American Airlines & United Airlines protecting their Los Angeles market share

Back in March I blogged about American Airlines’ expansion out of Los Angeles Airport (LAX) and wondered if United Airlines would respond with beefing up service and/or offer bonus mile opportunities. With the exception of bonus miles to Chicago, courtesy of Virgin America’s entry to ORD, no additional bonus offers have come through on United. Selfishly, I was hoping for a market-based double elite qualifying mile (DEQM) promotion.

On May 20th United did launch new nonstop service to Shanghai, and advertising has been heavy here in the Los Angeles Times. Slightly off topic, the large wrap around print ad in the May 20th paper pictured left (clickable) states “Lucky for you the Boeing 777 flying to Shanghai features our new International First and Business Class cabins with true 180-degree flat-bed seats so you can be well prepared for business when you get there.”  Since conversions of United’s 777s are ongoing (or are they?), there still is the risk of getting swapped to an old configuration non-lie flat aircraft on that route, so making such a bold statement might come back to bite them.

Other United print ads in the Times have been frequent, almost daily, so United does indeed want to protect its share of the LAX market, but perhaps not grow it. I’ll be keeping an eye on overall passenger traffic data in the coming months to see if I can detect any movement of loyalty. As it stands, American Airlines is the leading carrier in passenger departures so far this year with 962,683 people flying out of LAX on the carrier to United’s 852,392 for the first quarter 2011 results.

I’m still kind of hoping for a stronger push by United here in Los Angeles, but given recent comments by executives of the carrier, I might be hoping for nothing. Zane Rowe, CFO and Executive Vice President of United recently advised that United is more focused on return on invested capital than that of market share. Also, putting my business hat on, it really doesn’t make sense to add capacity at this time domestically. Still, though, a DEQM promotion would be a fairly inexpensive way to keep we Angelinos loyal to the tulip globe.

With that, I wish you all a safe & enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be taking a break from blogging until Tuesday May 31st.

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