Just before the pandemic grew out of control, American Airlines data revealed that frequent customers represented a declining share of airline revenue.
It seemed that a combination of award chart devaluation (higher prices for the best awards), product devaluations (less space per passenger on domestic narrowbody aircraft) and making status harder to earn (minimum spend requirement and taking away the ability to earn as much towards that via credit card) had in fact pushed frequent customer share of wallet towards competitors.
A year ago American Airlines considered some product improvements. They considered bringing seat back entertainment as a product standard for their domestic fleet but in the end just made some minor fixes to their new first class cabin.
Now that the pandemic hit, and the airline is loading up on more debt than even before, they cut first class meals to save money. They’re not expected to return customer-facing investments to where they were prior to COVID.
And yet serial American Airlines leaker JonNYC reports that the airline is again looking at seat back entertainment.
..but, regardless, they're still studying it. And I'm very surprised to find that out.
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) July 1, 2020
Oddly the airline has been using the time with planes parked to rip out seat back video screens. I have to think if they rejected the investment pre-COVID that it’s an even harder sell now. On the other hand they could give all passengers seat back entertainment for less than 1/3rd the cost overrun on their new corporate headquarters.
Back in the fall The Points Guy made an exceptionally flawed case against seat back entertainment. The truth is that people like seat back screens, personal devices (phones) aren’t a replacement, and even the newest planes look old or cheap without the bright screens in the cabin.
For two years American leadership has said they have a premium revenue problem. If American wants to earn a revenue premium going forward this wouldn’t be the worst start, at least to do once business picks back up a bit more.