American Airlines CEO: Why I’ll Never Give You as Much Flexibility as Southwest Does

At last Thursday’s American Airlines employee Q&A with management, someone asked American’s CEO Doug Parker how to talk to people who prefer Southwest over American ‘for their flexibility’. And Parker did a fantastic job explaining how American thinks about its business, and its pricing strategies.

This employee asked, “Whenever I run into anybody finds out I work for American, here it comes. And I hear this from virtually all of them. ‘I take Southwest over you guys every time because of the flexibility there’.”

Doug Parker said “well you’ve got to find some new friends, first of all.”

They wound up both mistakenly talking about Southwest not having any change fees and allowing customers to just get on an earlier flight which is something that — if you aren’t an elite with Southwest — you aren’t going to be able to just do. You’re going to have to change your ticket, there’s no change fee, but you do pay the difference in fare. If the new ticket is more expensive you’ll pay to fly earlier.

Parker’s message, though, is that Southwest’s “product’s different than ours, much much different. As a result we end up with a product that works for us, and if we have that kind of flexibility we won’t have the same product.”

He said it’s difficult to explain why their business is different than Southwest’s, “It’s probably easier to say ‘go fly the cattle car’.” But then he goes on to distinguish what he thinks is different about Southwest Airlines and American.

They fly point-to-point network, people aren’t connecting. They do that with really high utilization so their costs are lower than ours. But they can’t take you everywhere in the world like we do. And they don’t have a lot of business customers on their airplanes, so they pretty much sell the whole airplane at pretty much the same price point, they don’t have huge differences in prices. Our product doesn’t work that way because we serve such a diverse group of customers, leisure plus business, and because we serve so many points around the world that matter to both international destinations, first class service, but it’s not just first class people that are willing to pay more.

Already Parker isn’t really giving customers a reason to choose his airline, and its restrictions, over Southwest’s.

Southwest has ample business customers in Dallas, in Houston, in Chicago, in California. In Texas markets at peak travel times you have plenty of passengers in suits (not so much in California).

And Southwest carries more passengers domestically than American does, they aren’t some small outfit that doesn’t scale. In fact Southwest’s market cap is nearly 50% larger than American’s.

Parker then goes on to explain how their pricing models are different,

We’ve set up a model as have Delta and United to differentiate between those who can pay more who are business who are willing to pay for flexibility and those who aren’t willing to pay as much and they need to be less flexible. So we have something called a fully non-refundable fare that you purchase on us that’s going to match another airline for the most part, primarily price-based… you’re making a contract with us that you’re not going to refund it.

That allows us to know that seat’s full, we don’t have to worry about trying to hold it for a business customer that’s gonna pay more. We don’t have to worry about, you’ve agreed to that. We could just say that’s it, you’ve agreed to that it’s totally non-refundable just like if you want to go to a Ranger’s game and you buy a ticket on Saturday and say ‘nah I don’t want to go on Saturday I want to go Sunday.’ The Rangers are going to say “fine, here’s a Sunday ticket but we aren’t going to give you any credit for your Saturday ticket.’

We don’t do that, we say ‘ok you don’t want to do what you said you were going to do instead we’ll sell you another cheap ticket on Sunday but you’ve got to pay this change fee.’

So that sounds really like that’s a change fee but what really happened is we gave you something better than telling you ‘forget it you bought a non-refundable ticket’.

Of course that’s decidedly not what American does with their lowest-price (‘basic economy’) tickets those are non-changeable, period.

However as a purely descriptive matter it’s true that American tries to charge customers more that they think will pay it. But from the customer perspective he still isn’t doing anything to explain why it’s a better value to pay it to American versus booking with Southwest.

Parker continues,

These non-refundable tickets are a really important part of our model, because the other end of that is the refundable ticket, the fully refundable ticket, bought almost entirely by business customers because they don’t have the flexibility to book far enough in advance, to say it’s non-refundable. They pay more. And because we have that model we’re able to provide lower fares to those who aren’t willing to pay more… to have that subsidized basically by business customers who pay more.

So that’s our model, I know it’s really complicated… at the end of the day that’s the model that works that allows us to be able to provide the level of service we do, that both has low fares and has world class services and flies to places that Southwest will never fly to and has a level of service they’ll never have and that’s the model that works for us. We’re going to keep that model in place.

