American Airlines has had operational reliability problems and customer service problems and profitability problems. They’ve managed to make shareholders, employees, and customers all unhappy. Doubling down is their current strategy but doesn’t make sense.
We know that American Airlines is going to offer free inflight wifi once Delta does. They don’t want to, they prefer to charge, but competitive pressues will force them to and they’ll respond once Delta makes good on its free wifi promise.
American promised free inflight texting and then didn’t do it. They haven’t been out in front of customer innovations, and don’t even always lead from behind.
However they have a huge opportunity. Delta has delayed its rollout of free wifi due to technology challenges. JetBlue offers free wifi with provider ViaSat. During Delta’s tests their Gogo systems have been unable to handle the traffic volumes.
Gogo Boeing 737 Jimmy Ray
Delta CEO Ed Bastian told Skift‘s Brian Sumers that they “are working hard with Gogo on the technical features” to deliver a product customers expect even when it’s free, but with the usage levels when more passengers are logging in, with more devices, and streaming they aren’t yet able to deliver that.
American Airlines has more ViaSat installations than Gogo satellite installs. They could get a head start on free wifi. They’re going to do it anyway eventually, they could lead in the space among the major airlines.
United Airlines says they’re looking at offering wifi free, too but their current installs can’t support a reasonable customer experience even with high fees and unaccompanying low usage. United’s President Scott Kirby says they’re getting fewer refund requests for wifi, which when that’s the metric you know there’s a problem.
With more satellite internet installs than any other airline, even if they had to throttle speeds on legacy US Airways 2Ku planes, they could grab the mantle of being the digital airline by getting out in front of Delta’s free wifi delays.
Based on past conversations with American executives who have briefed me on their connectivity plans, it seems unlikely to me that they’ll seize the opportunity of a Delta delay.