American Airlines CEO Doug Parker gave an interview to the New York Times, and much of it covered familiar ground for readers. Five things stuck out to me, though – including that Parker loves viral videos where passengers are being removed from planes, and everyone on board cheers.
- Parker has no use for federal travel restrictions. Remember when President Trump first announced the ban on travel from Europe during a television address, sending everyone scrambling, because no one knew what it meant? That seems so long ago. Now it’s crazy not ban vaccinated French while welcoming unvaccinated Indonesians.
The folly of the situation right now is those restrictions were put in place back in March of 2020 when the President of the United States at that time deciding on national TV and announced that we’re going to be tough on this virus, we’re not going to let it come to the United States. We’re going to do that by not letting people from Europe come to the United States.
But we had a consultant come in, she’s from Munich. She, in order to get to the United States, flew to Cancun for two weeks, and then she was allowed to enter. She was a lot safer in Munich than she was in Cancun. But that’s what we’re doing.
- 100 passengers a day engage in misconduct on American Airlines flights. No wonder so many videos are going viral.
I’ll just give you some numbers, just what we call customers misconduct reports. We would get about 30 a day at American Airlines in 2019. Now we’re getting about 100 a day. And we’re flying fewer customers, of course. The severity is what really matters. I mean, in those 30 a day, most of those are people who had too much to drink, or didn’t have their meds right, or chose to smoke in the bathroom. And again, those aren’t acceptable, but that’s what it was.
Now, the events you’re talking about, the serious events, ones that actually require us to go take action against the customer, have increased as well.
- Parker loves viral videos where everyone cheers the problem passenger being removed from the plane.
The other customers, by the way, are really helpful in this. All these videos, as horrific as they are, virtually every one of them has all the other customers cheering as the other customer is taken off. And that’s what we really need.
- American plans to bring back inflight alcohol September 13. Delta and United service alcohol. Southwest doesn’t. And American only serves it in first class. The airline keeps saying they haven’t committed to bring back cocktails on September 13, only that it wouldn’t be before that. Parker keeps saying it’s coming back. But if it’s tied to the expiration of the federal mask mandate, I’m no longer so confident that won’t get extended now that the CDC wants vaccinated people wearing masks indoors again.
We haven’t restored alcohol to the American Airlines flights for this reason. We have it tied to September 13, when the federal mask mandate is scheduled to expire. And that’s when we say we’ll return alcohol, because we don’t think we need that added to the environment.
Pro-tip: on international flights American actually caters mini bottles of alcohol in coach and tells flight attendants not to offer them to customers.
- More industries should’ve gotten rich taxpayer bailouts like airlines did. Parker says with the bailouts the right business decision was to furlough everyone at the start of the pandemic, so it’s only subsidies that kept everyone employed. Of course limiting air travel might have limited spread of the virus, if managed well (unlikely). That’s an argument for the first of three bailouts only.
By the second one we knew how many jobs were at risk, because airlines actually furloughed the workers they didn’t want to keep on. Only American and United furloughed in large numbers, and between them it was about 35,000 workers – the most that could possibly be covered by the $15 billion in the second bailouts. (Delta and Southwest got bailouts even though they never intended to furlough at all.) That’s an annualized cost of $1.28 million per job saved. During the period of time covered by the third bailout workers were fully recalled from furlough. Most of the money went to shareholders and creditors.
The most famous exchanges on all of this have been with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, and the way it came about is Sorkin was interviewing Parker live on TV. The bailouts came up, and I tweeted Sorkin during the interview with the math. He read the calculation on the air to Parker, who just dismissed it as “wrong.” And in this interview Parker again says of Sorkin’s numbers, “Yeah, no, he’s not correct.”
Incredibly Parker offers, “the taxpayers did benefit and are the primary beneficiary of this.” And everyone should have gotten the bailouts airlines received!
I think it’s a fantastic policy. I think other industries probably should have been availed of it. I mean, really, the government is better off than they would have been had they not given the industry this money.