American’s New Domestic Product is So Bad Their CEO Won’t Fly It

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.

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. […] American is copying United’s earlier move to allow customers on full flights to change their plans without a fee. Spirit Airlines also books to capacity. As American’s President Robert Isom said in 2018, […]


  1. I’m a pilot for an airline. After hundreds of conversations with passengers, one thing is clear to me. The only thing passengers shop for is: A LOW FARE. A passenger will complain about the leg room, the performance, the flight attendants and even the snacks on the aircraft. I will then politely ask them, “so why did you select this flight/airline?” The answer (always with a puzzled, slightly excited look indicating how just proud they are with their decision/success/determination when they respond) is almost always “well, I got an $XYZ airfare.”


    People want you to think that they are informed, sophisticated shoppers. The problem is that they only differentiate airlines by price. That’s their metric. Price. Service isn’t even in the equation. So when an airline does everything they can to squeeze more profit from a seat so they can offer it more inexpensively, (and compete more effectively) nobody should be surprised when the quality goes down. An improved, quality cabin experience will only change when two things happen: 1) passengers notice the difference between airlines and 2) respond with their wallets. Until then, don’t forget to bring your own snacks, pack light and dress comfortably because that’s as good as it’s going to get.

    BTW, much of what an airline spends much their money on isn’t experienced by the passenger directly- more efficient aircraft, better maintenance, flight training, etc. is what helps keep passengers safe and the airline out of the newspaper. The cabin experience is what’s left for the passenger. The’ve already indicated that they will sacrifice everything about the cabin experience in exchange for a lower airfare. Just sayin.

  2. Syd, what your observation misses is elasticity.

    Look, if AA garbage is $100 and the competitor is $500 for a 3 hour flight….well, yeah, AA it is.

    But if AA is $190 and Jetblue is $210, guess what, Jetblue it is.

    Obviously people take the fare into account. But you cant proclaim that people will universally put up with garbage to save $10. How much people are willing to pay varies from person to person. Thats econ 101.

    Further, the price premium people will pay is based off their previous experience. Today, I would pay the same for AA or UA. But say I fly on one of AAs new garbage planes and have a horrible time. Next time, I might be willing to pay extra to avoid them.

    And it’s extremely rare that you can directly compare AA with another airline, because youre not just looking at cost and pitch, but also departure time, trip time, etc.

    Heres an example of where cost gets muddy:

    I can make a 7:30am flight at Newark using mass transit. I CANNOT make a 6:30 flight using mass transit, it would require a $70 Uber vs a $12 train. So I save money taking the 7:30 plane even if it costs an additional $40. Oh, and I have the UA credit card so my baggage is free vs other airlines. That again changes the equation.

    Life is complicated. trying to paint an entire industry with “all customers care about is price” is nonsense.

  3. @JJJ: “Syd, what your observation misses is…”
    What you miss is that for 95% of domestic travel only price matters. Re-read what Syd said.

  4. It would be obviously cheaper to have everybody standing like in the metro. Or drop the passengers by parachute or throw them to the water from a low altitude. That is why there are state and federal regulations. Airlines are not the ones to blame for this shit, but the international regulations that do not impose certain limits for leg space to avoid unfair competition.

  5. My expectations in price drop given the reduction in everything else but, would be <100 dollar tickets for American domestic travel. Otherwise I'd make it my mission to spend more to have reasonable accommodations. I'm certain that despite deprivation for cheaper seats, the price drop will be no more than 50 dollars less per seat. When a radical move in interior design has been made under the pretext that "this will make our service more affordable" if it isn't significantly more affordable, I think all millennials are educated enough to avoid these AA flights like they are a walking disease. Besides, maybe European companies can offer American customers better prices domestically and completely tip the scales internationally because customers are so appalled by these changes. I'd like to have Lufthansa flights run from Newark International airport.

  6. Those of a certain age (like me!) will likely recall the slogan of the late Sy Syms, who said:

    “An educated consumer is our best customer.”

