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May 21, 1987: American Airlines Starts Trans-Pacific Operations

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May 21, 1987: American Airlines Starts Trans-Pacific Operations

May 21, 1987: American Airlines Starts Trans-Pacific Operations
May 19
12:30 2017

MIAMI — Thirty years ago, American Airlines (AA) inaugurated its first service from the United States to Japan, with a flight between Dallas / Ft. Worth and Tokyo Narita.

DCF 1.0

These promotional materials of the first AA’s flights to Japan are part of American Airlines permanent collection at C.R.Smith Museum in Dallas/Ft. Worth. (Credits: Chris Sloan.)

AA acquired two former TWA (N601AA and N602AA) to begin the service, and as a stop-gap measure until the 1991 arrival of the McDonnell Douglas MD-11s. These 747SPs were configured to feature a premium configuration, with 29 First class seats, 78 Business class seats, and 78 Economy class seats, with two stand-up bars in the Business class cabin.


This map belongs to the May 1987 route system network of American Airlines, and it shows Tokyo as the first Asian destination of the carrier. (Credits: Chris Sloan Collection.)

These were interesting times for sure at American Airlines. Just five years before the first flight to Asia, AA took over Braniff’s New York – London Gatwick route. The first flight took place on May 19, 1982.

DCF 1.0

These timetables show the different destinations covered by American Airlines. Some of these were inherited from Braniff. (Credits: Chris Sloan.)

Eventually, these Boeing 747SPs were redeployed to New York to serve routes to London and Brussels, as AA began to take delivery of the MD-11s in 1991.

The MD-11s were specifically purchased by American Airlines to operate non-stop from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Hong Kong. However, AA’s MD-11s could never fly the route even after aerodynamic and engine upgrades (commonly known as Performance Improvement Packages or PiPs) in an attempt to meet the promised specifications.

Infographics AA

Credits: American Airlines.

Three decades strong

Since the first flight to Asia, American Airlines has grown from operating a single daily flight to five flights a day, with services from Dallas / Ft. Worth, Los Angeles and Chicago-O’Hare to Narita, and from Los Angeles to Tokyo Haneda, all on Boeing 777 or 787 jetliners.

AA Asia Map 2017

Credits: American Airlines.

To date, American Airlines operates flights to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo. Also, thanks to the joint business agreement inked with Japan Airlines (JAL), AA’s passengers have access to Southeast Asia destinations like Bangkok, Manila, and Saigon.

Also, for those traveling from Japan, American provides direct flights to the U.S. and connections to about 350 cities in over 50 countries.


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A Global Review of Commercial Flight since 1994: the leading Commercial Aviation publication in North America and 35 nations worldwide. Based in Miami, Florida.

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