American Airlines CEO: Boeing 767s are Bad Customer Experience and Need to Be “Retired Sooner”

During Thursday’s American Airlines employee ‘crew news’ question and answer session a Lima-based flight attendant asked about the old Boeing 757s and 767s American flies down there.

She says the one thing “that is sad for me” is that when she tells people she’s a flight attendant their interest is piqued, but then when she says she works for American “they’re like really?” The airline talks about their new planes, but “maybe 50% of the flights are delayed” because of mechanical issues with the older planes. Her business class customers are confused, they booked LAN codeshares and wanted to fly LAN, they’re disappointed flying American with their old planes.

American Airlines Boeing 767 Business Class

As hard as she tries to make passengers happy, “our tablets don’t work… passengers really don’t like it, passengers in coach they have no place to.. nah… we want new planes, please new planes.”

Parker says the airline “tries to isolate” the bad customer experience aircraft to a few places so they don’t disappoint customers, and “where they’re the least painful to our most important customers, don’t go tell your customers that.(emphasis mine) The yields are lower for Lima than London, so Lima gets the old aircraft.

In the long term, though, Parker says they’re going to get enough nice airplanes so they no longer have lesser ones they have to deploy. In the meantime they’re investing in the reliability of the Boeing 767s, though he acknowledges that the customer experience on the plane “continues to struggle.”

Parker concludes that it’s almost time to get the 767s out of the fleet, “We gotta figure out a way to get those airplanes retired sooner is the real answer, we can’t have that product flying around 5 or 10 years from now, we just can’t.”

American’s Vice President – Planning Vasu Raja added that,

The 767/757 related things are tired products, put it generously compared to everything else. … By the end of the year we’re trying to take it out of New York which is a big business market.

We’re trying to orient the 767 that airplane for however long it stays in our fleet is really opening up brand new markets, prospect markets in Europe and even in Latin America. It’s been a long time since we’ve started a new market in Latin America and the 767 can do that.

Across Latin America the major capitals we have flat beds and new jets there. The station in our international system that is the greatest exception to all this is Lima, for a couple of reasons. Lima is in a unique place where it’s not Lima of 10 years ago. There’s a significant amount of competition our Latin American network One stops over Panama, Avianca over Colombia, lots of non-stop competition on narrowbodies on 320s and 737s for that matter. So we have a real challenge there.

We don’t have enough full flat 787s and 777s to send to a market like Lima because they’re going to Buenos Aires or London. And so if it’s not that airplane in many cases we don’t get to go and serve Lima. And given how important Lima is to us [given] our partnership with LAN that is one market where, we would love to have a nicer product there, the 767 is probably there for the foreseeable future.

American Airlines Boeing 767 Business Class

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, 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. I would agree. Especially given the fact that we barely made it out of Hawaii after an AA 767 had major mechanical issues. Thanks to ExpertFlyer we grabbed the last seats on an LAX flight. AA left more than 100 pax stranded after rolling delays for 24 hours. AA274.

  2. AA doesn’t give a crap. They take your money up front and then tell you to pound sand. They have no shame in flying planes with no wifi, no IFE, no power, etc.

  3. Austrian loves these things. The transatlantic flights in business are incredibly cramped for a modern business class experience. I actually really like a Turkish airlines seats. No cubby hole for your feet, plenty long and I actually seem to sleep really well on their flights after some good food.

  4. Does Doug “don’t go tell your customers that” Parker think before he speaks?

    Why would anyone buy a ticket on AA to or from Lima when the CEO and a Vice President say we do not care about you?

  5. but you jump into a B737 that the basic fuselage was designed in 1959 and think you are in a new airplane. The new B737 is like buying a 1962 Corvair and putting a 2018 Cadillac interior in it. The average person doesn’t even know or care what kind of airplane they are in, they just look at the interiors and make their decision on that. If AA updated the interiors, no one would bitch or know the difference. Only a B787 would be noticed.

  6. Ridiculous comment by Doug — If you know the product is bad, then stop cutting corners when it comes to product investment.

    The aircraft sucks because AA refuses to give the 767 the investment needed to bring the interior product up to standard. You don’t hear DL/OS/LA/JL customers complaining about their respective airline’s 767 product.

    Customers did whine about UA’s 767s and they realized how shortsighted they were and corrected that.

  7. Side note – I find this funny that they think sending a crappy product in a new market is a good way to “test” new prospective markets. You don’t open new markets with a bad product otherwise you fail to fully realize the market potential.

    This is also a quick way to ruin the airline’s brand image in a new market.

  8. Ironically, Parker and his team were responsible for the “bad customer experience”: they were the ones who made cuts to the onboard product, no PTVs in 737MAX/757L/767 fleet, skimp on maintenance leading to mechanical delays.

  9. Another inept management move by Parker. Delta’s B767 have new interiors. I know, I have flown a few of them. Lie-flat seats on Delta are actually quite nice. Not the best in the sky, but nice enough for 14 hour flight.

  10. Well, I say feel free to fly them domestically…I’d take a tired old widebody over an LUS Airbus or a Max any day!

  11. I’ll take an AA 767 anyday over a 10 across 777 or any 737, as long as it has the new overhead bins (which UA apparently does not). Dougie is just mad he can’t put 9 or 10 across in a 767, so he is killing them off by a slow death (meaning no maint. and no refurb).

  12. Interesting points made from all that have commented. I am scheduled to fly JFK-MIA-LIM in May all on a 767. I was able to find a business class SAAver award for this trip. I think it was 32.5k or 27.5k AAdvantage miles before the ten percent mileage redemption rebate from having an AA credit card.