    The problem is, most people, even salespeople I talk to who are not necessarily “Road Warriors”, but who DO travel with enough frequency to be worthy of consideration as those who’s needs should NOT be taken for granted by airlines, simply don’t know the “ins” & “outs” of particular seats and/or airline industry geekspeak, arcana, etc.

    They just don’t. Nor should they be expected to know this stuff!

    Problem is, with the internet long ago displacing/replacing travel agents, few passengers have access to information that can properly guide them about which airlines offer the best possible match for their, and their families’, overall needs.

    And in doing so, our airlines can now get away with all sorts of chicanery in the absence of information about which airlines offer what products, and/or QUALITY of products/reputation for excellence, etc.

    Which, of course, has allowed for, and worsened the proliferation of the most odious forms of sleazy, shady, dishonest and disreputable pricing practices that are predicated on intentional product degradations, sadistic cabin densifications, other deceptive airfares/fees bait & switch tricks, etc., etc., etc., we see now in an era of government sanctioned oligopoly (not to mention the incompetent, consumer hostile administration ruining…er running our country right now).

    However, as (IIRC) another reader noted, with proper information, I have found that most people will pay more to fly on an airline with a better reputation for service overall, or one that offers more comfortable seating, seatback IFE, etc., if they are “educated” about the differences between “Brand X” and “Brand Y”.

    And while I cannot state this with force equivalent to a large statistical sampling using rigid parameters to obtain data (in other words, anecdotally), my experience as someone who is frequently asked by family and friends which airlines are “better” for them to book their own flights or to actually make the bookings for them (either of which I do fairly often), my experience is that once they have an opportunity to gain a better understanding about why even if the fare is higher on “Brand Y” than the lowest fare they saw on “Brand X”, they should book “Brand Y”, more than 80% of the time, they’ll book the higher fare option on “Brand Y”.

    Now, in my limited universe, family and friends trust me, because they information has proven to be reliable – so it’s not usually a hard sell anymore.

    But originally, many, understandably, were skeptical. However, if more passengers/consumers had access to reliable information via travel professionals instead of the current DIY model using internet search engines or OTAs, the myth that flyers “only” choose their flights based on the airfares seen just might prove to be just that – a myth!

    Of course, most people choose the lowest fares seen in the absence of someone being available to guide them about things like quality of service, or seats so small only small children are guaranteed to fit into them comfortably.

    And the situation is only getting worse now that Seatguru has destroyed any real value in using that web site beyond the seat maps with the complete elimination of flyers’ comments/reviews, and the redesigned format where the pictures of the airplanes are so distorted as to be utterly useless 🙁

    That, and google’s elimination last week of its “classic” option to search for flights, only made things that much worse for flyers, while tilting the bias even further in favor of airlines (aka ADVERTISERS) and AGAINST consumers.

    Such is life these days for beleaguered flyers in an era when just enough imbeciles seem to think stripping away consumer protections, allowing intentionally dishonest and deceptive pricing/selling practices, and protecting an abusive airline cartel is a “good thing”…

  7. I really don’t understand how they can rationalize reducing the number of MCE seats and making first class worse. As someone who typically only hits the bottom level of status on things, the only thing that keeps my loyal to an airline is getting complimentary extra legroom seats. I switched to UA because I could reliably get an E+ seat (I’ve never not gotten one with them). Even before this change I often wouldn’t get an MCE seat with AA (particularly since their ex-US fleet STILL doesn’t have any). Why would anyone who flies 25-50k miles and spends $3k-$6k on flights choose American?

  8. Whenever I can, I pay extra for extra legroom in economy class. It is worth it. However, the airlines are greedy as sin. Remember the $25 baggage fee imposed during the high fuel cost era? That was about 8 years ago, maybe 10 when a barrel of oil was approaching $150 and jet-A was like $5 gallon. The airlines saw fuel prices going up and down and up again on a weekly basis. They imposed that tariff to cover high fuel costs. Then, when the cost of Jet-A plummeted in 2014-2018, they kept the baggage fees. Now, they make $ billions in profit off the unnecessary “Baggage fees”. The public is being fleeced.

