Micro-AAggression: American is smaller in Asia than its rivals. And that’s okay.

Give it credit for honest self assessment. In American’s latest annual report, the airline admits: “Our presence in international markets, such as Asia, is not as extensive as that of some of our competitors.”

Is American being too hard on itself? Is the depth and breadth of its international network really a liability? American’s Latin American presence, no question, is second to none. True, its European footprint is by most measures a bit smaller than United’s, and substantially smaller than Delta’s. But it’s top dog in what’s by far the most important market of all (London). Does it have a point in singling out Asia as a major weak spot?

In 2017, a mere 5% of American’s revenues came from the broader Asia-Pacific region, which also includes Australia and New Zealand. Delta, by contrast, generated 7% of its revenues from Asia. United? It’s the big beast in Asia among U.S. carriers, sourcing 13% of its revenues there. American is much smaller than either United or Delta in Japan, where (unlike them) it never possessed a Tokyo Narita hub. American is smallest among the three in mainland China. It’s smallest among the three in Korea. Unlike United and Delta, none of American’s planes touch the ASEAN region. In west Asia, unlike United and Delta, none of American’s planes touch the Middle East. And unlike United and soon Delta, none of American’s planes touch the Indian subcontinent.

Another way in which American is not like United and Delta: Its merger—with US Airways— gave it precisely nothing in Asia. Northwest, by contrast, gave Delta a large overnight Asian presence. Continental gave United a powerful New York-area hub with which to serve markets like Japan, China and India. Houston works for Japan flights too.

There you have it: American is the minnow among its peers in Asia. How concerned should it be?

Maybe not so concerned. There’s more to success than just market share, and Delta’s larger market share, in fact, belies strategic dilemmas arguably more challenging than those facing American. This might change as Delta addresses its shortcomings with its new Korean Air joint venture (its recently-announced Minneapolis-Seoul flights being one example of something that would’ve been unimaginable before the JV but should now be perfectly viable). But American, too, has its own big plans for…

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