The Customer Last: What American Airlines Management Is Doing Wrong

Amazon makes it so easy to buy things. I’m walking around the house and I realize I’ve just used the last of something, I don’t need to put it on a list and buy it later. I have my phone in my pocket. I pull it out, the item is right there usually at a pretty good price, and a click buys it. I don’t have to worry for the most part whether I’ve purchased enough items for free shipping. So I click order, and it shows up, usually pretty quickly.

There are a lot of reasonable criticisms of Amazon, but they’ve got the scale (either through their own items or letting sellers list through them) to have pretty much anything I’d want to buy (A->Z). It is the most frictionless buying process out there. And so they get an outsized share of e-commerce even where I may be giving up a little bit on price or rewards.

Jeff Bezos for years has preached a simple mantra: that the biggest mistake companies can make is focusing on what their competitors do, rather than what their customers want – and working backwards from satisfying the customer to figuring out the product.

I’m reminded of this thinking about the latest American Airlines policy change to no longer allow most customers to run up to the gate and get on an earlier flight. They’ll even be turning away lifetime Platinum two million mile members. For what?

Of course, this isn’t the only policy that works backward from what’s easiest for the airline or benefits its employees rather than the customer. In fact, former Chairman and CEO Doug Parker once remarked “we work really hard to match our service to our competitors” – precisely what Bezos makes clear is the wrong approach.

  • American Airlines has the biggest domestic network and most hubs, yet when US Airways management took over they imposed a rule that said customers could no longer make same day changes that alter their routing. Want to confirm an earlier flight home? You have to connect in the same city, and that may mean there are no other flights available.

    They’re presumably worried that some consumer somewhere might buy a cheaper ticket and improve their itinerary on the day of travel, while taking away the entire benefit to the customer of the network and their hubs.

  • American Airlines will stop awarding miles on tickets purchased through some travel agencies but they haven’t told customers which ones, and the list will change every six months.

  • My other pet peeve: They’ll no longer through-check bags on separate tickets. That’s true even when you’re booking award travel. So if you use AAdvantage miles to fly from New York to Abu Dhabi on their partner Etihad, and there’s no award space on American’s flight to get to New York, you’re going to give American extra money buying that flight.

    In exchange for spending even more, American will refuse to through check your bags onto the Etihad flight. You’ll have to exit security, go schlepp your bags yourself and re-check them in with the other airline, possibly missing your flight.

  • Someone thought that $1 shelf-stable pasta was a domestic first class meal, while the airline decided it was no longer necessary to set the table for customers in Flagship first class since that would mean less work for flight attendants.

  • Deadheading pilots now have priority over the airline’s best customers for upgrades at the airport. (United does this, too.) Don’t think the inmates are running the asylum? A couple of weeks ago on arrival in Austin, a flight attendant made an announcement welcoming passengers on behalf of their union.

When American Airlines came up with their new standard domestic product – that squeezed more seats in, removed seat padding, and ripped out seatback TVs – they didn’t build a cabin mockup first to see how the thing would work in practice. They squeezed first class too much and eliminated underseat storage. The bathroom doors opened into each other. The sinks sprayed back onto customers. It’s a product that gave customer experience so little thought that their CEO never even tried it until it was in the marketplace for over six months.

American Airlines has become far more reliable. Their thesis has been that if they improved reliability, they’d generate profits. They failed to realize that reliability was mere table stakes. Their 2023 net margin was a mere 1.5%, and all of that profit was accounted for by selling miles to banks.

The airline’s Chief Commercial Officer describes their network as their product, failing to understand that the product is just as much the experience as the schedule. The network is table stakes.

American Airlines is a high cost airline. When they raised checked bag fees to $40 and I wrote that they were leading the industry in doing so, they pushed back pointing to potentially higher bags fees on ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit. And this made my point.

When Robert Isom took over the reins as American Airlines Chief Executive two years ago, his message to employees was not to spend a dollar they don’t have to rather than figure out how to invest profitably in their customers.

