Why Is American Airlines So Expensive?

American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, but its prices are often much higher than discount carriers. If you’re wondering why your American Airlines flight cost so much, there are several factors that contribute to the airline’s high fares.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: American Airlines operates a hub-and-spoke system which reduces competition and enables higher fares. It offers more amenities than low-cost carriers, has higher operating costs, and caters more to business travelers who are less price-sensitive.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key reasons behind American Airlines’ costly airfares and tips to find cheaper tickets.

American Airlines Operates a Hub-and-Spoke Network

American Airlines, like many other major airlines, operates a hub-and-spoke network. This means that they have specific airports, known as hubs, where they concentrate a large number of their flights. These hubs are strategically located in major cities across the United States, such as Dallas, Chicago, and Miami.

Less competition at hub airports enables higher fares

One of the reasons why American Airlines can be more expensive is the limited competition at their hub airports. Since American Airlines dominates the market at these hubs, they have more control over pricing.

With fewer competitors to drive prices down, American Airlines can set their fares at a higher level.

For example, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which is American Airlines’ largest hub, they have a significant market share. This allows them to charge higher prices because passengers have limited options when it comes to choosing a different airline.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines with a dominant market share at a specific airport tend to have higher fares compared to airports with more competition. This is because competition drives airlines to lower their prices in order to attract passengers.

Connecting flights raise costs

Another factor that contributes to the higher prices of American Airlines is the nature of their hub-and-spoke network. When passengers book a flight with American Airlines, they often have to make a connection at one of their hubs.

This means that they have to take multiple flights to reach their final destination.

Connecting flights can be more expensive than direct flights because they involve more time and resources. American Airlines has to coordinate the schedules of their flights to ensure smooth connections for passengers.

This requires additional planning and operational costs, which are ultimately passed on to the customer.

Furthermore, connecting flights also increase the risk of delays and cancellations. If there is a disruption in one of the connecting flights, it can cause a domino effect and impact the entire journey.

This can result in additional costs for American Airlines, such as providing accommodations or rebooking passengers on alternative flights.

More Amenities Than Discount Airlines

One of the reasons why American Airlines may be more expensive than discount airlines is because they offer a range of amenities that are not typically found on budget carriers. These added perks can greatly enhance the overall travel experience for passengers.

Complimentary food and drinks

Unlike many discount airlines that charge extra for snacks and beverages, American Airlines provides complimentary food and drinks to its passengers. This means that travelers can enjoy a meal or a refreshing beverage during their flight without having to pay extra.

This is especially beneficial for longer flights where passengers may get hungry or thirsty.

Spacious legroom and seating

American Airlines offers more spacious legroom and seating compared to some of the budget airlines. This means that passengers can stretch their legs and have a more comfortable journey, particularly on longer flights.

The additional space allows travelers to relax and enjoy their flight without feeling cramped or restricted.

Airport lounges

American Airlines provides access to airport lounges for certain passengers, such as those flying in first class or business class, or those with elite status. These lounges offer a range of amenities and services, including comfortable seating, complimentary food and drinks, Wi-Fi access, and more.

Passengers can enjoy a quiet and comfortable environment before their flight, making the travel experience more enjoyable and relaxing.

While these amenities may contribute to the higher cost of American Airlines tickets, they can greatly enhance the overall travel experience for passengers. The added comfort, convenience, and services provided by American Airlines make it a preferred choice for those who value a more luxurious and enjoyable journey.

Higher Operating Costs

American Airlines is often criticized for its expensive fares, and one of the main reasons for this is its higher operating costs. Let’s take a closer look at some factors that contribute to these costs:

Older, less fuel-efficient fleet

One significant factor that drives up American Airlines’ operating costs is its older fleet of aircraft. While the airline has been making efforts to modernize its fleet in recent years, a considerable portion of its planes are still older models.

These older aircraft tend to be less fuel-efficient compared to newer models, leading to higher fuel expenses for the airline. Additionally, the maintenance costs for older planes can be higher, further increasing the overall operating costs.

High labor costs

American Airlines also faces higher labor costs compared to some of its competitors. The airline employs a large workforce that includes pilots, flight attendants, ground staff, and maintenance personnel.