  9. @Bubba Lew: Unbundling baggage fees didn’t increase total fares by a cent. It simply meant that you, carrying just your spare pair of split-crotch panties no longer subsidized me with my kitchen sink in the checked bag. You actually paid less!

  10. jjj,
    Clearly, you are a rational person. Someone who actually makes considered purchases. People like you, however, are not who constitute the bulk of the flying public. Those people shop price first and only. And then they complain that they got what they paid for and they are somehow entitled to more. Oddly enough, it was American Airlines (before the merger) who had more legroom on their aircraft when their competitors were reducing theirs. Passengers would not pay more for more legroom. Eventually, American was forced to acquiesce and go along. Virgin America was greatly loved and scored well in Customer Service. But as much as their passengers loved them, they flew on cheaper airlines. Virgin was still losing money when their competitors were making money.

    Currently, there is a pilot shortage that is only going to get worse long before it gets better. Airlines won’t have the ability to increase capacity substantially. Until that day comes, expect seats to get smaller, fares to get higher and airlines to make hay while the sun shines. Some may see that as greed. The airline business is a small margin industry. When the airlines are making money, there don’t seem to be enough banks on the planet to store the cash. When they are losing money (remember 2008 and beyond?) there aren’t furnaces large enough to burn all of the cash they shovel in.

    Remember Robert Crandall’s quote: “I’ve never invested in any airline. I’m an airline manager. I don’t invest in airlines. And I always said to the employees of American, ‘This is not an appropriate investment. It’s a great place to work and it’s a great company that does important work. But airlines are not an investment.

  11. AA appears to be pricing BE to match WN’s Wanna Get Away fares on several routes.

    There is no contest there: why on this green earth would anyone fly AA on those routes with the crap-o BE product and cramped seats when they can get WN at the same price with no loss-of-value through change fees, free checked bags, and a couple of inches more legroom?

    As for the “no one will pay” argument, I direct your attention to DL, who has a good domestic product, better reliability, and employees who care. While they have a basic economy product, they have not seen fit to turn their airplanes into uncomfortable, overstuffed chicken coops.

    It is clear that Mr. Parker remains fixated on LCC instead of delivering quality product. Other than burning miles (when and if I can get an award seat), I haven’t set foot on AA’s aircraft on a paying basis for quite a while. As the race to the bottom continues, my money goes to DL, B6, and WN wherever possible. I won’t fly Frontier and I won’t fly Spirit – and I see no reason to fly AA as long as those airlines are what they aspire to.

  12. I ONLY fly Southwest. 2 free bags (if you can’t pack your stuff in 2 bags then you are taking too much stuff), free carry on bag and free personal item (computer/purse),free cancellation with the funds available for future use for 1 year, NO change fees ( a ripoff beyond comprehension), impeccable safety record, great flight attendants, great fares and reliable flight times. Anyone flying any other airline and paying for 1)bags,2) change fees,3) seating fees,4)cramped seating,5) snarly flight attendants – you DESERVE what you foolishly choose and PAY for. Personally, if you fly any other airline than Southwest, you don’t have any right to complain.

  13. American tried the “More Room in Coach” and it did not work. The ad featured an airplane that tilted. Folks, you get what you ask for. You want cheap, you get cheap so don’t bitch at American. I hate it but I understand.

  14. Two options, leave things the way they are, travelers will overwhelmingly decide based on price. The cheaper fares are the more people are able to fly. The second option is, go back to 1980s fares where they were MUCH higher than they are now and many folks won’t be able to afford flying. Why do you think families with four kids fly to Disney now and didn’t 25 or 30 years ago? The fares were so high people drove or took a train or bus back then. Now, they can take Spirit or Frontier or even a legacy carrier and it’s only $100 round trip.

  15. Everyone that I know, including me, will pay extra few $$$ to be treated as humans and fly safely. These new products are not only inhumane but straight out unsafe. People cannot even get out of their seats. In case of an emergency we would not be able to even escape if we even survived.
    I fly UA since I do not have a lot of choice, but if I could I would pay way more just to avoid flying 5-6 hours on those crappy 737s that are designed for children age 10 or less.

