I read a rumor in my Facebook feed that American was changing its onboard cookies again, and I reached out to see if that was true. A spokesperson told me, “Rumor confirmed. We’re changing cookies.”
That’s exciting news, believe it or not, for an American Airlines frequent flyer — both because the cookie they introduced in September wasn’t very good.. but more importantly because of what it shows about how they’re making decisions as they proceed with the merger.
In talking with them about the cookie, I learned that:
- The September-onward cookie “was made with higher quality chocolate and was quite frankly more expensive than what we had been serving on American.”
- They heard customer feedback that it wasn’t as enjoyable as the old cookie.
- So they’ve taste-tested a new cookie that’s “going back to the kinds of cookies that made American famous.”
The new cookies are rolling out across American’s catering operation now. They are still heated rather than baked on board like the cookies introduced in September, but even that could change.
Back in September American eliminated ‘baked on board’ cookies in favor of ‘heated on board’. US Airways aircraft have only a single oven, and the thought was that the lack of an ability to cook multiple things at once meant that baking would be impractical on the US Airways side as catering was aligned. American tells me “we’re looking into adding a second oven into US Airways aircraft.” That would allow a return to bake on board.
In September they introduced this cookie:
They eliminated the former choice of two cookies. And no longer was there that smell of fresh baking cookies wafting through the cabin. It wasn’t gooey. It was dense. And it was sweet. Very sweet.
I stopped accepting the cookies. Every flight attendant I spoke to (on the American side) said they missed the old cookies, that customers frequently declined the cookies or didn’t like the new ones.
There was apparently some experimentation with the cookie, as I tried a different version in November. It was more like a scone.
The quality of the on board cookie seems like such a trivial item. Here’s why it matters.
- The decision was made based on US Airways fleet constraints
- It appeared that it was a cost-cutting change impacting passenger experience.
- That simply reinforced the notion that American, with US Airways’ management in charge, was going to follow the US Airways low cost model where what matters is only on time departures.
Instead, they were willing to spend more on catering in hopes of avoiding a capital expense. They listened to customers and are willing to reconsider the specifics of their decisions.
There’s no question that a safe reliable and on-time airline is the first priority for any passenger, along with price. But once that baseline has been met, for frequent flyers who make loyalty decisions and stick with an airline over the course of a year and several years, passenger experience matters. And some items can carry signficant meaning to frequent customers, which is why United is bringing back bread plates to domestic first class. (United is the airline that moved to split instead of whole cashews to save money, so they don’t take these decisions lightly.)
Seeing American executives listen and respond to customer feedback thus says something about what we can expect.
- The airline continues to invest in new equipment and new (albeit fewer) premium seats.
- They haven’t (yet?) pulled back on their commitment to 3-cabin service on their premium New York JFK – Los Angeles/San Francisco routes. Management certainly came in expecting that first class wouldn’t last on those. No doubt it’s not required on the San Francisco route, but they wouldn’t want to designate separate subfleets for each. And I’d expect 10 seats per flight is too many on Los Angeles. But they’ve stuck with it, showing an open-mindedness about how it plays out.
- Despite initial cuts to American meal service (essentially meeting US Airways flight time standards for meal service in the middle), they’ve listened to complaints and added back meals onto some flights.
I consider the meals not to be as good as before, and don’t change up as frequently as they used to. And this new cookie – which I hope to try next week – may just be an interim step. And they acknowledge that. They’re listening and responding, so even if they’re not doing everything I’d want it’s a data point to consider as the merger of operations proceeds.