And yeah we understand that for some people it seems not right… the real unfortunate piece here is everything I said to you makes total sense to somebody, ‘ok I get it, I actually did buy a non-refundable ticket you’re right’ until they show up on Southwest and they don’t care.

…Good for them, they figured out a model for them that works, it’s so much different than ours we can’t sell our tickets that way. What we would choose to do instead, if we were forced to, if there was some legislation around this that says you guys shouldn’t be able to charge a change fee that costs more than it takes to change the ticket, which can’t be very much, if that happened what you’d see American do anyway is just not refund tickets anymore.

We would just have to say ok fine if we can only charge $5 for the change fee that means business customers could start buying non-refundable fares and just swap them around any time they want as their plans change at $5 a ticket, we’re just going to say no one can refund their tickets anymore. That model can’t work for us.

Really long answer to your question, ‘don’t fly the cattle car’ that works too.

Parker does a good job explaining the basic rationale of legacy airline pricing. But he contends it makes sense for customers because of world class service, that flying Southwest is flying a cattle car and flying American isn’t.

Southwest doesn’t offer premium cabin seating. But most American Airlines customers are in coach. Where’s the superior value proposition for most of American’s customers? He can’t say it’s in seat back entertainment, since they’re getting rid of that. Most customers aren’t flying internationally, so the fact that American flies international routes doesn’t make them a better value for flights from Dallas to Chicago.

  • there’s nothing about flying to London and Sao Paulo that requires less flexible fares for Dallas – Los Angeles.

  • and for a customer there’s little reason not to just fly American (or United or Delta) to London and Southwest to Chicago or Los Angeles. (At one time the reason might have been “AAdvantage” but unless you’re a ConciergeKey member that’s no longer clearly the case.)

If Parker wants to answer this question with “we’re better, we’re worth it, so accept our terms” and have customers prefer his airline enough to do that then he needs to offer a product that is actually better for the majority of those customers.

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. His reponses were ludicrous. The best takeaway, however, is his possible admission that the legacy airlines collude to have identical business models.

  2. Good coverage on AA. Just wondering are you picking on AA, or can you not get the same details on CEO talks from UA and DL?

  3. Great point Gary. I’ll keep flying Southwest domestically until the legacy carriers figure this out.

  4. Your posts always have a “you know better than they do” vibe. Have you ever thought that you don’t?

    I would agree that Southwest’s business model tends to be more customer friendly than American’s, or United’s or Delta’s. But I’m also pretty certain that if American adopted Southwest’s pricing model, they would be significantly less profitable. In other words, they don’t price the way they do because it’s stupid. Not every profit maximizing strategy is “consumer friendly.” Have you ever thought why booze tends to be expensive in a restaurant?

  5. His hockey analogy is terrible. If I can’t go Saturday, I can resell my tickets (probably close to what I paid) via StubHub or similar and then go and buy the Sunday tickets. But AA won’t let you do that (obviously) so the analogy is downright awful.

  6. Better product and world class service??? Oh he’s talking about the other OneWorld airlines. One would have to be crazy to use those words to describe AA.

  7. If I’m always flying economy, and there’s a direct flight on a legacy carrier vs. Southwest, I’ll likely fly Southwest. But since I don’t typically fly economy, I do have a motivation to fly AA. However, as you said Gary, that’s not true for most people, especially those without any status. Southwest wins that customer the majority of the time.

  8. It’s amusing (delusional?) that he thinks AA offers a better domestic product than southwest.

  9. AA can be more of a cattle car than Southwest. Southwest only uses large jets with the same legroom and seats almost every time. AA uses a diverse set of planes for obvious reasons, but often that means flying a much less comfortable CRJ to get to the smaller cities, which means less legroom and more uncomfortable seats. Granted I am only comparing the downside but the point is that for many domestic flights AA is a lower end product than Southwest.