  16. David Miller you are 100% correct. I go out of my way to fly Southwest. They are the best in everything they do.

  17. I flew this plane this past week. I had a hard time stowing my bags under the seat. It was like the tour bus I was in a few days prior. I don’t mind paying a little extra for comfort. Fortunately, this was a short flight, at 45 minutes. I can’t imagine me flying to NYC, from LA, on American Airlines, in the future.

  18. Hold on people. I a VERY frequent traveler. I have flown #AA thru ups and downs for a long time and recently applauded them as they began to refit and dumped the damned MD80’s. Like many, I care about cost, BUT quality service amenities on flights over 90 minutes really count. I can and do pay more to fly #AA. I am only a short 5’8″ and the leg room on the MAX in economy is ridiculously uncomfortable. The restrooms are also very uncomfortable. I heard a flight attendant talking about “prying” a larger passenger out of one of them. I am a disappointed Executive Platinum AAdvantage flyer. It’s a long, long way from the days of CR Smith, but #AA seemed like it was becoming a class act again. I still have hope, but jam me up in a pickle jar in a middle seat w/o any inflight entertainment and that may well change. However, I am still a #neverunited and rarely Delta guy.

  19. I am 10+ years executive platinum doing majority of my travel domestically (and purchasing coach tickets due to company policy).
    The only thing that makes domestic travel bearable week in and week out is status. Upgrades, free plus seating.
    I will absolutely take more expensive coach seats to fly my preferred airline. Airlines know this and banking on that fact from us ‘loyal’ travelers.
    Airlines can mistreat the vacationers & 3 times a year fliers all they want- because as stated all they want is cheap. They can bear most anything for a few hours. The second my status doesn’t give me some form of comfort, I will status match elsewhere and, like Kaiser Soze- be gone.

  20. David Miller & Marauder: Ditto on SWA (or WN if you insist). No bag fees, no change fees, no cancellation fees, employees who at least LOOK like they enjoy their jobs – I’ve been a Southwest customer for years and look forward to more years with them – especially when they start flying to Hawaii later this year!!

  21. Having flown exclusively on AA for the past ten years and always up front and can tell you that paying a premium for a seat that is now about the same size and pitch of my 1970’s coach experience is terrible. The flight attendants are rude, spend more time talking among themselves than they do the passengers. That past Friday I flew from PHX to ORD. After the first visit, she never returned until just before landing and then just to make sure my iPad Pro was in airplane mode.
    The writer that like DL has never flown them from CMH or had them move a full fare first class passenger to a coach middle seat to accommodate a pilot that need to dead head to ATL.

    Domestic airlines think in terms of the Greyhound bus, pack them in as cheap as possible and charge for everything!

