American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has finally flown the airline’s new standard coach product, a full nine months after it has entered service.
American debuted a new domestic interior on their first Boeing 737 MAX back in November. That isn’t just the new product that is going on one plane (of which they have 100 on order). They’re taking all of their existing Boeing 737s and replacing the interior with,
- New seats with less distance from seat back to seat back
- That have less padding
- And no seat back video
New American Airlines Standard Domestic Coach Seat
They’re reducing legroom in coach, in Main Cabin Extra, and in first class too. And they’re installing smaller lavatories that one American Airline pilot called the worst experience in the world.
American is also taking new deliveries at the beginning of 2019 of the Airbus A321neo. That will have a new similar dense configuration. And then they’ll be retrofitting existing Airbus narrowbodies to be just as uncomfortable.
Even though American Airlines determined this would be the airline’s new standard product I revealed back in January that CEO Doug Parker had never flown it. In May I uncovered that he still hadn’t flown it.
The fact that the head of the company would roll out a product across the entire airline without trying it clearly suggested to me that as far the airline was concerned it didn’t much matter what passenger experience would be like.
- They’re investing heavily in international business class and lounges
- They’re improving experience for ConciergeKey members
- But most American Airlines customers fly domestic and in coach, and their experience overall would be worse
- And the CEO wasn’t interested in even knowing what it would be like for most of his customers.
Airline President Robert Isom says they’re modeling Spirit and Frontier which are growing quickly with better margins than American yet wonders why they’re having a hard time getting customers to pay more to fly their product.
Well the indefatigable Brian Sumers first revealed that Doug Parker has finally flown it.
Breaking: I have learned @AmericanAir CEO Doug Parker has finally flown the Boeing 737 Max with the new tiny toilets. "It was coach," an airline spokesman said. Miami to Quito.
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) August 20, 2018
He said it was a nice main cabin experience — in line with U.S. carrier main cabin products with a couple of pleasant surprises. The overhead bins are large and it had a nice array of movies. But most of all, they had a great crew of Flight Attendants who kept customers happy.
It turns out there was secret video footage of Parker’s inflight experience.
He flew the aircraft Miami – Quito which has the same scheduled flight time as Miami – New York LaGuardia. The slim line seats are alright, I think, for a three hour flight but I wouldn’t want the lack of cushioning for Washington National – Los Angeles.
What strike me is that Parker was apparently surprised by the experience, although from the statement it’s unclear whether the surprise is the “overhead bins are large” or that he had “a great crew.”
Larger Overhead Bins Fit One Bag Per Passenger
You’d think he would be aware of the overhead bins. Of course in June he told employees the airline wouldn’t be adding seats to existing 737s even though that’s exactly what they’re doing.
We’re not going through the whole fleet and adding a bunch of seats to airplanes or taking out larger bathrooms and putting in smaller ones. We ordered a new airplane this product existed, it allowed us to get on that airplane at the pitch we have on other aircraft one more row of seats we thought that was the right trade-off. And again I don’t view that at all as any sort of effort to degrade the product, or anything like that, it’s just a different product that’s available now and that allowed us to get 6 more seats on the airplane than we would have otherwise on a brand new airplane. But we aren’t going to put that on all the other airplanes or anything like that.
New American Airlines Standard Domestic Lavatory
Parker has contended that their new product isn’t worse than what competitors offer though that’s certainly not true compared to Delta, Alaska, Southwest and JetBlue (and Southwest carries more domestic passengers than American does, and ironically Parker refers to Southwest as “the cattle car.”).
Since American now longer offers a substantially more compelling loyalty program than competitors, they need to offer a better product if they want to earn a revenue premium. Overall I’d choose American Airlines business class over United’s (too few planes with new seats) or Delta’s (too many 767s). But they’re intentionally making their domestic product worse than what other airlines offer, squeezing 22 more seats into the same space since Parker took over and giving up extra legroom coach seats, legroom in first class, and even seat padding for support.