Back in November I flew American’s inaugural Boeing 737 MAX flight. The plane has American’s new interior that’s been controversial, offering less legroom than ever before. It’s the new standard domestic product for American.
- They had planned to offer some seats with just 29 inches from seat back to seat back.
There was so much outcry they backed off of that plan, but spacing is still down from 31 inches in economy to 30 inches. And they did that by offering fewer ‘Main Cabin Extra’ extra legroom seats. So there are fewer seats on the plane available to escape tight pitch.
- Even first class has less legroom. And the lavatories are smaller than before too.
- There are no seat back video screens. And the seats don’t recline as much as before.
- But there’s faster satellite internet and larger overhead bins.
American’s CEO Doug Parker thinks it’s weird that I broke the news he told employees in a closed session that he hasn’t flown the new 737 MAX even though it’s the carrier’s new standard domestic product for the whole fleet. Months later he still won’t say that he’s been on it.
American Airlines President Robert Isom says he has flown the product and has even gone inside the aft lavatories.
Isom explains to employees in a closed session that they’re copying the worst products in the country, Spirit and Frontier.
[T]oday there is a real drive within the industry and with the traveling public to want to have really at the end of the day low cost seats. And we’ve got to be cognizant of what’s out there in the marketplace and what people want to pay.
The fastest growing airlines in the United States Spirit and Frontier. Most profitable airlines in the United States Spirit. We have to be cognizant of the marketplace and that real estate that’s how we make our money.
We don’t want to make decisions that ultimately put us at a disadvantage, we’d never do that.
This isn’t just the interior product on new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. It’s the new standard domestic interior for American Airlines. They’re retrofitting existing planes with this interior, even going so far as to remove seat back entertainment screens from planes that already have them.
Since this is the product American Airlines intends to be offering customers on domestic flights for years to come you would think that the Chairman and CEO of the airline would want to know what the product even is.
That’s why it was newsworthy that Doug Parker hadn’t flown the product, months after it was introduced into the market.
They’ve been flying this new product for six months now. So I reached out to American Airlines to see if he’s finally flown one of their planes with this interior. Back in January I wrote that he needed to fly it if only to be able to say that he has.
An American Airlines spokesperson responded “At this time, we’re going to decline answering.”
American’s strategic objectives include “deliver[ing] value to all customers, especially premium customers” (or as George Orwell wrote, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”). While the airline is focused on ConciergeKey customers and international business class they are clearly not focused on their domestic premium product because they’re renovating planes to give first class passengers less room.
If Doug Parker actually spent time flying the MAX he might understand the product his airline is offering, that he’s driving his product towards what Spirit is offering instead of driving towards a quality world class offering.