While it is important to ensure fair compensation for employees, the higher labor costs can translate into higher ticket prices for passengers. American Airlines has to balance the need to maintain a skilled and dedicated workforce with the necessity of managing costs to remain competitive in the market.

Debt from mergers and acquisitions

American Airlines has gone through several mergers and acquisitions in recent years, including its merger with US Airways in 2013. While these mergers have brought about certain advantages, such as increased route networks and customer base, they have also resulted in substantial debt for the airline.

The repayment of this debt adds to the operating costs of American Airlines and can impact the pricing of its services.

It is important to note that these factors are not unique to American Airlines and are prevalent in the aviation industry as a whole. Operating an airline involves significant expenses, and these costs are ultimately passed on to consumers in the form of ticket prices.

However, it is worth considering that despite its higher operating costs, American Airlines still offers a range of services and amenities that contribute to its reputation as a leading airline in the United States.

Caters to Business Travelers

American Airlines is often seen as expensive because it caters to a large number of business travelers. These travelers often have specific needs and requirements that come with a premium price tag.

Last-minute flexibility commands premium pricing

One reason for American Airlines’ higher prices is the demand for last-minute flexibility. Business travelers often need to book flights at the eleventh hour due to unexpected meetings or changes in their schedules.

American Airlines, recognizing this need, offers a range of last-minute booking options that come at a premium. This allows business travelers the flexibility they require, but it does come with a higher price tag compared to booking in advance.

Corporate deals maximize revenue

American Airlines also maximizes its revenue through corporate deals. The airline has established partnerships with numerous corporations, allowing them to negotiate special rates and benefits for their employees.

These corporate deals often come with a higher price tag, as they offer added benefits such as priority boarding, access to exclusive lounges, and other perks. This strategy helps American Airlines generate additional revenue and maintain its reputation as a preferred choice for business travelers.

According to a study by Business Insider, American Airlines ranked as one of the most expensive airlines in the United States. The study analyzed ticket prices across multiple routes and found that American Airlines consistently had higher fares compared to its competitors.

This further supports the notion that American Airlines’ focus on catering to business travelers comes at a premium price.

While American Airlines may be more expensive for the average traveler, it’s important to remember that the airline strives to provide top-notch service and convenience to its business clientele. By offering last-minute flexibility and corporate deals, American Airlines ensures that business travelers have the options they need, even if it means paying a higher price.

Tips to Find Cheaper American Airlines Tickets

While it’s true that American Airlines can sometimes be expensive, there are ways to find cheaper tickets if you know where to look and how to plan your trip. Here are some tips to help you save money on your next American Airlines flight:

1. Book early

One of the best ways to secure cheaper American Airlines tickets is to book your flight well in advance. Airlines often offer discounted fares for those who book early, so it’s a good idea to start looking for tickets as soon as you know your travel dates.

By booking early, you can take advantage of lower prices and have more options to choose from.

2. Fly midweek

If your travel dates are flexible, consider flying on a weekday instead of the weekend. Weekday flights tend to be less crowded and cheaper than those on weekends when more people are traveling. By choosing to fly midweek, you can potentially save a significant amount of money on your American Airlines tickets.

3. Avoid hub cities

American Airlines operates several hub cities where flights are more frequent and often more expensive. If possible, try to avoid booking flights that involve stopovers or layovers in these hub cities. Instead, look for flights that have nonstop options or consider alternative airports nearby.

This can help you find cheaper tickets and save both time and money.

4. Use a flight deal alert service

There are several flight deal alert services available that can help you find the best deals on American Airlines tickets. These services monitor prices and notify you when there are significant drops or promotions.

Sign up for these services to stay updated on the latest deals and discounts, and be ready to grab them as soon as they become available.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of finding cheaper American Airlines tickets and save money on your next trip. Remember to compare prices, be flexible with your travel dates, and take advantage of any discounts or deals that come your way. Happy travels!


In summary, American Airlines leverages its hub airports, extensive route network, premium amenities and services, and appeal among business travelers to command higher fares. But savvy travelers can still find deals on American with some strategic booking practices.

While American Airlines may never be as cheap as ultra low-cost carriers, understanding why its fares are pricier can help manage expectations. With flexible travel dates and advance planning, you can still get reasonably priced tickets for your next American Airlines flight.

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