    I agree with CW, I would rather fly on an LegAAcy 767 than any of the LUS domestic fleet. Since Parker and Co. have taken over, I have been slowly switching my flying to Delta and JetBlue (I hold Platinum status typically) and participated in a status match with said airlines and easily met the qualifications.

    Delta’s 767’s are a bit worn, though not bad for a 6 hour jaunt (I typically fly JFK-SFO and LAX). Mind you, I book in Delta One, though I have checked out the main cabin and it looks more comfortable than what AA offers (since there is no IFE or many MCE seating) on their 767 fleet. I have heard two rumors from Delta crews, first-that Delta is going to upgrade and retrofit this fleet aa well as the opposite, that they are aiming to retire some 767’s and replace them. I wonder if the latter would affect transcontinental routes? all other carriers use narrowbodies now.

    While I enjoy the A321T from AA in Business and First, I would rather fly JetBlue (also on an A321, dubbed Mint) or Delta on a 767 and grab a private seat, that typically costs less than an AA Business Class fare.

    I am sad that American Airlines is ruining their brand. Pre-merger, it seemed like they were aiming to turn things around with a better customer experience. I have decided not to requalify for status, burn my remaining 250k miles and move on to being a free agent. Maybe when new management comes to AA, I would consider choosing them first again.

  13. JohnB – isn’t AA’s retrofitted 767 business class seat essentially the same as Delta’s but newer? I find both to be clearly subpar at this point.

  14. Austin787 – Actually, the decision to do a half-ass refurbishment on the 75L/767’s was made in 2010, well before the arrival of US Airways management. That said, DP and associates have not done anything to improve the situation…

  15. The problem with the 767s is that there is no in flight Wifi or IFEs in economy. You cant have 200+ passengers without access to some kind of entertainment on a 5.5 hour flight in 2018.

  16. Has anyone seen Austrian Airlines NEW 767 cabin? It clearly proves that American’s 767 doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced.
    They just need to upgrade the interior and then have a few spares on hand just in case. That will solve the issue of sub-par travel experience in terms of product (seats, entertainment, ambiance etc) and reliability. The real ace card is that having a spare 767 (especially if it is as nice as Austrian’s) would make passengers feel like they got an upgrade when their 737 or old school 777 gets substituted. Can you imagine the Twitterstrorm “plane broke, but replacement is WAY nicer #thanksAmerican!” etc. etc.

  17. I flew this plane recently and it was very uncomfortable. It is old and tired and needs to go.

  18. Happily ready to fly a DL 767 next week, 7hr flight in coach. Too bad AA doesn’t value these planes enough to put decent maintenance and refurbishment into them.

  19. MIA-MVD on the 767 felt gross and cramped, and the Uruguayans on board weren’t happy to be on that ancient plane at a very high price. Returning EZE-JFK on a 777 felt nicer despite also being cramped. Preferably I want to always be on a 787 … it’s just crazy these ancient 767’s are still flying to not-cheap destinations.

  20. Same airline that had Robert Crandall spout off the their customers “didn’t care about leg room, they want more seats.” Yeah…. right. I don’t remember giving that answer in any sort of polling!

  21. As a Multi Million Customer I can honestly say that dog dumping are better for you then the AA Policy for frequent flyers. Last three round trip flights (2 international) advance reservations no upgrade available. But IF YOU WERE ON THE FLIGHT YOU DID GET TO SEE NON-REV PASSENGER (before moving sitting next to me) get upgraded. That happened on two of the three flights. The third flight domestic, agent said I was lucky because they gave me a seat, but had nothing to say about the fact they had filled my advance choice with someone else…… Lifetime Gold Advantage, Dozens of upgrade coupons, Multi Million Mile flyer with AA, few hundred thousand miles on account and non-rev get a seat and I get 29D………. My suggestion, cash your miles in for gift cards or magazine subscriptions. At least then you will find a small satisfaction from them.

  22. I will never fly the 767 again. Flew JFK – CDG in Business Class… the seat is too small and tight… I could hardly walk when arrived… it took me a week to get over it.

  23. I flew DL biz on a 767 ATL-FCO and hated the seat. DL Service was fine but I won’t fly the 767 again in biz when the AA 777W is an option. For all those who think that it depends on the airline, I’m not so sure.I think the plane has just reached the end of it’s useful life.

  24. Yeah, it is a bad experience because AA refuses to improve service or reinterior the planes. The aircraft itself goes like a banshee and handles like a Porsche. This guy is the worst CEO in the business from a customer service standpoint. He could care less…they aren’t about transportation they are about sales and marketing.

  25. People are judging these older aircraft based on the technology that is in them and not the aircraft itself. Half of the older aircraft flying are far more comfortable than what is rolling off the line now. If these airlines want to continue operating older aircraft, maybe they should consider upgrading the interior. Newer aircraft like the 737-900ER and the Airbus A321 are designed to have seat layouts with little legroom with just barely enough range to fly between the west coast and Hawaii fully loaded. The 757 is old and outdated, but is still far more comfortable.

  26. For all the people that are saying: ‘I’ve recently flew the 767 and it was really uncomfortable/ This plane is very cramped, try to rethink that, Boeing only produces planes and they are not responsible for seats. You should be blaming the airline you are flying with. AA does not give its 757/767 the the good products it needs. Look at Delta and All Nippon Airways Boeing 767, they literally have better and more comfy seats and refurbished cabins in their 767s. YOU SHOULD NOT BE BLAMING PLANES ON HOW COMFY IT IS. IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE AIRLINE.

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