3 Tidbits From Internal American Airlines Meeting

Here are three things that I didn’t cover separately from last week’s employee meeting with American Airlines President and CEO-designate Robert Isom, along with several other executives that seemed noteworthy or otherwise interesting to me.

  • American says they didn’t really monitor vendors well in the past. Chief Operating Officer David Seymour says they now pay attention their staffing (airport caterers need employees eligible to drive trucks across the ramp in order to bring drinks to the aircraft…).

    Our vendors, those that play a critical role, we found that even more important as some of their short-staffed issues that they had in hiring people and retaining people, whether it’s caterers, wheelchair, fuelers, all those. We’re monitoring all those a lot closer than we ever have.

  • They think they had too much staffing at gates for Thanksgiving. Remember American has reduced staffing at gates, moving to ‘single agent boarding’ during the pandemic – first to having only one agent work a flight when loads were below 70% on single aisle aircraft and then moving that up to 80%. That means agents are too rushed to help passengers, deal with standbys and upgrades, let along monitor which passengers might be too drunk to fly. And American now wants that one gate agent to charge customers to gate check bags that won’t fit in the sizer. Yet Seymour says,

    These are [gate agents] that have been through the training and are now getting acclimated to the environment. So we have a lot of staffing there. They almost said that at some of the gates we had too much staffing, which is you know a high class problem I guess.

    But again we’re feeling good where we are staffing levels across all the organizations, whether it’s airports, at our gates, down on the ramp, with our techops organization. They’re much better situated and doing a much better job in terms of managing out of service at the morning start.

    You know DFW, as Jim Moses commented to me, you have multiple days now we’re hitting “right start” goal which is something they haven’t been able to achieve much in the past but they are now.

  • American is almost done retrofitting its Airbus A321s with their new interior with no seat back entertainment, less space between seats, and bigger overhead bins. According to Chief Operating Officer David Seymour, “We’re sitting now on the A321s with about 25 left to do. Of that there are only 3 more of the legacy US A321s that had no seat power..more dated than the legacy American 321s that we had…They will be done, the last one inducts at the beginning of next year…first quarter we’ll be done with all of those.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If Isom is good with continuing American’s strategy of denser seating, no seatback entertainment, skeleton gate staffing, etc., then more and more travelers like me will be good with continuing to avoid AA.

  2. This just continues to show ‘leadership’ at AA are their own worst enemies…no matter who is at the top

  3. The removal of seatback screens, along with the insanely small and cramped bathrooms, and leg space has been the biggest thorn of ALL of these changes. I’m 6’8″, longtime Plat Pro, and often HAVE TO pay for either exit row, bulkhead or main cabin extra seats. It’s literally not an option for me. My knee caps have been bloody and numb after 3.5 hr flights, I often come out of the bathroom with stains on my clothing from the sink (if not something else…) and my forehead will have a red mark after having to “lean against” the ceiling to get close enough to the toilet. The seat back screens provide much more than what an app my existing phone does. Period. I miss them. And I’m often very disappointed on a paid FC flight when there are ZERO there either. What is AA doing? Turning g into Frontier or Spirit? Isom has the opportunity to right some of the wrongs DP forced on us. I beg him to do so. The experience of flying has become awful. Lastly, I swear I have paid 2-4+ times what a flight normally costs on all 8 domestic round-trips I took on AA this year. I point this out because we are all getting less service, reliability, respect, food/snacks, experience, comfort, wi-fi/power, entertainment, and literally every single other metric that before. Just awful.

  4. Once those last 25 are done what other draconian measure can they think of doing next? I’m at the point that I wish MIA was not my home.

  5. @Benjamin – this one is easy. Stand up straight and pee in the sink. Should be the right level and no forehead injury.

  6. I do wish that someone at American would realize that the airline has management but lacks leadership.

  7. I believe they didn’t have to much staffing at the airport gates with thanksgiving and using that as a subliminal reason to virtually let people go for cut down on their pay.

  8. 1 man gates and doing all the necessary work to get the flight out ontime, and now also charging customers at the gate for excess luggage, $$$$ before on time. Checking 30-50 bags on lga, lax and other popular “roller bag” destination and departing on time, good luck with that! Following spirits ideas? A legacy!??.

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