I took two American Airlines flights last week, both on Boeing 737s with the newest “Kodiak” interior (modifications to first class to fix problems created in the last ‘Oasis’ modification). Despite being fresh interior aircraft, seat power was inoperative on both flights.
Three years ago American’s CEO Doug Parker said he thought they could get away without power but discovered that having some planes without it (legacy US Airways) along with planes offering power (legacy American Airlines) created customer confusion, so passengers didn’t know they needed to bring their devices fully charged. The airline has been removing seat back entertainment emphasizing that people can watch streaming content on their phones, so the ability to keep devices charged is a must.
I work on flights, and don’t trust American to provide power, so I bring an external power brick, so I was fine. However passengers who no longer has seat back entertainment, along with less space between seats, power seems like a bare minimum ask. In 2017 American Airlines evaluated a maintenance program for seat power, but ultimately rejected it because it they felt it would be too expensive – better to wait for customers to complain about not having power and addressing specific seats rather than proactively ensuring power worked.
On my outbound flight it was 45 minutes after takeoff before drink service was offered up front. Predeparture beverages, rare enough pre-pandemic, are no longer part of American’s service expectation. There were only four of us in first class on a mostly-empty flight, but flight attendants nursed water maskless in the galley to chit chat for most of that time instead.
Meals (sic) are once again served on trays in domestic first class on American, and I suppose it does make the presentation of the protein boxes better (at least not seeing as much of the plastic). Cabin crew apologized as they offered this to me, I think it was turkey and cream cheese and red pepper?
There’s a new sandwich supplementing the turkey in the afternoon, though, a ham and cheese. Still rather sad for first class but probably better than the turkey.
A year ago American had hoped to use the pandemic to cut back on inflight meals permanently but now they’re rushing to restore service, led by complaints made by pilots. The airline’s food and beverage team has been running around like mad, though without clear direction, trying to bring back better meals – though at least as of a week and a half ago it still wasn’t quite clear what or when.
I got an American Airlines survey after my return flight and filled it out. It prompted one of their “executive liaison calls” that began noting my lifetime miles and status and offered “I agree we’re not doing well in many areas right now and that needs to change.”
The caller offered that the surveys are aggregated and items reportedly broadly get flagged. The call was pleasant enough, they they didn’t offer the usual miles-as-apology that have often accompanied such calls in the past – so perhaps that’s another cutback?
American Airlines is offering old US Airways first class service now: poor legroom, no seat back video, no power (at least on my flights), and real meals on only a handful of routes. They can’t generate the revenue premium they need – given their cost structure and debt – with a product that customers won’t want to pay for.