  10. @Gary — Isn’t the answer just, AA does what the market will bear. Southwest competes with AA on only some routes, and on those routes, if you really value the flexibility and are flying coach, you’re probably going to choose Southwest. But AA gives you a loyalty program that’s more global, and offers other services that Southwest doesn’t (like seat assignments or easy booking through online travel portals). So yes, customers who really value flexibility above all else (and want to fly coach) might be better with Southwest — but there are enough other customers who value other services that AA is offering.

    I tend to think most markets are decently competitive. (At least here in New York City there is plenty of competition — I understand it may be less in some smaller cities — but the change fees are the same in “competitive” markets as they are everywhere else.) If that’s the competitive market outcome is t really so bad?

  11. What a shame southwest does not price a row then add some rows with only 2 seats. Each seat in the 2 seat section would cost 1.5x of those in the 3 seat section.

    No change in service. Just the opportunity to have a larger seat. I’m sure margins would increase while revenue would stay flat. Basically a win.

  12. I quit flying on AA, after my first flight on SW. I will be flying them to Europe this year but if I can get where I am going, on SW, I choose SW. Flights really are not cheaper, flight attendants are nicer. I don’t feel like cattle, I feel equal to everyone else on the plane.

  13. Good grief, Charlie Brown! Is Doug Parker the most clueless CEO in the marketplace? After reading each paragraph above from his “speech,” my immediate thought was, “bull$#|+,” or “what a load of crap,” or something else in a similar vein.

    >>> Parker says, “It’s probably easier to say ‘go fly the cattle car’.”
    OK, that part is true. Given his long-winded response, it’s certainly easier to say, “go fly the cattle car.” It’s not very friendly, nor is it oriented to providing good customer service. (Yes, I know Parker was just joking, but in his position, he shouldn’t be saying such things in public — even to a group of employees. Can’t you just see the Southwest commercial based upon Parker’s quote?)

    >>> Parker says, “They [Southwest] fly point-to-point network, people aren’t connecting. They do that with really high utilization so their costs are lower than ours. But they can’t take you everywhere in the world like we do. . . ”
    This is nonsense. a) Southwest *does* fly point-to-point, but there are plenty of people connecting. Has Parker never looked at a WN flight schedule? Some flights are nonstop, and some are direct; but I cannot say how many times I’ve had to change planes at LAX or LAS or PHX or some other airport just to get to my destination. b) Yes, WN has a “really high utilization” of their aircraft, but additionally, their operating costs are lower than AA’s due, in part, to running only one type of aircraft in the fleet: 737’s in various models and configurations. (In contrast, SeatGuru lists 39 different types of planes in AA’s fleet, including variations, though I’m sure that includes planes run by SkyWest and the regional carriers under the “American Eagle” name.) c) While it is true that AA has far more international flights than WN, that is hardly a crucial point. Southwest, as Gary pointed out above, “Southwest carries more passengers domestically than American does.” OK, Southwest doesn’t fly to Paris or Hong Kong, but flying more passengers domestically than AA means that Parker *should* see WN as a direct competitor.

    >>> Parker says, “And they don’t have a lot of business customers on their airplanes, so they pretty much sell the whole airplane at pretty much the same price point, they don’t have huge differences in prices.” Well, a) Gary already addressed this ludicrous comment above: “Southwest has ample business customers in Dallas, in Houston, in Chicago, in California. In Texas markets at peak travel times you have plenty of passengers in suits (not so much in California).” However, I would *disagree* with Gary about his “not so much in California” comment. Not only do I see suits on every WN flight I take within California, but by and large a lot of “business people” simply do *not* wear suits in California. I cannot think of a time I’ve been on Southwest when I haven’t seen someone working on a PowerPoint presentation, making last minute edits to a speech they have to make, or going over legal briefs, etc. b) Clearly Parker hasn’t looked at WN’s pricing lately. If I have to fly from OAK-BUR on business tomorrow (3/39/18) and return the same day, I’ll pay $194 each way if I buy their “Wanna Get Away” fare, $250 for their “Anytime” fare , or $278 each way for their “Business Select” fare. (OK, wait — Doug, why do you think WN designates some of their fares as “Business Select,” if they have no business passengers? Could it be that they DO have business customers? Hmmmm.) But, if I fly out a month from now, down and back the same day (4/30/18, to keep in on a weekday), I could grab a flight for as little as $69 each way — a savings of a minimum of $250 (and a maximum of $458) on the roundtrip. Let’s not forget that some business flights can be booked months in advance — think convention or an annual shareholders’ meeting, etc., etc.