This is an airline that cannot make money transporting passengers without earning a revenue premium because they will never be the low cost leader. And they cannot earn a revenue premium until they start by thinking relentlessly about the customer: (1) who is their customer and (2) what does that customer need?

To be sure, American Airlines is not the only airline whose policies go out of their way to make their customers’ lives more difficult. United Airlines bans customers on their cheapest tickets from bringing full sized carry-on bags on board, and basic economy passengers who aren’t checking bags are not allowed to check in online or through their mobile app – instead they’re required to stand in the check-in line at the airport.

And the Spirit and Frontier business model if precisely to make passengers shift their behavior to lower airline costs. Not uncoincidentally, United sees its basic economy fares as meant for Spirit and Frontier passengers, not as a way of introducing the most price sensitive customers to the airline and upselling them over their lifecycle. Scott Kirby, who came from American (and US Airways and America West) has described their product strategy as “keeping up with the Joneses” (competitors), again rather than focusing on the customer.

But this just points to the nature of the heavily regulated airline industry that lacks sufficient competition and operates more as a utility than a business, to the detriment of customers.

How do you think that turning away customers who rush to the gate in time to get on an earlier flight and make it home for dinner is a good thing for convincing people you take care of them (‘on life’s journey‘) and so they want to be loyal customers willing to spend more with you in the future?

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. Well said. Wasn’t it you who said that American views passengers as self-loading cargo? What I absolutely don’t understand is how any remotely competent board of directors could keep allowing such inept management to continue.

  2. And yet we keep voting for politicians who promise less regulation and less protection for consumers….

  3. Since this board allowed Doug Parker to keep his job after alienating customers, employees and shareholders – including losing the LATAM JV to Delta – it doesn’t seem like the board is performing its fiduciary duties.

  4. The US domestic airline industry is an economic free market. Airlines do win and lose on the basis of their ability to adapt and deliver a product that customers are willing to pay for. AA has done a poor job of competing against other airlines in highly competitive markets so has retreated to hubs where it has the largest share – and customers have to use it or go out of their way to use someone else.

    Looking at the rest of the industry, Delta has a very strong dominant position in its core 4 hubs but has spent most of the past 20 years growing into highly competitive hubs and succeeding better at that process than any other US airline.

    United never bothered to take domestic seriously until a few years ago and is working overtime to try to elevate its position – but will spend enormously to do so. It has over 3 times more fleet spending on its books than any other airline and has yet to prove that other airlines can’t match UA’s growth rate (DL matched UA’s growth rate in 2023). And UA trails DL’s profitability. UA has the most competitive metro areas for its hubs.

    WN has a similar combination as DL but generally dominates its hubs more than any other of the big 4 carriers – and has been able to raise its average fares as its labor costs have grown over the past 20 years. WN is currently hindered because of its reliance on Boeing which has screwed and will screw WN’s growth plans for a decade.

    AA has a path forward but it is not customer or service focused. It is commodity transportation based.

    and that model is far from matching what the other 3 big 4 carriers are doing.

    Like other things that AA has claimed it was doing post US merger, AA has not achieved matching its competitors. The real question is whether AA drives further degradation and choice in the industry or if they stand out as a hybrid ULCC-legacy carrier.

  5. @Christian … all airlines view passengers as self-loading freight . show me any board of directors which is remotely competent . in fact , show me anyone under the age of 25 who is remotely competent . show me any management which is not inept . please give me one example . biden ? congress ? boeing ? airline meals ? artificial intelligence ? harvard ? methinks the causes are related to computer tech and education .

  6. and Gary,
    years of massive stock buybacks even while AAL stock sunk based on bottom tier financial results should have been reason for the board to say “enough is enough” but that didn’t happen.

    Don’t underestimate the job that AA’s current exec team has to exorcise the company of the bad decisions and their repercussions.

  7. How about charging their own passengers more than partners on awards.

    On 1/23/25, LAX-MAD via JFK is 57.5 k on AS vs 100 K on AA (AA metal).