  22. In the 1990s, I was Gold on Connie, and flew probably 15-20 flights a year for weekend getaways, most always getting upgrades to First.
    When Connie merged with United, I started flying USAir, and did ok, but that soon ended.
    In the past 6 years since I retired, I’ve flown mostly Southwest, JetBlue and Delta. The JB Mint from LAX-JFK was wonderful, and the short hop SW flights quite tolerable (with extra legroom seats).
    There are two main things I look for (after schedules): seat pitch and boarding ease. Seat pitch, because I’m 6’2″ and have back issues. Boarding priority because I HATE standing in long Jetway lines while people who have no clue take minutes to stow their bags. Something about boarding and deboarding lines just gets me so frustrated.
    For the past year, I’ve had a DL Amex Gold, and now a DL Plat card, and I’ve moved virtually all my spending to it ($3k-4k a month). I will NOT fly United, thanks to the horrid customer experiences that we all know, and now no longer AA because of their changes in seating. Southwest only with more legroom, JetBlue the same, and NEVER on Spirit.
    For transcon (LA-NYC), I’m usually going to end up in NJ, so EWR is much more convenient. That really narrows down my choices. Same with preferring BUR to LAX. So each trip takes a lot of research and planning, which I used to really enjoy accomplishing, but now it’s such a pain that I don’t fly more than 3-6 times a year. The whole airport experience is so boring and cattle-car-like that I’ve soured on flying. I’ll burn off the miles I have, use my DL AmEx card for points, and just be a non-rev as much as possible.
    My last DL flight, LAX-MSY: the outbound plane was great, comfortable, great seatback video in FC. The return was the same type of plane, but no video screen at ALL in FC!
    When I make my 10-20 trips per year to Las Vegas from L.A., I drive. Takes less time than the airport hurry-up-and-wait, cheaper than taxis to/from the hotels, screening lines (I’m Global Entry, which does help but still…), and baggage restrictions.
    I feel like the airlines, who seem to be recording record profits, have trashed the customer service model for cheap-cheap-cheap instead. Yes, I may be a part of the problem as a points-only flier, but I’ve flown so much in the past that I just detest what the “friendly skies” have become. I loved PSA and New York Airways, but Engulf & Devour Syndrome has destroyed the experience (much as it cost me my job in broadcasting thanks to mergers, my no-longer-affordable cable TV bill, and so much of every other business) that used to be fun and enjoyable.
    Ok, I’m a little burned out on it, but as a 66-year-old, I want to be comfortable and not have my wallet suctioned out for necessary “extras.”
    Sorry to just rant, but the lead story and all these comments just got me worked up!
    I believe presidents/CEOs/etc. should ALL have to fly in the same ways their customers do.
    They should also have to use the reservations number, to hear how confusing the voice prompts can be, and how tough it is to get through to an agent. Who, btw, needs to be either US-based or otherwise to speak English (or whatever’s appropriate) well enough that I don’t have to ask them to repeat every sentence. Customer Service is one thing that DOES separate companies from each other, and one bad CS experience will totally change my planning.
    /Rant: OFF And thanks for listening!

  23. It’s good that the seat-back screens are gone. They are a waste of money, intrusive and if they are anything like the ones that Delta uses, take away space under the seat in front.

  24. I don’t fly a huge amount, maybe 10 times per year,. I pity those that have to put up with the horrible seating on airlines these days. I am fortunate that I can fly business class when I do fly. I suppose we will never get back to a time when flying was a joy and not an experience equivalent to a Greyhound Bus.

  25. RE: American tried the “More Room in Coach” and it did not work.

    @David Texas,

    Much as the Wall Street bullies…er “Analysts”…and their sycophants love propagate this myth by pointing to the failures of TWA, or later American, when those two airlines tried the “More Legroom in Coach” approach, the fact remains that there is, or rather WAS, an airline that debunks this myth:


    *(that is, prior to it catching the cancer now afflicting the airline industry cartel featuring successive waves of product degradations, cabin densifications, bs fees and other deceptive marketing/selling practices it, too, is now using the post-David Neeleman/Dave Barger era)

    In fact, prior to the emergence of the Wall Street engineered CARTEL (definition: when businesses act together to drive up profits, rather than compete against each other), a pillar of Jetblue’s very successful business model, or even its “Mission” to “bring humanity back to flying” was more legroom in coach – significantly more legroom with its standard (or “Core” in Jetblue-speak) coach pitch until recently being 34” pitch aboard its Airbus A320s that were, until recently, the mainstay of its fleet, and 38” (or even more) pitch in the now vastly diminished/degraded “Even More Space” rows that’s being phased in during that formerly great airline’s current airline industry Cartel Club Associate Membership Plan to suck just a little less than they do.

    So, yes, while it’s true distressed airlines during their death spirals (of which legacy American also fits the description) that tried the “More Room in Coach” model failed in their efforts, that still similarly fails to prove as a definitive fact that a more legroom in coach product itself is doomed to failure – for if that were the case, then Jetblue, instead of being one of the bona fide deregulation success stories that it became would’ve long ago met the same fate as virtually every other deregulation that’s no longer around…(which now includes Virgin America)…

    (let’s see if the current effort to destroy what made Jetblue, Jetblue, works…since sucking just a little bit less than the rest is hardly a reason to fly them, not to mention a total betrayal of the many New Yorkers and Floridians who flew a once “no name” airline and made it successful because it delivered on its promise to TRULY bring humanity back to flying instead of faking it as its now doing)

    So, please, let’s stop drinking the Wall Street brewed Kool Aid that seeks nothing more than to enhance its plan to monopolize/oligopolize our skies with pretend competitors who in the end all “think” the same, “act” the same, and offer nominally distinguishable (aka badly degraded) “products”, etc., – and take a moment to remember that GOOD airlines that deliver on their promise to bring humanity back to flying, can, and in fact, have SUCCEEDED.

