American Airlines CEO Doug Parker Thinks This Blog is Weird

Doug Parker answered American Airlines employee questions this week. One thing he got asked about is the Boeing 737 MAX which has no seat back video on demand.

He emphasizes that high speed streaming internet is just as good and is the future, comparing seat back screens to the old GTE Airfones, nevermind that not every family of 5 has enough iPads to go around and that he acknolwedges they’re not able to stream most first run movies.

Although the lavatories are tiny and have had problems – with water splashing back up all over passengers, with doors banging into each other – he thinks the airline has made the right decision for customers with 30 inch pitch, no seat back screens, and small lavs because he reports that customer survey ‘likelihood to recommend’ scores for the plane are “tracking along with the rest of the fleet.”

That doesn’t say much for the other aircraft in the fleet especially legacy US Airways planes without seat back video or even seat power. Meanwhile there are only 3 or 4 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the fleet, flying limited routes, and only a small percentage of those customers are even surveyed. So the amount of data involved is limited. Moreover American Airlines has been giving out free internet on these planes. When that goes away the ‘likelihood to recommend’ score may drop.

His experience with the plane is second hand because — as I wrote two weeks ago and then others in the media picked up on — he hasn’t even flown the aircraft.

Two weeks later he still hasn’t flown the plane and he thinks it’s weird that anyone should care,

I haven’t flown the 737 MAX as people like to report for some weird reason.

I don’t think the things this blog reports are weird, even if Parker does. The CEO of the airline is promoting the quality of their new standard domestic product that’s not only being delivered on 100 new planes but that they’re investing in retrofitting their existing aircraft to mirror. So it seems significant that the CEO hasn’t bothered to experience the product — we’re well past when he signed off on it, it’s been flying for two months.

And it’s PR 101 that he’d fly the plane if only to be able to say he has the next time he’s asked.

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. While I think the video argument makes some sense (to Gary’s point, many if not most families have cell phones for each person but enough do not I am sure).

    That being said, completely out of touch CEO. It is a shame. A real CEO would fly everyone of their planes in all classes.

  2. The funny thing is that while Doug still has not been on it, Gary Kelly was on the WN MAX inaugural, and spent time with the crew and cabin guests.

  3. Loved my last flight, MIA-PHX, on one of those beat to he** A320’s that not only didn’t have power, but that streaming video Discount Dougie is so enamoured of didn’t work. At all. Way to go for great, Dougie

  4. Doug thought he was ordering a fleet from Airbus, but actually ordered a fleet of air busses. GrAAyhound takes to the sky.

  5. Isn’t it in the Bible “know thy product” ? I’m near certain I saw it, or something similar, there ages ago.

  6. No seatback IFE is great! Seriously.

    It should be standard on every narrowbody/domestic aircraft.

    And yes it is where the tech is going.

  7. There’s a practice in tech called “dogfooding”, meaning using your own product, so you can understand it and see how easy it is to use and own.

    This should be standard practice at the airlines. When you fly around all day in private jets or first class, of course you have a limited perspective on the quality of your customer experience.

    Even old Richard Anderson, whom we all know pulled some unfriendly moves at Delta, was known for flying Economy on his own airline, at least every now and again.

  8. I think you’re weird for your obsession over AA. Its clear your lack of Concierge Key has left you with a bitter taste and a never-ending PR vendetta against the company.

  9. No seatback screen is fine, if holders for tablets are installed. Also, the entertainment always messes up with Android/Chrome browser. I had to install the Gogo app. Weird.

  10. Parker having not flown the new 737Max, states exactly how out of touch this man is, as CEO of a major company. Do any of you think that Tim Cook of Apple, has not used any of the Apple products? I can easily say that he probably uses the full range of Apple products, EVERYDAY! I am not saying this because I am a fan of Cook or Apple. I am just stating the realities of running a market leading company and a stagnant has-been airline. Parker is loved by the financial world bringing AA back from bankruptcy. But as far as passengers, AA gets worse everyday.

  11. It’s also weird that the CEO of JNJ hasn’t tried any JNJ heart stents…totally out of touch.

  12. Why would he ever fly on one of his planes? He knows how bad they are. He’s probably flying incognito on some of his competitors just to avoid flying American

  13. Why would he fly it? He knows there are no screens in the seats and there is only 30inches of space. of course he has not flown it!

  14. Most people my age will recall the era when CEOs like Lee Iaocca of Chrysler, Victor Kiam of Remington Electric Razors, the real Col. Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, George (“I guarantee it!”) Zimmer of Men’s Wearhouse, Sy (“An Educated Consumer…”) Syms, and others, put their names and reputations on the line to stand behind the products their companies made, and to offer an assurance, even if under the veneer of carefully cultivated scripts and image makers coming from the very best advertising agencies and their braintrusts money can buy.

    In the end, there were real faces of the people in charge, standing behind their products and reassuring consumers that the products they were selling were the products they themselves used, too.

    One of these above mentioned CEOs, Victor Kiam of Remington, went to so far as to say, he loved the razors so much, he bought the company!

    Contrast this with Dougie P., who certainly has absolutely NO PROBLEM cashing in those $19.2 million stock payouts that come from those who fly the crappy planes Dougie P. is too good to bother flying himself, and isn’t even in the least bit curious to find out more about more than two months later after these atrociously configured planes with microbathrooms took to the skies as to why his own employees, widely followed industry bloggers, and then reports in “traditional media” have all expressed questions and valid, reasonable concerns that these new planes are likely to become a problem, if they’re not already causing problems that passengers will shun if the airline’s leaders are turning a blind eye to problems to blatant to overlook or ignore simply because the CEO would then have to face the problems he created, and may have to actually take responsibility for his apallingly bad decision and do something about it.

