At a recent employee ‘Crew News’ meeting, a pilot asked Chief Operating Officer David Seymour what the airline is doing to improve customer satisfaction citing bottom performance in J.D. Power’s airline satisfaction survey. American Airlines is bookended at the bottom of the survey by Spirit Airlines and Frontier.
While it’s never a good idea to put too much stake in a J.D. Power survey, my skepticism is mostly about the top of the survey. American Airlines is at the bottom, beating only Frontier among U.S. airlines.
Seymour offered “I think we’re on a good path to get there.” Seymour’s response to what they’re doing for customer experience is entirely focused on the operation:
Ultimately customers want to get to their destination, then they want to get their on time, then they want to get their bag and they want to be treated with respect.
Delta has been able to get by in the past with its reliable operation, with somewhat friendlier service and with seat back entertainment.
American has gotten operationally closer Delta, but that’s with Delta having numerous recent operational meltdowns. American has removed seat back screens from planes that actually had them.
American Airlines used to call thinner seats with less space per passenger and ‘bring your own device’ entertainment “the living room experience.” Because when you have guests over to your living room,
- The kitchen (coach galley) doesn’t have an oven to serve hot food
- Your living room chairs offer very little padding
- You don’t provide the screen, just internet your guests have to pay to use
The operation of course matters most – the rest won’t help an airline if they’re perpetually late or cancelling flights. David Seymour (and Robert Isom) seem to think that’s the entire ball game when in reality – for an airline that needs to earn a revenue premium, rather than being the low-cost leader – those things are merely table stakes.
Finally David Seymour says don’t look at the JD Power survey – American isn’t as bad as what that survey suggests – because “Wall Street Journal is another on that came out, we weren’t last we were sixth.” Avis used to say “We’re number two. We try harder.” Seymour says he isn’t satisfied with sixth.