    Finally, let me address one more thing: the seats. WN offers seats which (except for bulkhead and emergency rows) offer 31″ of pitch and 17″ of width. Looking at comparable seats on 737s or A320s,, AA’s seats vary widely, depending on the configuration of the specific plane, but can be as cramped as 30″ by 15.5″ (to be fair) or as generous as 31″ by 18″..

  14. Southwest’s loyalty program is of little interest to me. Even though retired, I fly domestically in coach on my own dime quite often as I have friends and family throughout the lower forty-eight. I haven’t found any bargain fares on WN that I can’t find on other carriers but I do redeem miles for international travel at least once a year or so which is where AA/Oneworld is particularly useful. In about fourteen months I’ve traveled in business class on Qatar, Cathay Pacific and American. With AA’s newer seating on all 777s, I found it to be way better than Delta’s 767s (to Europe, home on AA sixty days ago) and comparable to CX’s 777s. It beats QR’s a330s and their 777s but, while a bit short of the a350s, is the best of the U.S. big three. Catering and service on AA aren’t as good as the Mideast or Asian carriers, but I find them more than acceptable, the IFE better. So, if you want to fly coach for free in the U.S., stick with Southwest’s program. I’ll go farther though in J, thank you very much.

  15. I’m laughing whenever I read Parker’s comments. He’s clueless enough to be the next CEO of Baltia…

  16. I was a legacy AC/UA flyer for years and Star Gold member….I am so glad i left the legacies FF wheel and went with WN domestically and AS/VX(and partners for international trips).

    The service on WN is wayyy better than any legacy carrier for the most part (except VX was great…RIP virgin america). They empowered their employees to make the right decisions and help the customers to get on their way. In terms of “cattle call”, its actually extremely organized and less chaotic overall. It amazing to see a 738 boarded in 20 min or less.

    I take exception that only leisure is the target for WN….living in CA, i can tell you that A LOT of business uses southwest. The schedule is great, no change fees (because meetings always get moved, etc.) and flexibility.

    In terms of WN Rapid Rewards value; if you have a WN credit card, you can use it internationally just like an AMEX or Ultimate rewards portal to pay for international flights. You can do the same thing domestically by getting gift cards with your points and pay for flights that way(in fact its a better value than booking with points for Business Select Flights – and you get the revenue elite and points credit for using a gift card- granted for WGA fares, there is reduced value to 1cent but you get a revenue flight instead…) I think WN Rapid rewards is fantastic value…and easy to earn points….

    Anyway – happy flying!

  17. @Cool Breeze —> You, like Parker above, are mixing international travel with domestic. Were I in your shoes, and my GOAL was international travel, I too would fly on an airline that provides me with an opportunity for that travel. And, in fact, I am: I am retired, and I’ve flown Virgin America (and now Alaska) far more often than any there domestic carrier *precisely* because of the opportunities to fly international on points!¹ But clearly, a whole lot of people are flying WN domestically . . . more than who fly AA. There has to be a reason(s), and Parker — as Gary pointed out above — “Parker isn’t really giving customers a reason to choose his airline, and its restrictions, over Southwest’s.”

    ¹ This is the best aspect of VX’s takeover by AS — the increased opportunity for miles/points redemption to overseas destinations.

  18. One thing that seems to subtly permeate Parker’s comments (and it’s something I’ve heard from certain frequent flyers) is a somewhat elitist attitude that AA (and UA and DL) are somehow above the “cattle car” and clientele that WN has. That’s pure BS. Yes, if you are very wealthy OR if you fly hundreds of thousands of miles per year, you may get to enjoy their first class product. True, WN doesn’t have that. Then again, aside from JFK-LAX/SFO, domestic first class is nothing to write home about anyway. But in economy, where the vast majority of travelers end up, WN kicks the rear ends of all three legacy carriers – especially AA! Far more seat pitch, more courteous service, much more flexibility. Who cares about the lack of seat-back IFE? Almost every WN plane has wifi that offers Direct TV and complimentary movies. And, you know you’ll be on a 737 of some form and not a damn regional jet!

