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American Airlines to expand flights from Los Angeles hub

(Reuters) - AMR Corp's American Airlines on Wednesday said it plans to expand service from Los Angeles, one of its five major U.S. hubs that is an important business and leisure market, by adding flights to nine cities this year.

American, which plans to merge with US Airways Group Inc and form the world's biggest carrier, said the new destinations from Los Angeles will bring additional flight options to nationwide passengers and enable it to connect more travelers to international markets.

New cities to be served from Los Angeles starting this summer include Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; and Hartford, Connecticut. Through agreements with feeder carriers, American will also add service to Bentonville, Arkansas, and the Oregon cities of Eugene and Redmond from Los Angeles.

American said service from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo is due to begin in November pending U.S. government approval of its application to add more flights to Brazil from the United States.

In April, American began flying to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, from Los Angeles. As a result of the expansion, American will fly to and from 51 U.S. and international cities from Los Angeles.

Virasb Vahidi, American Chief Commercial Officer, said the expansion would strengthen the presence of the oneworld global airline alliance, which is looking to fill gaps in its worldwide network and catch up to rival alliances SkyTeam and Star. Oneworld is led by American and British Airways .

The expanded Los Angeles service "provides a very unique opportunity for us to be able to capture a disproportionate share of high-value customers and corporations," Vahidi said. Other oneworld member airlines such as Japan Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and BA also operate in Los Angeles.

At Los Angeles International Airport, American is second in passenger market share with 16.3 percent, behind United Continental's 17.6 percent share, according to data for January 2013 through February 2013 provided on the facility's website.

Los Angeles is one of five key U.S. hubs that American, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2011, is counting on to drive growth. The others are Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, Miami and Chicago.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Phil Berlowitz and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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