You are quite correct. In fact, the writing on the wall for Miami was written more than ten years ago.
American was the dominant carrier at Miami, then (help me with history) United purchased some carrier's routes into South America and then tried to go toe to toe with American. The difficulty for United was that American was already so entrenched in Miami that United had to use enourmous resources to build up its route net in South America in order to compete with AA
, let alone the other airlines that flew to South and Central America. Since AA
historically has been far better at marketing its product than UA
(UA being the stronger of the two carriers operationally) AND
already had a strong northbound traffic base, it was nearly impossible for United to a real player, especially in generating northbound originating traffic (which is where the real money is in South America) from BUE/SAO/RIO, etc.
United then tried to link its strong Orient base to South America; however, it could not do so via Miami. Once AA
had code-share agreements in place with certain Asian carriers, AA
could carry traffic between Asia and South America with one connection service at DFW
. United tried to carry them via JFK
; however, with the number of destinations that AA
offered v. United, it was difficult to generate northbound traffic from South America to Asia.
United also tried to end run American by building up its flying to Dulles and JFK
, then later Chicago. The reality, however, is that most business conducted with South America in the US is done in the Miami area (although California is growing fast). AA
understood this from the beginning, hence, really focused in on building local presence in South America while bringing its resources to MIA
. As such, AA
was able to turn MIA
into its third fortress hub (behind DFW
). Then when AA
was able to get into the Caribbean in one fell swoop, building up SJU
as its Caribbean hub and shuttling passengers from Caribbean points into Miami direct, there was really no place for United to go...They could not capture the deep south; the north of South America was a nightmare, and AA
in the Caribbean with the feed from North American points to those two cities, there was no place for United to go.
Like Seattle, it was a sad thing to see. Frankly, I believe United had a far better product to South America than AA
. However, AA
played the South American market better than United.
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998