Here are the Core Values US Airlines Have Lost

American produced a film to promote travel by air in 1933. They promoted core selling propositions of the airline — to save time and money and experience comfort.

This is from the year before the carrier changed its name to American Airlines. There’s no question that the aircraft and procedures have advanced markedly since then. And some of the features the airline promotes are.. dated like, “Individual ash trays as you blow smoke rings and thrill to the beauty of the vanishing vistas below.” And that example is hardly alone.

Still it would do well to remind executives today of some of the company’s values and goals highlighted in this video.

    The American Airways Way… a friendly kind of service, service with a smile

    American Airways limousines take you straight to the airport

    You’ll never know the meaning of travel comfort and convenience and economy until you’ve taken a trip on one of these modern airliners

    You’ll find an organization trained to render you an efficient business-like service throughout your journey

    Is this an airplane? Why it looks just like a living room! And that’s just what it is a cozy and inviting living room with wings.

    All American Airways planes are cheerfully and tastefully decorated. No expense has been spared to provide a luxury travel service that is today the standard of the world.

    You sink down into soft roomy seats that are built for comfort. The stewardess will adjust them to suit you. All seats are first class seats, all passengers are first class passengers.

    If it’s a bit cool the stewardess will turn the heat on. If it’s too warm she’ll open up the ventilator to let in the cool fresh air..

    Is it any wonder American Airways planes have become famous for delicious food?

American Airlines Domestic First Class Breakfast, 2017

American was promoting this video into the jet age, as the last few seconds of the video show.

Unquestionably air travel is more affordable and accessible than ever before. This video is aimed at business travelers and celebrities, not families. I don’t even miss the idea that American no longer provides limousine airport transfers.

Most of what’s better about travel today is the technology, and not just to provide smoother, safer and faster transportation. The galleys are more sophisticated for preparing meals than they were in 1933.
The limitations of service at the time are highlighted by the marketing point that “you’ll find cool drinking water constantly on tap.” Then again recall that US Airways sought to charge for water.

What would American Airways executives think of the service offered today?

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. One look at that F Class meal from this year provoked a flashback to April, 1959–my first air trip as a 10-year old on an American 707 Astrojet, from Chicago O’Hare-NYC Idlewild. Breakfast was fresh blueberries and freshly tasting scrambled eggs. My dad, who was a regular on these flights (actually starting with the Tri-Motors) was very non-plus about it all. But my mom and myself anxiously starred out the windows as we angled over Flushing for a landing, with so much laundry drying on lines.

    Today, it’s like riding Amtrak–a toss of the coin what you’ll get as an AA FA in First. I had a younger lady who would not serve more than one drink, despite being told that was never the custom. She slammed the minimal lunch down and was seated for the balance of the flight, barely 1.15 hour en route to LAX. The excuse offered by the senior FA lady was this one “was tired from so many flights.” When I suggested why not place her in Y Class where she would not have to do much, the response was, “oh, we switch.” Like I was talking to a wall!

    Yet, on the return dinner flight a week later on AA in F, one middle aged lady as FA worked the equivalent of 2 millennials! No problem with drinks, bread, wine, the meal, anything afterwords. That encompassed the attitude I once knew at AA, that even during b/k, they were serving shrimp cocktail and quality meals over Thanksgiving. Now, the best description is upgraded MREs.

    Apparently, the finance people moved out the marketing folks, while depositing in the round file any pretension of core values, as exemplified by the North Korean inspired seats in Y Class.

  2. The “core values” today are safe, efficient and economical air travel. They are not selling a luxury product like they did in 1933; they are selling a product that nearly every American can afford.

    I am writing this from Chile, where I have been flying around on their domestic airlines — LATAM and Sky. You don’t like the USA domestic airlines? Try flying the domestic Chilean airlines a few times and you’ll think the USA service is fantastic. Mind you, it can be really cheap to fly in Chile. And that’s kind of the problem; cheap is cheap. It would be like having Frontier and Spirit as the only USA airlines. So if you don’t think USA service could get worse, believe me that it could. Everywhere in the world, people seem to prefer cheap transport over comfortable transport.

  3. @iahphx (October 7, 2017 at 7:11 pm), +1.

