American Airlines President: We Didn’t Mean It When We Promised Free Texting

Delta, Alaska, and Southwest Airlines all offer free inflight texting. In September 2017, at American’s Investor and Media Day, the airline announced they would offering free inflight texting however that never happened. Last month I asked them about it and was told they aren’t doing it after all.

American got its media for improving customer experience, and then didn’t have to actually improve customer experience.

At a Crew News question and answer session with employees this week, American Airlines President Robert Isom says they’re not even ready to evaluate offering free inflight texting.

The biggest priority for us, and I think we had a media inquiry of some sort about the status of texting, biggest priority for us it to get satellite wifi on our aircraft that’s going to be done by next summer. Once we get that in place we can sit down and talk about what kind of enhancements that we make to that. So my feeling is that we’ve got to evaluate the best use of our bandwidth at that time and we’ll do that.

Robert Isom’s position surprises me for three reasons.

  1. If American isn’t yet ready to evaluate free inflight texting — if the evaluation has to wait until satellite wifi is fully rolled out — why did they announce they were doing it last year?

  2. It’s strange that getting satellite wifi on American Airlines aircraft is considered a priority that trumps offering free inflight texting, since American’s plans for satellite wifi were already contract when they announced free inflight texting. Satellite wifi isn’t a new priority they hadn’t considered at the time.

  3. Suggesting that inflight texting is something they’ll have to evaluate in terms of using available bandwidth is similarly strange, since American has been promoting that their new satellite wifi removes bandwidth constraints and customers should have no problem streaming video on board. Yet texting will take up too much bandwidth? (Update: American reached out to clarify that Robert Isom was not referring to bandwidth on the plane.)

American sent out releases and garnered media attention for free inflight texting. They haven’t explained why they have changed their mind on this issue. Perhaps they should send out a new press release stating “but our fingers were crossed.”

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. Last paragraph typo? Should WiFi be texting? “American sent out releases and garnered media attention for free inflight wifi.”

  2. As I sit on an AA plane delayed by a flight attendant that decided to not show up to work on time and a battery maintenance issue. AA is the British airways of the US. Utter complete junk.

  3. Had two flights on United last week – one Airbus and one Boeing – wherein connecting to the inflight wifi allowed for iMessage and WhatsApp. Even allowed photos via WhatsApp. Unsure if that’s a fluke in their protocol filters for the on-board wifi or if it’s an un-announced new “feature” as I don’t recall United ever announcing that development.

  4. Not to mention that texting takes pretty much no bandwidth. It’s just text! they could do this with existing wifi like tomorrow.

  5. You have Parker and Isom flying AA into the ground and Kirby and Nocella seeing if they can do it faster over at United. Meanwhile Delta is busy scheming about how to devalue SkyMiles faster than the Weimar Republic. The US airline industry is a joke.

  6. you can send a picture or a video via a text message – those things would eat bandwidth rather quickly.

  7. Free messaging? Big deal. JetBlue offers free WiFi so you can do whatever you want, including messaging. Most legroom in coach, best domestic first with Mint, the only airline to offer free WiFi – B6 is terrific.

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