    To say otherwise, is disproved by the very real fact of Jetblue’s success when its founders (Neeleman/Barger, et al) were still running the show.

    To simply assume more legroom is always a failed model using TWA or legacy American, is just another “alternative fact” – or what until recently, most rational minds commonly understood to be a bald faced lie!

    Just sayin’ 😉

  26. Jetblue’s changes prove @David Texas point. You need to look at the evidence. The legroom is still there, but coach-class passengers don’t want it. They want the lowest fare possible. The extra legroom has all migrated to business/first.

    From the tone of your long-winded diatribe it appears that you may have been drinking something — and it wasn’t Kool-Aid.

  27. Sorry to disappoint, but haven’t had anything but coffee. So, if that’s a “sin”, I plead guilty!

    And while a short, snappy & pithy, Trumpy-like (vacuous) twitter length writing style is (obviously) NOT my forte, I’m going to reiterate my disagreement with the circular logic you cited as “proof” that Jetblue’s model to compete by offering a better product, something its very successful, and indeed visionary Founder, David Neeleman and his team, including, former CEO Dave Barger, called “Bringing Humanity Back to Flying” (originally), or later, “You Above All”.

    The reason for this disagreement is simple: after Cartel crafting Dougie used US Airways as a vehicle to fulfill Wall Street’s long held “wish list” to eliminate competition in the airline industry between 2008 and 2014, and the industry suddenly went from seven large network carriers:

    US Airways

    plus five other smaller, but still competitive other “major” (per DOT nomenclature used in the past) airlines:

    Alaska Airlines
    Virgin America (not quite a formidable, or “major” force in the overall market, but present as a competitor in several key markets especially transcons)

    …to the present CARTELIZED era of nominal (but really pretend since any semblance of competition is merely there to evade scrutiny by regulators for Anti-trust enforcement) faux “competition” where virtually every airline marches in lockstep with each passing (earnings) season with successive product degradations, cabin densifications, bs “rules” (toxic fare fences), etc., where we now have just three large network carriers, plus one hybid national carrier (Southwest), or FOUR airlines that control, and carve up/divvy amongst themselves, more than 80% of the capacity in the market:


    plus Southwest

    And of the other five carriers in the above list, AirTran and Virgin America are also both gone, leaving us with just eight (8) carriers in total overall, but really, just seven with the type of scope and breadth of networks in the continental USA – or as many total carriers in all as there were network carriers alone before the Wall Street engineered oligopoly that is now allowing for the type of “me, too”/copy cat Cartel devised pricing practices and sadistic product/cabin degradations that are funding obscenely large, and ever increasing stock buybacks on the backs of consumers whom in many cities and entire regions of the country are largely beholden to one, or two if they’re lucky, of the remaining non-competitive, oligopolist airlines if they live outside of a handful of cities (basically NYC, LAX, CHI & DEN and possibly Seattle, where Delta is seeking to muscle in on Alaska Airlines’ former fortress hub that itself is a result of Delta losing out on its effort to find an alliance partner that would make its fading hub [now, or soon to be focus city] in Tokyo viable against the anti-trust immunized joint ventures formed between United and ANA or American and Japan Airlines) that most flyers know as the industry’s “Race to the Bottom”.