  8. AA Plat and then Plat Pro since 2010… held on for as long as I could, knowing I was getting an inferior inflight experience. Maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome. Finally status matched to DL. No, DL isn’t some amazing experience that is that much different, but it’s ever so slightly better than AA in so many ways, I actually don’t mind traveling with them, vs sort of dreading flights with AA. And their D1 Check-In at LAX really is great- and shows that they’re able to do premium in a way AA will never be able to, because they just don’t understand what a premium experience is supposed to look like.

  9. After a series of episodes with them 8 years ago I decided while sitting in CLT to never fly them again. I’ve managed to get all my travels done with primarily Delta and Southwest (Southwest only if it’s non-stop). I’ve even flown Air Canada (don’t ever do that to yourself). I’ve flown United a couple of times because it was non-stop. I don’t even look at American when searching a flight. I’ll do a layover before I book them. I’m really hoping at some point they go under and new management or whomever takes them over will cull the current employees and dig them out since it would give me more options.

  10. Not defending AA but that ignore the competition mantra is all talk and naive. Look at Amazon’s pricing and merchandising response to any inkling of a competitor.

    Of course they study and base decisions off what they learn and observe from competitors.

    And of course good management spends time thinking about what its target consumers want and factoring that in decisions *along* with competitor insight.

  11. @Tim Dunn “AA has a path forward but it is not customer or service focused. It is commodity transportation based.”

    Can’t be with their cost structure.

  12. The worst thing post-US merger AA management has done is tank the brand health of American Airlines.

    What’s a brand worth? Estimates vary because it’s impossible to measure without a firm understanding of psychometrics–latent variables and structural equation models. Even scholars misapply these tools all the time. Have you ever heard of grit, a putative trait that should be nurtured in children? The concept originated in a UPenn Wharton professor’s paper, but the structural equation model used in that paper was underidentified.

    Here are some facts

    Coca-Cola’s brand is valued at $106B. $KO market cap is $256B.

    $AAL market cap is $10B.

    So with a basic assumption of linearity, the value of American Airlines’s brand is $4-5B.

    Now this linearity assumption probably doesn’t hold, not to mention $KO and $AAL are in separate industries. But the illustration that brands are worth billions is pedagogical.

  13. Stop blaming employees and unions for decades of mismanagement.

    The fish rots from the head.

    Want happier flight attendants that will set your table in first class? Pay them a living wage.

    Your favorite pastime is shitting on AAs employees. It’s so tired dude.

  14. Why do you want to see American Airlines liquidated?
    How many airlines have you run?

    Theodore Roosevelt stated the rest of my thoughts when he observed:
    ““It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

  15. AA has devolved into an embarrassing industry joke. Their upper management seemingly doesn’t care about their customers, even the high dollar ones. I avoid AA whenever possible.
    It’s sad that some regionals and smaller carriers have better service than AA. I don’t know what Kool-Aid AA upper management and the BoD has been drinking, but it’s toxic.

  16. AA service really isn’t that bad. There is a dislocation between the value proposition airlines and customers expect. Customers expect white glove service while paying discount pricing. Airline services have mostly diminished because passengers want low cost over luxury. Those that believe that AA business class is terrible try flying business city to city within Europe. It is economy class with an empty seat in the middle for 2-3 times the price.

  17. @Tim Dunn – “Don’t underestimate the job that AA’s current exec team has to exorcise the company of the bad decisions and their repercussions.” No indication that is happening, other than firing corporate customers. Current CEO was the airline President under Parker, and they’ve promoted a new CFO who seems to underfund critical investments even more than the last one.

  18. Come to the conclusion US airlines really don’t want customers. They want the money but not to have to actually deal and provide a service with them.

    Bull hockey on the wanting white glove service while paying discount price. I pay for FC domestic and expect something more than surly attendants and a $1 cheap pasta bowl. Instead I get attitude and crap like they are doing me some big favor.

    DECIDE what you want to be,a ULCC catering to the unwashed masses or a premium airline offering a decent service for a higher price.

    Quit trying to be all things to all classes and failing miserably. I can fly some cheapo air internationally or Emirates. If I choose Emirates and PAY the bucks, give me a level of service commiserate with what I’m paying.

