Only seven more to go. Waiting passengers are quietly pleased to be on the first of five daily flights by AA from LAX to SEA, this one operated by a Compass Airlines Embraer E175. MD has a few words welcoming the passengers. The flight crew and some ground staff from Eagle participate in the ceremony. Boarding starts immediately, and Flight 5944 departs on time at 7:55 am.
7:35 am: Entourage breaks down the equipment at Gate 60D and head for the next inaugural, Flight 552 to Kansas City (MCI) departing from Gate 61 in the main Terminal 6 (T6) building. But no bus for us… we get a company van! The perks of tagging along with the station MD. I even get to ride shotgun… then the MD half-jokes about how bad the driver is. I’d like to thank Veronica for getting us around in one piece with minimal damage to surrounding aircraft and only one close-call with a cone.
7:40 am: Arrive at Gate 61 and quickly set up for the ceremony. This time, a giant novelty check in the amount of $2,675 raised by AA employees is presented to the Los Angeles Mission. Mood continues to be festive, and passengers are off to Kansas City on time. Ribbon #2 is cut.
7:55 am: Another van ride, this time to T4 for a 9:50 am departure to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) out of Gate 42B. Finding parking was more difficult than in Downtown LA. With a little bit of breathing room, entourage takes a small break before the next ceremony. I use one of the new workstations installed by AA in T4 to charge up my laptop and phone.
8:45 am: N801AW, a former US Airways Airbus A319, is pulled into Gate 42B.
9:15 am: The entourage reassembles for Ribbon Cutting #3 at Gate 42B.
9:40 am: Another short break before the next inaugural to New Orleans (MSY) at 11:15am, scheduled to be right across the concourse at Gate 45. Entourage recesses; I head out to repark my plug-in hybrid car into a charging station. None available at P6 parking, so have to go out to P1 and make the 10-15 minute walk back to T4. Cut across the parking garages to T7, then walk past T6 and T5 back to Flagship Check-In.
10:00 am: Make it back to T4, where Tony again provides an escort to the front of the security line, all the way to the x-ray belt, and even has a bin ready for me. Flagship service ain’t no joke.
10:05 am: Arrive back at Gate 45… to see the previous flight to Lihue still there. A quick check of the monitor shows a gate change for Flight 2580 to MSY… to Gate 63… in T6. D’oh!
10:10 am: Head down to Terminal Transfers again. Large crowd waiting for the T6 bus. They must have been waiting a while, because 3/4 of them gave up and left to walk through the tunnels to T6. Two minutes later, the T6 shuttle bus shows up.
10:10 am: Back on the shuttle bus, this time directly to T6.
10:15 am: Arrive at T6 and head for Gate 63.
10:25 am: A special guest joins the entourage, the mascot for the Los Angeles Clippers, Chuck the California Condor. Chuck makes his rounds entertaining passengers, and given the destination, they seemed enthusiastic about Ribbon Cutting #4 and nonplussed about the gate change, accepting the MD’s apology, though some request free drinks. One of AA’s other managers quips that there will be complimentary beverages for all, so long as they are soft drinks. Chuckles all around.
10:45 am: Passengers start boarding for an on-time departure of Flight 2580, operated by a Boeing 737-800. Entourage heads for another van ride back to the Eagle’s Nest, with Chuck in tow. Chuck continues his antics down the T6 concourse, and several passengers take advantage of the photo op.
10:50 am: Chuck almost opens a secured door to the ramp, which would have caused a terminal evacuation. Chuck is sorry.
10:55 am: Back at the Eagle’s Nest for a 11:35 am departure to Portland (author’s note: The Clippers fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, four games to two, losing the last four games straight. Ouch.). Find out that Flight 5926 pushed back to 12:19 pm (slight ouch… and strangely precise).
11:00 am: Chuck gets antsy and is back to his antics. Absconds with a bag of potato chips from the sandwich counter. Takes a passenger’s water bottle from her carryon. Walks away with another passenger’s entire rollaboard. Does somersaults down the concourse. You know, normal stuff one does while waiting for a delayed flight. Complimentary soft drinks, water, and healthy snacks are available by Gate 60I to waiting passengers.
11:20 am: Ribbon Cutting #5 gets underway. MD apologizes for the slight delay due to inbound aircraft (another E175), passengers are in a forgiving mood.
11:35 am: Entourage piles back into the van for a ride back to T4 and American’s administrative offices. One last post with Chuck and Jim.
11:40 am: With a seven-hour gap until the next bank of inaugurals (6:25 pm to Omaha, 7:35 pm to Anchorage, and 9:15pm to Hartford), the entourage disbands to take care of business. I get to check out the view from the MD’s office for a bit.
It must be nice to be in charge.
Shortly afterward, I pull a total “L.A. move”… as much as I would have liked to stay for the remaining inaugurals, I made the executive decision to head out before the evening rush hour hits. It was an exciting, if exhausting, series of mini-celebrations that punctuated American’s serious post-merger commitment to expanding service to/from LAX and beyond.