    But hey, facts are fact, so if you don’t want to take my word for it, I offer, as a reminder, that Dave Barger refused to cheapen Jetblue and was roundly criticized (or rather bullied with a “Queen of Heart’s” demand for “off with his head”) by Wall Street profiteers…er “Analysts”…and indeed lost his job because he refused to bend (over) to their incessant bullying and destroy a brand that, in fact (I know FACTS are annoying, inconvenient truths to some these days) was a bona fide, PROFITABLE, deregulation success story before Barger was axed in favor of a toady that’s since done everything to fulfill the Wall Street bullies’ desired, and created, Cartelized business plan to fund obscenely generous transfers of wealth from an industry that now is virtually impenetrable for new entrants to mount viably threaten the cartel that now controls our skies and will ulitmately become an albatross around our economy with its escalating product degradations that really are nothing more than fig leaves to disguise its sleazy, repugnant (and illegal) business model where badly, and intentionally degraded products are engineered to achieve fare hike that otherwise would NOT be possible in a properly, and normally competitive industry.

    That’s just a fact – and exactly what virtually every Econ 101 textbook describes as likely to happen on page 1 of the chapter called “Oligopolies”.

    So, let’s be clear, here: Jetblue was profitable before Wall Street installed its tool to destroy an already successful, profitable brand.

    The facts don’t just prove this – it’s former CEO Dave Barger lost his job tyring to prevent the company he and David Neeleman worked so hard to build from the ground up, from being cheapened to become nothing more than “Delta Lite” (or as I like to say, merely sucking a little less than ‘First at being the worst, Delta”).

    If giving up one’s job instead of selling out doesn’t prove that Jetblue was built on a commitment to bring humanity back to flying, and was very successful in that effort, then nothing will.

    What has happened in this era of our Cartelized skies, is that with the non-competiting (faux) competitors having cheapened their products as badly as they have,

    1.) Jetblue can follow similarly and still legally claim it’s better than the rest of the crappy airlines

    2.) Jetblue must cheapen its product in order to avoid having a markedly better product that might otherwise force the others in the Cartel Club to improve their products – which, of course, is exactly why Wall Street demanded “off with Barger’s head”!

    Finally, and as noted previously in the VFTW readers’ comments space (or elsewhere on the internet, including Twitter, where my short, snappy & pithy comments can be found), there’s no need to take my word for it regarding how our airlines have become an ugly, sleazy, greedy and dishonest cartel that’s now employing an oligopolist business model that flyers know all too well as the “Race to the Bottom”…

    …others, including a major university study; a noted Columbia University law professor and highly regarded expert in anti-trust, Tim Wu; and one of the experts at Seeking Alpha (a financial/investors’ oriented research blog) have all within the past month or so similarly described our skies as being afflicted by the destructive and toxic effects that fits to a tee the description of an oligopoly.

    So, I’m very confident that my analysis of the industry (I only wrote about the industry for approximately five years, including an interview or two along the way with prominent publications, not to mention research that broke one of the biggest industry stories before that in the NY Times) will stand the test of time, and increasingly, become commonly understood as having identified the current desperate lack of competition in our skies that’s really behind the cheapening and degrading of Jetblue instead of the tall tales being told that liken Jetblue’s progressively intensive change to the Cartel’s way of doing things as being “proof” that its original and very successful competitive model to “Bring Humanity Back to Flying” is nothing more than the failure seen at the two failing airlines, TWA and American, when they both did it in their death spirals when both of those airlines’ reputations were already so bad, and of course, better options actually existed for flyers to try, that more correctly accounts for the failure of a more room in coach concept at those two long ago failed airlines (remember the current “American” is NOT the same as the legacy version that failed in its attempt af launching a more legroom product)

  28. @Howard. But consumers don’t want legroom. They want lower fares — and they are getting them. Fares are near a real-terms historical low.

    Remember: Ryanair is the end-state.

  29. @L3,

    Maybe so – but I’m not sure O’Leary will ever be viewed as the class act that David Neeleman is viewed as.

    And let’s not forget, that if we actually had a properly functioning competitive airspace in the USA instead of the cartelized skies we now have, all of these bs degradations and sleazy, dishonest, abusive business models would be less sinister and abusive than they currently are.