    Some hate the boarding process; I love it! You’ve got your number and that’s that. I can’t tell you how often I’ve flown for business (last minute) and paid over $1,000 for an economy ticket and ended up with a crap seat somewhere in the rear of the plane. This never happens to me on WN, because I know to check in on time. It works for me.

    So, Parker’s comments strike me as typically arrogant on his part. The same arrogance that led to a revolt when his airline planned a 28″ pitch in economy. As it is, their economy seats make United look good. For this frequent flyer, AA is a “no go zone”.

  19. I’ve said this before, but it’s so true. Every time Doug Parker opens his mouth, a little more drool comes out.

  20. Yep it’s funny. When AAdvantage was a selling point, I paid more to fly AA because I got status and benefits. But now it’s not a selling point, so I just fly Southwest. Southwest flies direct, so they get me there quicker. I’m going to be sitting in coach anyways, so I might as well have the flexibility that Southwest offers. Even if Southwest’s prices are higher than AA’s (which these days, they often are), I’m still willing to pay a bit more for Southwest because the overall value is better. I don’t get nickel-and-dimed. I get my drink and my snacks. I don’t have to worry about whether or not i’m checking luggage. I literally have no hassle with them.

    By circling around that question and throwing around an outdated insult, the real takeaway to me seems to be how clearly AA has given up fighting Southwest. That’s the best he can do? Call it a cattle car like it’s 1987 Southwest?

    For his reference, here are other vehicles that allow passengers to pick their own seats:
    Private airplanes

  21. I have to say, I love American for domestic flight. I use them all the time, and a big reason is their flexibility, since it only costs $5.60 to change to another flight or just get a fully refund. That’s a transaction fee I’m willing to pay for the convenience.

    Oh, did I mention that I only ticket American flights using British Airways Avios?


  22. @Dave

    I’m pretty sure he’s talking about the Texas Rangers rather than the New York Rangers. But your point still stands.

  23. I certainly know a number of government employees flow Southwest for official business trips. I haven’t done much Southwest flying lately but I agree that the experience is generally more pleasant than on the other airlines.

    With Southwest you know what you are getting. You get a lot of annoyed people on AA and others in coach because their upgrade didn’t clear and almost all of them had some hope of it getting cleared.

    I don’t fly much anymore, but I often will just pay for the business/first class for transcon flights instead of playing the status/”free” upgrade chance.

  24. Compare the 737MAX for AA and WN. One config has 31-32″ pitch in economy and the other has 30″ pitch and slim lavatories. One of those sounds like the cattle car plane.

  25. As a lifetime Plat I can say Parkers ignorance and arrogance has cost them all my business
    The shrinking coach seats & bathrooms and stingy saver award availability has me spending tens of thousands elsewhere for the past two years
    Their unempowered agents and the poor customer service was and is the final icing on the cake
    American had the greatest opportunity of a lifetime and Doug Parker destroyed the airline way worse than I could ever imagine
    I don’t think they will ever recover but hope I am wrong
    For every minor improvement they take 50 steps backwards

  26. WHY You people cannot understand that the Two Airlines (along with Delta and United) are a DIFFERENT Business Model with a more diverse Fleet ,Product and Global Network just shows how Ignorant You are when it comes to the comparison. The Legacies offer a First/Business class product on pretty much the ENTIRE Network….now, if You don’t like the Product “Tough Shitsky”….they do not need or want your business. Everybody Today wants SOMETHING for FREE in a World of ENTITLEMENT (looking at You Millenials)…..Keep it Simple, “You Want, You Pay” Nobody Gets a Free Ride. Southwest works for The Masses….not exactly My Cup of Tea but To Each His Own. Compare an Apple to an Apple, not an Apple to an Orange when it is Convenient to You.

  27. This made my head explode. Anyone who has flown WN LAX-SJC/SFO/OAK knows there are suits on every. single. plane. It’s full of tech / VC / monogrammed shirts and “business travelers.” The mix on united is literally identical, as is…drumroll…the price (to the cent)! Except in one case you can change for free (with a fixed ceiling) and in the other you can’t (whoops that last seat on LAX SFO is now $980, would that be OK?).
    The field techs for my company do a ton of travel out of Denver, and often times have to move flights around. When possible we always have them fly WN and on 6 figures of travel easily save 20% over legacy – it’s not even a question.
    I guess what I am saying is, I love the fact that Parker’s definitely of “business traveler” includes only first class customers paying rack rate flying transcon or NYLON. It doesn’t include “business travelers” who work for companies that value profit and predictability.