    But really, why should anyone buy a product, any product, if the CEO by his or her own actions makes clear they either don’t feel its important enough for them to buy/fly, or the product itself is so crappy, they don’t want to buy/fly it either.

    Actions speak louder than words, and if Dougie P doesn’t bother flying the crappy planes he signed the PO to buy, and worse, even after hearing from his own employees and a widening scope in the media, traditional and in the blogosphere, that covers the airline industry that there are “shortcomings” seen in a handful of the first units for an order covering hundreds of new planes or yet more hundreds that will be reconfigured to that “standard”, too, then why should anyone else fly a crappy plane the CEO couldn’t give a rat’s tail about?

    As those above named CEOs certainly did well, they believed their products succeeded or failed based on their reputations and their willingness to stand behind the products they sold.

    Apparently, Dougie P. has only one interest: cashing in his stock options and bonuses from the hapless saps who spend good their money buy tickets to fly airplanes so crappy he doesn’t want to fly himself.

    Yeah, that’s why whenever one can, they should, fly airlines where the CEOs are frequently seen flying their planes like David Neeleman always did when he was at JetBlue, or as Gary Kelly does at Southwest.

    If it ain’t good enough, or important enough, for the CEO to bother flying, then to use the phrase another, but notorious for all the wrong reasons CEO who liked to appear in their company’s ads used to say, “I love having a tv in the bathroom of my hotel, why shouldn’t you?” (that being Leona Helmsley aka the “The Queen of Mean” for her Helmsley Palace Hotel ads)…

    …and indeed, and in the spirit of Leona Helmsley’s pitch, if Dougie P. ain’t flying his crappy, new 737s, why should you?

    Just sayin’

  15. Early in my career I learned: If the CEO can’t demo/explain their product, don’t buy it!
    It’s a simple rule that applies for business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer…
    If the CEO is so removed from the products or services his company is selling, any buyer is right to be worried! Poor quality, product problems, maintenance issues, gaps between what’s promised and delivered… all of if is more likely to happen if senior management doesn’t know their own products…

  16. Ah quit beating up the guy. He doesn’t want to fly these econobox planes anymore than the rest of us do. Besides if he did it wouldnt be in row 20 middle.

  17. He ruined that airline. 40 year customers who flew monthly on them walked after warning that we would not take the miles devaluation as long as there was a viable alternative, which there is. The elegant Suzanne Rubin who was the President of AAdvantage to showcase her prevous influence, herself walked after warning them that this would tank the program, which it has.

    Every year since they send a bribe to have free Legroom for 6-9 months, and every year I continue to hide the flights of the big3 in my searches and get plenty of full-miles, free baggage, free internet, actual good service airline choices. I don’t miss them at all.

  18. So glad the first leg of an award ticket to South America I just booked is on a 757 and not the GrAAyhound 737MAX. I wouldn’t want backsplash before heading to South America.

  19. Parker is smug and arrogant in his disdain for customer comfort but more importantly customer intelligence. His doublespeak about what customers like and want seems to be the new norm now with airlines .As they are making tons of money, prices are still high, seats increase and get hard thinner with less pitch ( BUT oh soo environmentally friendly) , fees get bundled , service has not improved, passenger frustration and incidents have increased expectedly as they are treated like cattle…..all of this to satisfy “our surveyed wishes”. For Parkers attitude alone I will avoid American at all costs. And in my next life I want to be a PR writer for an airline since fiction seems like fun.

  20. Totally agree, and great post (with near unanimous support, it seems :). I think we should all click the customer service link on and ask them why we should fly on a plane if the CEO of the airline doesn’t even want to fly it.

  21. Seat back video screens for domestic flights is obsolete. Airlines are now providing streaming video over the wifi. WN has had it a long time, UA, AA are catching up. The believe here is that most people now have an iPad or smartphone to watch the video.

    My only beef is that the Airlines need to put a strap across the top the seat back so you can open the cover your iPad and insert it through the strap QantasLink on their 717 does exactly this. Although QantasLink also provides an iPad in the seatback pocket to use. Of course the device is locked to a fixed program – so you won’t steal it.

  22. Marie Antoinette was in better touch with her subjects then DP is with his customer base and employees. But, he doesn’t care, he makes money. Does not grasp the concept of Legacy.

  23. AA’s CEO and whole management team is out of touch. It is a shame that as the economy gets stronger and all the bad US airlines profits improve, they will see this as an endorsement for their strategic thinking.

    It is time the board of directors gets involved to make their management teams do the right thing for long-term profitability AND the customer experience. Jeez, are they purposely trying to emulate members of Congress?

  24. While Gary is fascinated by the 737 MAX. it would appear the Parker just thinks it’s a 737. It’s currently flying just a handful of routes and Parker doesn’t think it’s worth his time to travel to those cities to fly one. Different strokes for different folks. I don’t think the airline even had a launch party for the plane. But I can’t recall them ever having a launch party for all the previous, and numerous, iterations of the 737 (I obviously can’t remember the 737-100 launch).

    And if we’re talking weirdness, Gary, I would suggest your fascination with this not-terribly-breathtaking development in domestic travel is, um, weird.

  25. Who cares what Doug Parker thinks! As far as I’m concerned I hope he fills his planes with Spirt customers. Maybe he should spend more time listening to his customers instead of listening to himself.

  26. I agree with other comments, it’s weird that this blog is so AA obsessed when it’s clear the airline is failing. Change is ever present in this industry and it’d be good for bloggers to adapt as well.

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