Updated enplanements with January numbers

FILE - In this July 17, 2019, file photo shows American Airlines planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. In June, the last month for which government figures are available, American had the highest number of canceled flights among U.S. carriers. Its 4% cancellation rate was roughly double those of United and Southwest and nearly seven times Delta’s cancellation rate. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

HARLINGEN — The success of American Airlines since establishing passenger service to and from Dallas-Fort Worth and Harlingen is leading the airline to increase available seat capacity.

Effective June 4, American will replace its 44-seat regional jets with 65-seat Canadian Regional Jet 700s, adding nine first-class seats in the process, for flights between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Valley International Airport.

“We welcome the larger aircraft. The CRJ-700 will offer our RGV customers the option to book a premium seat all the way from Harlingen to their final destination on American,” said Jose Mulet, director of air service development at VIA.

“The American Airlines daily seat capacity to and from VIA will increase by 48 percent with the larger aircraft,” Mulet added.

American Airlines began passenger service at Valley International last March, and since then has climbed to the No. 3 air passenger carrier at the airport.

In January, the last available figures showed American with 3,204 enplanements (departures) from VIA for the month, which is about 10 percent of all passengers, behind only Southwest with 52 percent and United Airlines with 20 percent.

Airlines measure the percentage of available seats filled as the “load factor.”

In December, American led all passenger air carriers at VIA with a load factor of 91 percent. Following were Frontier Airlines at 86 percent, Southwest Airlines at 83 percent and United Airlines at 78 percent.

“The overall load factor since American Airlines entered the Harlingen market has been high and this is very encouraging,” Mulet said.

Philippe Puech, senior manager of network planning at American, characterized Valley passengers’ response to American’s presence at VIA as “outstanding.”

“Since March 2019, when we started service from our DFW hub, the support we received from the community has been outstanding,” Puech said.

“This ‘up-gauge’ is the sign of our increased commitment in Harlingen,” he said, referencing the arrival of the larger aircraft. “We are excited to connect Harlingen to about 250 one-stop destinations around the world.”

American recently announced an extended destination network for summer, including nonstop flights from DFW to Fairbanks, Alaska, nonstop service from Chicago O’Hare to Budapest, Hungary, Krakow, Poland and Prague, Czechoslovakia, as well as nonstop service from Philadelphia to Casablanca, Morocco, and Reykjavik, Iceland.

rkelley@valleystar.com