    Global household median incomes are around $10,000 USD (2013 Gallup, may be slightly out of date). Considering this number no wonder most people fly cheap – it’s amazing so many people fly at all.

  4. I wonder if the good citizens of Memphis would still consider “watching darkies load cottton into boats, singing Old Man River” as a civic attraction.

  5. I live in Thailand. Since reading comments about the US airlines, I realise how lucky we are here and how spoled we are in comparison. Your First Class service is not even at the level of the worst Economy service I’ve ever had here, it seems.

  6. It’ is interesting as a contrast in emphasis, but I have to agree with iahphx that the philosophy is necessarily different when you’re marketing to nearly everybody, rather than to just the rich and elite. There are still some reasonably nice first class products for the latter, at prices that perhaps approximate the cost to everyone in the 30s in inflation adjusted dollars, though I suppose in some ways the experience is less special now.

    I’ve been around long enough to remember the dread that someone nearby would foul the air by smoking, and the near certainty that even if your seat mate would politely refrain, the odor would be present from someone else nearby. Then we went through the smoking sections at the rear, which helped a bit, then the ban on flights under two hours, until finally the airlines realized that most people want clean(er) air and figured out that smokers could indeed survive a flight without nicotine. The end to smoking on planes is the most important inflight improvement in my opinion.

  7. It’s the Henry Ford effect. Cheaper assembly line approach to lower cost for the masses leading to unionized workforce that cares little for service or quality with long term peaks and valleys. Along with profit hungry leaders and greed. Im not anti capitalist or anti union but both have limits that effect customer experience and bottom line.
    Great post. I’d enjoy seeing the TWA or US Airways film from years ago compared as well.

  8. Honestly i am tired of this point of view re lost values and expectation gaps. Consumers in America and other countries have gotten what they are willing to pay for, market efficiency at its finest. At the end of the day it is a commodity service.

  9. @iahphx
    As usual you are full of bs
    I fly constantly all over south americanincluding chile with sky and latam
    Last week I flew both gol and azul inside brasil and the experience is by far much better than with the old bitter ladies at the hig 3
    I even flew with aerolineas argentinas domestic 2 weeks ago and even they offer a much better service
    Not to mention the fact that flying inside brasil is substantially cheaper than domestic usa, with newer planes and better service and even better on time performance
    Problem with aholes like you is that you try tonlook smart by contradicting anything gary says

  10. United Airlines – still have separate flight crews – CO and UA. It is so apparent which is which. CO flight crew are nice, smile and make you feel like a valued customer. UA flight crew makes you feel like you are a burden.

  11. @Doug –In case you do not know, Brazil and Chile are different countries. I don’t have an opinion about Brazilian domestic travel (a;though I think I’ll be flying around Brazil next month and may develop an opinion). I do know that Chilean airlines have decided that what their citizens want is cheap airfares and no frills. Honestly, I don’t think Americans would tolerate having only “Spirit-like” domestic service, but we are a wealthier nation where — perhaps — people are willing to pay more to escape 28 inch pitch. But I’m also certain that most Americans aren’t willing to pay a lot more, and this is why we don’t have fantastic, luxury air service.
    As far as Gary’s comments about friendly airline personnel, I would not say that Chilean personnel are friendlier. About the same. They are, however, somewhat less professional than USA flight crews. I’d sure like USA airline employees to be a bit friendlier, but I also know the limitations of our culture and the historical context of our USA airline labor relations, so I’m not expecting much. And the lack of more caring and smiles doesn’t discourage me from buying airline tickets when I need to fly.

  12. @iahphx
    I think my original comment is self explanatory and not only I am aware of the geography by flying to and througouht the region for over a decade, I also grew up there
    The crews down there are not just a few smiles friendlier, they are fenuinely nice, as are most folks in those countries
    The pitch is longer in all airlinea down there, service is friendlier and snacks are better and not to mention wine and beet are free when flying intra region even on 3 hr flights
    All aspects of the flying experience are better, as opposed to the misery that has become flying one of the big 3 in the us and not only spirit and frontier, who at least have the decency of not pretending they are something that they are not
    All above apply to airlines in chile, brasil and argentina as well
    Regardless of the topic, you always present the opposite point of view than gary’s so you can not be taken seriously

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