American Airlines produced a report for employees on the carrier’s progress towards its 2019 goals. One item that stood out – apart from the airline’s operational problems this year – is that customer “likelihood to recommend” scores have fallen.
The airline attributes this to its reliability challenges, although it’s equally notable that American compares themselves to just before they began retrofitting domestic aircraft to a new less comfortable standard.
- Less distance between seats, not just in coach but in Main Cabin Extra and first class too
- Thinner seats with less padding
- First class seats with less underseat storage and tray tables that often won’t lay flat
- New smaller lavatories
- No seat back video screens
Indeed it’s striking that even as American has added high speed internet to its planes, and bigger overhead bins so customers don’t have to gate check their bags, passengers haven’t liked the airline more because these big gains are offset by reduced comfort in their seats.
American attributes unhappy customers solely to their on-time problems because when the only tool you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Notably Southwest has had its own operational challenges yet also has happier customers.
Their diminution of the coach experience has even taken a toll on customer perception of their strong international business class product. Most customers fly economy most of the time, and even international business class passengers are often in back for shorter domestic flights. And the new American Airlines standard domestic offering creates a ‘reverse halo’, an impression of lack of quality that makes it hard to internalize where they do offer quality.