    Most times I’m gritting my teeth and biting my tongue having to deal with crap US product to get to a city where I can pick up a quality international carrier.

  19. The airline experience is also accentuated positively or negatively by the quality and efficiency of the airports themselves. That has little to do with airline carriers. I’ll use Charlotte Douglas as an example. Escalators, elevators or moving walkways are always out of service. Luggage belts that need repairs. Inefficient rude TSA employees with inconsistent ever changing rules and policies at security checkpoints. Terrible parking situation. No viable public transportation or on site hotels. Overcrowded lounges and food options are crap. Airport employees are minimum wage diversity hires that are rude obnoxious and always screaming at walking customers while pushing wheelchairs. Baggage handlers that support multiple airlines with no sense of accountability or coordination with when flights land. If a flight is late baggage handlers go home on schedule and you wait an hour plus for bags. Immigration starts working a certain time (11am). If flight comes in at 1030am you sit on plane cause there are ongoing disputes over who pays that OT.

    Just something for discussion on how airlines get tarred and feathered for an overall bad experience

  20. Gary,
    AA’s problem is revenue, not cost. Compare to the financials of the big 3 for 2023.

    and I know that there is still a fair amount of inbreeding in AA execs ranks.

    But AA has dramatically weakened under Parker et al. You can’t invest in the things that Delta has when you are not delivering profits and have a weakened balance sheet.

    UA is spending like a drunken sailor trying to catch up and grow but will end up in the same position as AA in a few years. Many of the execs that ran AA into the ground are now using the same strategies at UA and hoping for a different outcome.

    AA’s share of corporate revenue has probably bottomed out; I’m not sure how much they carry out of NYC, CHI or LAX but most of their corporate revenue likely comes from their dominant southern US hubs.

    AA is working hard to cut its costs based on its network strategies and to dominate southern competitive markets that are well connected to its strongest hubs. UA sees the opportunity to go after that traffic which is why they are trying to focus their growth in the southern US but DL is a few steps ahead of both AA and UA and not giving up anything.

    IN the context of the entire airline industry, including WN, AA is not as bad as it seems. Compared to AA historically, AA has slipped and likely won’t recover much. I don’t think they are going to get worse though.

  21. mets fan,
    airlines DO have control over what they do at airports; AA poured growth in to an airport (CLT) that was not and is still not ready for a hub the size that AA is operating.
    UA tried to do the same thing at EWR and has scaled back, now resigned to pouring billions into IAD to try to not lose capacity in the NE and esp. across the Atlantic where IAD and EWR work for UA.
    Given that AA is overhubbed on the east coast, they could smooth out their hubs but they know that mass increases profits and that is the strategy they are using with CLT.

    DL at ATL is massive and it is far from glamorous but it works far more efficiently and with far fewer headaches than AA at CLT. Given how closely the two hubs duplicate each other domestically, CLT is a liability in winning connecting business traffic.

  22. Nicely said, Gary. I have recently retired, fortunate that I don’t need to travel extensively anymore as business travel now is pain in the ass now versus 20 years ago. I am glad that I put most of my flying career eggs in the UA basket, because now when I travel with my wife I can leverage my lifetime gold status for a superior travel experience. In the last few years of my career, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to game Concur to avoid flying AA. ( in the last year of working for a Fortune 500 company, they finally removed AA from the preferred list,which helped immensely) For a mid-level biz traveler like me, having decent legroom and assured space for my carryon were paramount, AA totally misses the mark with lack of MCE seating compared to E+ on UA. Add the gross operational AA mismanagement (35 minute connection time from Gate B to E in CLT?) and it is a no brainer to avoid AA for the average biz traveler

  23. @Tim Dunn – “AA’s problem is revenue, not cost. ” You recommend they follow a strategy of commodity transportation. That’s not going to solve the revenue problem.

    My point is, at their cost base they need to earn a revenue premium but they are selling commodity transportation and therefore have a revenue problem.

