Recognizing the potential benefits that a larger, more financially stable airline could have on both national and regional economies, American Airlines and US Airways joined forces in late 2013 to form the American Airlines Group (American). Although it has been just under a year since the merger became official, the upside – especially in greater Philadelphia – is already clear: consumers of all types now enjoy improved air travel options. The stronger airline has helped create a stronger economy, and more capacity has allowed American to make an even bigger economic impact on the region’s communities and businesses.
The new American Airlines allows Greater Philadelphia to raise their expectations of airlines. Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is now our largest hub in the northeast. American now offers more than 125 domestic and 32 international destinations, including 20 peak season non-stop flights to Europe. This extensive service permits travelers throughout the region to go more places faster. Operating 483 daily peak departures, nearly every type of consumer in every part of the region, from southern New Jersey to Delaware and everywhere in between, is experiencing first-hand what a stronger airline can do for them.
Businesses now have greater access to new customers and new markets – both in the United States and abroad. This presents a lucrative opportunity for companies looking to expand by opening more doors and allowing them to better compete in an increasingly globalized economy. Companies in all parts of the region are now being better served. Not only can they seamlessly send executives to Europe on uninterrupted, non-stop flights, but they can also move cargo and products to a broader range of places throughout the world.
In addition to transporting passengers, American also carries 111 million pounds of cargo on an annual basis – a figure that is sure to increase with the announcement of a new 25,000 square-foot cold storage facility at PHL. A $5 million investment, this new facility will triple current warehousing capacity and will be designed to house a full range of temperature-sensitive products being shipped in and out of the strategically important northeast corridor. Not only will this strengthen the many pharmaceutical companies currently headquartered in the Philadelphia region, but it will enhance business opportunities for many of our UK based pharmaceutical business partners. Investments such as this at PHL will also serve as an incentive to others to consider relocating their operations and new jobs to the Delaware Valley.
Leisure travelers stand to benefit from a stronger regional economy. But in addition, more flights being operated by the same airline has meant increased connectivity to more cities – allowing people to get more places when they want to. Joe Taney, vice president of American’s international gateway here at PHL, has kept his team’s focus on improving the overall customer experience for both originating and connecting customers. “It’s our role to constantly look for ways to make air travel as smooth as possible,” Taney says. “For our international customers, American recently partnered with US Customs and Border Patrol, and the Division of Aviation at PHL to implement Automated Passport Control kiosks which will help reduce the line waits, as you arrive from another country, allowing you to move easily to your connecting flight, or get to your car much quicker.”
A Stronger Airline and a Stronger Economy
Bringing American Airlines and US Airways together to form the world’s largest airline has put the company on more stable financial ground. As a result, the Philadelphia region’s economy is stronger because of the rebound by one of its largest employers. At the height of the airline industry’s turmoil, news about potential bankruptcies seemed to be a regular occurrence. Since the merger, the tenor seems to have changed and the benefits are becoming clear.
Today, American has nearly 7,600 employees at PHL and is by far the largest airline employer in Pennsylvania. While their jobs may be located in Pennsylvania, our employees call every corner of the region home – neighbor states Delaware and New Jersey included – helping to spread the economic benefits across the region. In short, financial stability has created additional opportunities for careers to begin, flourish, and remain for years, and has also allowed American to make major upgrades.
In 2014, American invested $5.6 billion in new aircraft. This investment marks the largest aircraft order in aviation history – 556 jets in total – and with two new planes arriving each week, American is on pace to be the youngest fleet in the skies by 2017. Not only will this raise the bar for aircraft quality, but the size of this investment will have an enormous impact on both the regional and national economies.
Even as separate companies, American Airlines and US Airways made significant philanthropic contributions to the communities in which they operated. But when the industry hit turbulence, those efforts became increasingly difficult to balance as they struggled to maintain basic operations. As a larger airline with more stable financial footing, the new American has been able to make an even greater impact.
Our dedication to supporting and strengthening communities through charitable giving remains unchanged. In 2014, American has already donated over $750,000 to nearly 60 local charities and cultural institutions, including the United Way, MANNA, the Police Athletic League, the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, and others. In addition, our employees, who had already built a reputation for performing substantial volunteer service prior to the merger, remain committed and steadfast in giving back.
“Do Crew” members – American Airlines’ employee volunteer service organization – recently participated in the 34th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games, which were held in Philadelphia. With more than 600 athletes, 1,200 wheelchairs and constantly-changing travel schedules, the execution of smooth travel through PHL took an extraordinary level of coordination across departments, airport stakeholders, TSA and the USO. From the Ramp Teams who unloaded and loaded the wheelchairs, to the customer assistance representatives and Agents who assisted the athletes from the aircraft and the ten “Do Crew” volunteers, it was truly an example of coordinated American teamwork at its finest.
Clearer Skies Ahead
It is no secret that the airline industry faced difficult times in recent years. Even before the recession caused severe additional pain, indicators had already been trending in a troublesome direction. For example, the cost of many everyday items has steadily risen since 2000 but air travel has not – roundtrip domestic ticket prices have gone up just 19% versus the 141% increase in the cost of a gallon of gasoline or the 147% increase in annual undergraduate tuition. With already dwindling revenues, the significant reduction in consumer spending during the recession exacerbated the problem.
The shared benefits of the decision to merge – by the Philadelphia region’s consumers, employees, and communities alike – are clear reasons to believe that the positive results will continue to add up. American has proven to be a model for the airline industry to follow as it continues to rebound by demonstrating the impact that a larger airline on more stable financial footing can have. Given that all of this has taken place in less than one year, there is reason to believe that the future has never been brighter.