Why American Doesn’t Think They Need to Offer as Good a Product as Delta

A year ago Delta announced they would serve meals in coach in 12 markets. In response American announced meals in coach.. for New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco. They ceded a better product in economy to Delta where they compete head-to-head: Washington National – Los Angeles, and New York JFK – Seattle and San Diego.

An employee asked American whether there are any plans to expand food in economy (like Delta offers) and the answer is no.

Delta and JetBlue offer lie flat seats between Boston and Los Angeles. American does not. And American says they don’t plan to, either.

Instead they say that their competitive advantage is in not increasing service year-over-year.

  • American currently offers 5 peak daily departures (Saturday just four). That’s increasing to 6 flights a day.

  • JetBlue has four lie flat flights per day. Delta has two lie flats and a standard domestic product per day.

American’s New Domestic First Class

American offers 6 flights come this summer. United, JetBlue, and Delta combine for 10. JetBlue and Delta combine to offer as many flights with lie flat seats and American will offer with standard seats.

But American believes because they offer an inferior product more frequently than any one airline individually (but less frequently than their competitors do together) that means they offer the best service.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Hahahahaha, American’s responses to direct questions were some authentic frontier gibberish.

  2. When I read answers like these, I get the sense that even the senior management team isn’t aligned around a strategic vision for the company. Without that, they’re left creating/spinning out answers like this.

  3. AA gave up on BOS. Isn’t that the real answer? Used to have 30+ nonstop destinations and they were THE airline to travel from BOS.

  4. “Giving customers the best service isn’t just about where American flies, but when”

    American’s daily flight-schedule from LAS to PHL:
    11:15pm-6:56am (next day)

    At most, there’s one convenient nonstop flight out of Vegas on a given day.

  5. So let me guess: American is where Sean Spicer found his next job . . .

  6. kinda glad UA is back to an acceptable level of 3x daily on LAX-BOS. For a while their service has collapsed down to 1x daily when AA was offering 5x, which is basically “why even bother”.

    And I can kinda see why some competitors aren’t so eager to jump into the flat bed madness. jetblue’s Mint pricing, especially for those purchasing more than 30 days out, has pretty much permanently downshifted premium cabin pricing on most of the routes they offer Mint (routinely in the high-400s low-500s one way, slightly lower than JFK-LAX/SFO and on par with more peripheral routes like JFK-SAN or JFK-LAS)

    There are tons of routes in both AA’s and DL’s networks that can command more in crappy domestic first recliner than on a LAX-BOS flat bed.

  7. I give AA credit at least for taking questions from their employees and answering them. I absolutely agree they should compete head to head on product but let’s get real we knew that would be tossed out the window the day Parker took over. They may be the biggest airline in the world but domestically Southwest is number one and SWA has the most consistent product out there and by far the most consumer friendly policies. As AA and UA race to the bottom, theyll see thier elites defect to Delta, Jetblue, Alaska, the mid level elites defect to SWA and they’ll be left largely with the same passages who only fly Spirit and Frontier.

  8. Really sad that AA is not willing to differentiate. Their IT is bad too..

    I recently used a BXP1 upgrade cert for CLT-SAN sector of my PIT-SAN trip. I couldn’t check in for the CLT-SAN flight and at PIT the agents couldn’t check me in and told me I had to do it at CLT.

    Despite a 70 minute connection, taxiway was badly congested at CLT and I barely made the CLT-SAN check in cutoff by 8 minutes. The flight was oversold (thanks to the recent weather) and had I lost my seat they would have an involuntary denied boarding issue on their hands.

    Silly things like this shouldn’t happen if they commit more resources to improve wide range of things with the goal of being a differentiator. I suspect, its much cheaper to follow or adopt a similar initiative that someone else invested resources to innovate, but with more restrictions (i.e. basic economy and the laughable SDFC).

  9. Of their 5 flights daily this month LAX-BOS, only one is a non red eye that arrives before 10pm. Lousy schedule to be bragging about.

  10. That thinking is why Delta (and JetBlue) pushed USdbaAA out of BOS and JFK, airports where AA used to be the clear #1. Delta is expanding LAX and if history means anything, USdbaAA could have a much smaller LAX network in the future. USdbaAA management is so lucky to have fortress hubs at DFW, MIA, CLT, and PHL.

  11. @stephen great points on USbdaAA losing ground at JFK. Although I don’t think the former AA was ever #1 at BOS. US dehubbed it long before the merger likely due to their own bankruptcy and other Northeastern hubs (PHL and PIT)

  12. All those employees in the photo standing around in Domestic First Class and nobody making a Pre Departure Drink. Management answers questions in corporate speak, unenthusiastic employees…………the customer has choices and usually AA is not a choice.

  13. I think American thinks that flight frequency is all they need. They don’t compete with Delta and JetBlue and know that they can’t with what they offer passengers. So it’s frequencies. As long as there are suckers for AAdvantage miles, they will get away with running a sub-standard airline.

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