    “IN the context of the entire airline industry, including WN, AA is not as bad as it seems. ”

    The entire point of this post is that it’s a mistake to compare to poor-performing competitors if you want to succeed as a business.

  24. @Tim Dunn

    The City of Charlotte owns Charlotte Douglas airport not American Airlines

    You are insinuating AA should invest billions in the airport infrastructure to bring it up to standard.

    Quite honestly the airport in Punta Cana Dominican Republic is closer to world class than CLT

  25. Readers…if you believe this post contains a kernel of truth (actually, it contains a whole cob!), then copy it and send to AA execs (see Elliott on Advocacy) for email addresses)!

  26. Please stop blaming the employees, if tables are not set up in first class is because the airline decided to cut the amount of fas during covid and never brought back staffing levels after covid. They used to be 14 flight attendants on the 777_300 and now they are down to 11. They used to have 6 gas on the 321t, now they have only five. So stop putting it like management is doing their employees a favor.

  27. Gary,
    I am not saying that AA SHOULD commoditize their product to ensure success but that is what they are doing. And they are doing it because they are shifting capacity to their hubs which they dominate while pulling down their presence in competitive markets.
    You don’t have to differentiate yourself positively if you are in a commodity business.
    AA is taking a different approach from DL and UA but it hasn’t been proven that their strategy won’t work.

    mets fan,
    airlines DO pay for the facilities they use at airports whether they or the airport initiates projects. AA simply has chosen to invest the bare minimum NOW while pushing more traffic through CLT than it can efficiently handle with good customer service. CLT might some day be a better airport that is better suited for the amount of traffic that it carries but it is not now. Like DFW, CLT was not built for the volume of connecting traffic it carries. In contrast, ATL, DTW, ORD and DEN were and the airlines that hub there deliver a pretty good level of service.
    That is the definition of commodity service but the problem is that, while AA may own the CLT local market, there are alternatives for connecting passengers and CLT is well-known as an unpleasant place to connect.

  28. As a long time AA customer I want to echo the sentiment that AA puts customers last. I feel that way almost every time I fly on AA. If I have an alternative, I use it but too often there isn’t one. They seemed to be happy to have my business during COVID but it didn’t take long for them to forget my loyalty.
    The waiting areas are over crowded including their “exclusive” costly lounges. The planes are worse with uncomfortable cramped seats.
    Well, I said my piece…I doubt that anyone at AA cares.

  29. When AA and USAir merged, it was a merge of The Debutants and The Roller Derby. It is now ugly and classless. Thanks to the midget mentality of Team Tempe, a once elegant airline looks like an erector set held together by a few bolts and duct tape.

  30. @Tim Dunn – yes, that’s what they are doing. And they’ve even improved their reliability. Yet they financially underperform.

  31. You say this is a product of over regulation, but it is actually the direct result of deregulation. Everything has been reduced to a price point for returning value to shareholders. This is the value cycle: create value for customers with capital, grow monopolistic, extract every cost possible to return value to shareholders

  32. @eric

    Quit blaming the airline for the sour, nasty attitude of the FAs.

    If they don’t like the job, find another. Taking it out on the PAYING customer is a sure way to end up with fewer customers and even fewer jobs.

  33. Gary, why should basic economy passengers on UA get the same perks as regular economy? They shouldn’t even have basic economy really, but if they do it should be a worse experience.

  34. I am a million miler with delta and United but set my sites on American recently deicidng to become Platinum. Why? Because they have direct routes that are good for my area in Florida. I cannot use them for international as their business class seats are tenny tiny with little “holes” to stick your legs. But domestiaclly not bad and as said, lots of routes. So having finally achieved Paltinum pro with them (already plat with DElta and others,) they drop THESE bombs. Makes me rethink every thing. Back to Delta? I despise going through Atlanta but …looks like an option….(And no, it is not the employees fault, it is clearly the un-clear thinking of the cupla guys at the helm. Disgusting!