    Really, one need not be an expert statisitician to see the direct correllation between the ever increasing scope of product degradations, cabin densifications, and the ridiculously abusive (not to mention deceptive) pricing/selling models that all conveniently come with corresponding “Ancillary Fees” to buy ones way out of the crap that was created to facilitate the “need”.

    There comes a point when Mr. O’leary’s model at Ryanair to charge for some things like checked bags for stupid low fares (say, $99 transcons; $69 NYC-Florida) or even modest fees for seats that really are better (for example E+ at 35”-36” pitch NOT 33” which is a sham), or even buy on board meals, becomes nothing more than a widely abused technique used to simply rip off consumers – and we’ve now gotten way past the point where those fees created by O’leary have indeed become nothing more than tools of pricing abuse.

    And that’s where my objections – which some decry as “rants” comes in. I don’t hate airlines – or think they should become socialized non profits.

    What I do hate is the sleaze and rotten to the core dishonest business models now in place at our airlines simply bc they know they can get away with it.

    And I’m NOT going to apologize for that as I just find it morally objectionable, and likely would be deemed even criminal once sanity and reason returns in our country.

  30. Correcting a paragraph in the above, with additional analysis and commentary, as follows:

    Really, one need not be an expert statisitician to see the direct correllation between the ever increasing scope of product degradations, cabin densifications, and the ridiculously abusive (not to mention deceptive) pricing/selling models that all conveniently come with corresponding “Ancillary Fees” to buy ones way out of the crap that was created to facilitate the “need” and the progressive elimination of competition since Cartel crafting Dougie used US Airways ~5 years ago as the vehicle to finalize Wall Street’s long held ambition to hijack our skies by eliminating competition, and replacing it with the virtually impenetrable cartel that now exists in an industry where the tap available for financing new entrants has been turned off, and even if financing was available, the lack of infrastructure (gates, facilities, slots) at key airports, plus the emerging shortage of pilots, means the chances of a viable competitor emerging anytime soon absent government intervention is virtually nil.

    Indeed, as the years have worn on since 2014 or so, when Dougie took over legacy American while eliminating US Airways, the product degradations have only worsened at a faster and faster rate with each passing year.

    Case in point:

    As Alaska Airlines completed its takeover of Virgin America in late April, it was barely days, let alone weeks, that it, too, announced it will be adopting the Cartel’s business model featuring cabin densifications, introduction of a third, or sub-human, class (er “Basic Economy”) and eliminating many of the innovative, passenger preferred, award winnning products that Virgin America used when it sought to compete in the market (as Jetblue once did pre-Wall Street hijacked era of recent years) by offering a better product to win passengers’ loyalty.

    In fact, the rapid speed with which Alaska Airlines moved to adopt the Cartelists’ business “model” after eliminating the Virgin America brand almost makes one wonder if that was the “quid pro quo” demanded by the investment firms that orchestrated, and funded, the takeover of Virgin America by Alaska – especially when considering that most experts believe that airline wildly overpaid for Virgin America!

    Just sayin’ (of course)! 😉

    But the facts are undeniable: as our airlines have become the poster children for everything wrong that happens in industries that desperately lack competition, so, too, is there a direct correllation between the progressively worsening and ever increasing product degradations and other flagrant consumer rip-offs/abuses that, yes, we all know and describe as that hideous thing with the cutesy name that is the “Race to the Bottom”.

    And yes, one need not have anything more than a functioning brain, decency and common sense to know this ugly beast of a Cartel we now have when they see it, and experience it, as most of us have in recent years, that our airlines are anything but the consumer hostile, non-competitive, greedy and arrogant bullies that abuse their market positions because they can, and in fact, are – just as their products and business models in an era of hyper concentration have more than adequately proven they are.

  31. @Howard: “…charge for some things like checked bags …” Airlines always have and always have to charge for baggage. The difference is that it had become unbundled. What used to happen was that you, carrying no more baggage than a spare gossamer-thin slinky negligée, had to pay the considerable fuel and other costs of my carrying on my kitchen sink. Now, with unbundling, we each pay for our own baggage. I am sure this strikes you as much fairer. Fares haven’t gone up one cent. You are just no longer forced to pay for things you don’t use.

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