  28. I do believe it was a comment about the actual wearing of suits rather than implying no business passengers but the again maybe being a little subtle is lost on many.

    Harry B

  29. I think of WN and the legacies as having two very different business models. WN offers frequent service between several pairs of cities and being able to change from one flight to another isn’t a huge deal because they have so many seats. While the legacies have some routes like this (SFO-LAX, BOS-LGA, DCA-LGA), their model is mostly connecting people through a central hub to other places. Being able to fill a seat on a flight like that isn’t as always easy, hence a change fee. Granted $200 is a rip off and I still don’t know how they justify it.

    WN has a limited route map. You can only fly to a limited number of places on them where AA, DL, and UA have a much more extensive route map. I think people forget the breadth of the legacies in these discussions. You still can’t fly to six states on WN.

    Also, the legacies do have a same day confirmed and same day standby, which can be free for elites, which I still think is better than what you can get from WN for same day changes (it’s not something I ever use, so I’m not an expert).

  30. Not much to add – not surprising that the comments are more illuminating than the silly spin from Parker (which doesn’t deserve Gary’s validation).
    Reasons to fly legacy (including AA)
    – more comfortable reserved E+ seats which elites get for same price as WN
    – better elite perks including lounge access
    – opportunity to leverage miles for really comfortable leisure travel (F) and partner awards
    – more frequent midcon/transcon/hub nonstops and better network if you are based in hub
    – lower fares particularly for long-advance purchase (and sometimes last minute as discussed below)
    Reasons to fly WN
    – increased frequency for some shorthaul nonstops (e.g. NorCalSoCal)
    – secondary airports may be potentially more convenient for some (e.g. OAK, MDW,SNA) and fewer delays than high traffic hubs
    – don’t lose $200 per ticket when you change/cancel bargain fares
    – no carryon restriction and no checked bag fees
    – straightforward mileage redemption – no games with inventory
    – companion pass for top elites &/or CC churners

    Yesterday I flew UA SFOLAX because the last minute UA fares were 2-3x lower than WN. Would have preferred WN from OAK but I got upgraded to F both ways and made a free SDC so I can’t complain.

  31. At least in the DC market, Southwest is usually more expensive than the alternatives, and if you don’t want to go out to BWI, you usually can’t fly direct. There are also no direct DC to NYC flights on SW. So that’s why I rarely take Southwest.

  32. >I’m also pretty certain that if American adopted Southwest’s pricing model, they would be significantly less profitable

    Yes, a market can support successful suppliers who use two different models, especially if they target different subsets of the customer base or different types of purchases.

  33. For all of you airline management experts who think Parker is an idiot, I might mention the fact that the stuff he’s talking about is complicated. It’s so complicated that all you really brilliant know-it-alls don’t really understand it. And neither do AA’s employees. Because they’re pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and NOT airline management experts.

    This is why Parker boils it down to a nutshell when he refers to WN as a “cattle car.” He’s trying to talk in a way that’s comprehensible to non-finance people.

    I can assure you that this Parker guy is not an idiot, and the evidence is obvious in what he has built and the money his airline makes. I am sure all you do very important things that Parker doesn’t understand because that’s not his business. Perhaps you might want to consider the possibility that he is more familiar with the airline business than you are.

  34. I really would pay money to see Gary interview the CEOs and Loyalty Program heads at the US3 at a public forum. And I would pay even more money if we could guarantee a representative from the DOT and the House and Senate Transportation Committees to witness. It would be a lively debate filled with point, counter-point and data. That would be awesome.

  35. What an insult – to cattle cars everywhere for being compared to AA! One is full of manure, the other is transporting important parts of our economy.

  36. Southwest is far more profitable than any airline that charges bag fees. And when JetBlue started charging a bag fee, their profitability dropped.

