American adds new transcontinental route to Orange County


American Airlines is going long in Orange County, California.

The carrier just filed a brand-new transcontinental route to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA) from its hub at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).

The new daily service begins July 5 and will run through Aug. 14, as first seen in Cirium schedules.

American will deploy a 196-seat Airbus A321neo, which features 20 first-class recliners, 47 Main Cabin Extra seats and 129 economy seats, on the route.

Though the 2,099-mile flight is only loaded for six weeks during the peak summer season, American may decide to extend the schedule if the service performs well.

This is just the latest addition for American in Orange County. During the pandemic, the airline added a new transcontinental route to New York, operated by the 102-seat Airbus A321T (the swankiest jet in the fleet), which features 10 Flagship First pods, 20 Flagship Business lie-flats and 72 economy seats — half of which are in an extra-legroom configuration.

Also, the carrier added service from Austin to Orange County in June 2022, as part of a big expansion in the Texas capital.

All of this growth in Orange County is coming because the airline likely wants to tap into the airport’s catchment area, one of the nation’s most affluent.

In a statement confirming the move, American shared:

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This route addition is yet another example of American’s commitment to offer customers the largest network of any U.S. airline through the summer, with on average nearly 600 peak daily departures from our CLT hub. The addition of CLT broadens our network out of SNA to six destinations, including Austin, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, and Phoenix.

American’s SNA routes. CIRIUM

Securing takeoff and landing rights in Orange County is notoriously competitive. SNA is popular among locals and visitors who want to avoid the much larger and busier Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The Orange County authorities use slots to limit the amount of air traffic in the area. Though there’s no federally administered slot program at SNA in the traditional sense (to control capacity), local officials cap commercial passenger traffic for noise abatement and other reasons.

Each year, airport authorities release an allocation of daily flights, known as ADDs, that each airline can fly. American won 19 ADDs for 2023.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether American was cutting frequencies on another route to make room for the new Charlotte flight, and a carrier spokesperson declined to share further details.

This quirky slot allocation process is why Southwest needed to cut some Orange County routes earlier this year.

Interestingly, as American boosts transcontinental connectivity from Southern California, United Airlines is too. The Chicago-based carrier filed plans late last year to drop its Hawaii service from SNA in favor of an additional flight from SNA to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

American’s new flight will operate as Flight No. 2099 — seemingly a reference to the number of miles between Charlotte and Orange County.


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