    Standing up to Wall Street (and American’s bag fees) made money for Southwest … oh, the irony!

  37. Different business models for sure. But I find WN’s boarding since they went to the numbers to be more tolerable than anyone else’s. Far from a cattle call.

  38. I think a lot of people fly WN because it is more family friendly. On AA, unless you are Elite or pay extra the only seats you can reserve are middle or the last few rows in coach. Families want to sit together – they would have to pay extra on AA.

    Also – baggage is free on WN, but families have to pay a lot on AA for bags.

    Even if WN is more expensive, the seat and baggage issue make it less.

  39. For someone with a peanut allergy, flying Southwest is an absolute no-no as it still serves peanuts as snacks. American has at least made the sensible decision to eliminate peanuts and peanut products, or so we are told.

  40. Better the so-called “ cattle car” (which it actually isn’t and has not been for years) than the insane gate lice scrum.

    And American “treats customers better than WN”? What a ridiculous joke!

    If he really believes that, he’s delusional.

  41. @GoCard12

    When you book a flight on Southwest, you can tell them that you have a peanut allergy and they will not serve peanuts while you are on the flight. This is very common and why you sometimes see only pretzels being handed out. However, they cannot peanut-free flight because a passenger might bring peanuts on board, but that’s the case with any airline you fly.

  42. @Roger —> Get up on the wrong side of the bed? Well, ignoring the insults, let me add a few comments/thoughts . . .

    1) YES, WN has a “different business model” than AA, DL, and UA. But virtually every comment posted in this entire thread is speaking ONLY to AA’s *domestic* product. Everyone above who has said something to the effect of “I dropped AA and now fly WN” is *only* speaking of domestic flights.¹

    2) You wrote, in part, that “The Legacies offer a First/Business class product on pretty much the ENTIRE Network….” Well, *clearly* this isn’t true (unless you meant either/or, as opposed to both). In only one configuration (777-300ER) does AA offer a First in a wide body; everything else offers only Business in the front. On A320’s and 737’s — yes — there are First Class sections (no Business) varying between 8, 12, or 16 seats (expand to 20 on their A321 “Transcon” variants; AA’s 757-200 MCE has 24. All of these are recliner seats, save the A321 Transcons.

    3) You continued, saying “….now, if You don’t like the Product “Tough Shitsky”….they do not need or want your business.” Au contraire, mon ami. Every business wants to attract (and keep) every customer they possibly can. Well, come to think of it, you may be right when it comes to AA — Doug Parker seems to be driving customers away in drives!

    4) “Southwest works for The Masses….not exactly My Cup of Tea but To Each His Own. Compare an Apple to an Apple, not an Apple to an Orange when it is Convenient to You.” Well, certainly no one is stopping you from flying AA, nor is anyone forcing you to fly WN. This is why there is (albeit less than previously) competition the marketplace: no one size fits all. BUT, I would respectfully suggest — since the overwhelming number of posts have been comparing AA’s DOMESTIC service (hard, soft, and human) with WN’s DOMESTIC service — it *is* a fair apples-to-apples comparison.

    ¹ Plus a few flights to Mexico and the Caribbean — that said, no one really things of WN as anything BUT a domestic airline.

  43. @GoCard12 —> FWIW, I’ve been on several Southwest flights when nothing but pretzels and/or crackers (think of an “Oreo” made from Ritz crackers and some cheese-type filling) were served, after the FA’s announced they had someone with a peanut allergy onboard.

  44. Helpful to know, thanks! The other problem is that the flight before that likely had peanuts, and I doubt everyone washed their hands before touching anything, like my seat, my tray table, my arm rest, the bathroom door, the latch to the overhead bin, after they ate their peanuts. I just can’t chance it. Life or death. And that is why I avoid flying Southwest at all costs.

  45. Pass the Kool-Aid Doug…you need to talk to someone other than yourself, your yes-men, or those in your economic strata. Without taking sides other than I like WN but really like knowing where my seat is going to be, DP needs to learn the difference between, Marketing, Advertising, and Branding. According to this article, Marketing is how you see yourself, Advertising is how you act in public, and Branding is how others see you. Parker focuses on Marketing and stops there. Southwest kills everyone in Advertising and Branding.

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