  35. Why would the AA board do anything that would rock the boat? They aren’t going to risk giving up their space positive, upgradable, free, unlimited travel anywhere American flies. They are, however, seemingly willing to give up their reputation of being serious leaders. They aren’t even employees of American Airlines, yet get better flying benefits, and stipends, over actual employees. The current senior leadership team, along with this board, continue to lead the downward spiral of American Airlines. Today’s American Airlines customer service plan appears to be to push customers as far as they can, and when the customer finally pushes back, that is where the “ bar” will be set. Sadly, not enough customers push back and therefore improvements to AA’s customer experience will scarcely improve. It truly is a shame as there is so much potential for the airline to be something much better than what it is today. But not with this board, or the current senior leadership team.

  36. @Gary, can you name one airline that is owned by private investors that has done well by “investing in the product” the way you and other bloggers constantly clamor for, that is to say to offer a more costly product at a lower price point while handing out more and more seats at low yields through upgrades and saver awards?

    @Mets Fan in NYC has it right when he says “Customers expect white glove service while paying discount pricing. Airline services have mostly diminished because passengers want low cost over luxury.” No matter what customers say, when they vote with their wallets to buy tickets, they overwhelmingly want the lowest price first and foremost. Airlines that are commercial, privately-operated entities responsible for delivering profits to shareholders have responded accordingly

  37. American airlines is a sad, bad airline. I hear other passengers call it “Cousin of Spirit”! Lol
    So true. Poor leadership and bad direction. Get rid of their CEO and other top leaders. American needs new leadership bad before it goes bankrupt and says Bye-Bye! Not far away I say.

  38. Through-checking is miraculous when done well.

    I was catching a bus in Saas Fee, and they asked of I wanted to check my bags to my final destination, Detroit.

    Bus, trains, two different airlines. And there they were.

    Absolute magic.

  39. With comments like yours Gary, woinder what your take is on Ganesh Sitaraman’s “Why Flying Is Miserable: And How to Fix It”? Ganesh comes to some of the same conclusions you do – that the airlines of today aren’t terribly competitive and act more as a privately owned & operated utility.

  40. dominic,
    it is simply not universally true that all passengers shop first for price and that is true across all types of products and services.
    Delta has set itself apart by touting its operational performance. The DOT just released 2023 data for all the things they measure except for customer complaints which are running about 6 months late. Delta is fairly consistently at the top of the industry on a cumulative basis.

    And it is no secret that Delta charges more for its services. And yet Delta is the most profitable airline in the world.

    Gasoline is gasoline and yet there are always people pulling in a gas station with higher prices when another one is right across the street.

    Not everyone shops at Wal-Mart even though most of the products they sell are indistinguishable in quality from what other stores sell at higher prices.

    Price is a FACTOR for some passengers.

    In the airline industry, service is still the most significant factor in pricing. Some people will take a connecting flight to save money but everyone has a point at which it is worth flying nonstop.

    AA happens to remove choice by concentrating its network around cities where it is dominant which is why it has shrunk in cities like NYC, BOS, Chicago and LA where other carriers offer better service.

  41. Another prime AA example of a company addicted to stepping over $$’s to pick up dimes.
    Equal parts pettiness and incompetence.
    YouTube the Pep Boys ~ “are you sure that’s the right size battery for my car?” ~ commercial ( of years ago) and get a closer glimpse into who this management team modeled themselves after….

  42. @Tim Dunn has Delta not done the exact same removal of international F, tightening up of economy legroom, introduction of basic economy, devaluation of FF program, and lower quality catering (among other things) vs bloggers’ fuzzy memory of the golden age of aviation? Delta might be running a better airline operation than AA but that’s not really a high bar, and plus you constantly credit DL’s profitability and higher yields to their higher dominance in key hubs relative to competitors plus not flying to as many non-core destinations, now it’s the operation and service? Btw, DL is still far off from top Asian and Middle Eastern carriers on that front, which is what the bloggers benchmark to, even a diehard DL fanboi like yourself must admit that (and if you can’t, I think everyone will see right through your veneer of supposedly impartiality). Bloggers including Gary are constantly bemoaning that North American and European airlines aren’t at those levels, my point is that going to those levels does not result in enough extra yield to justify the extra cost.

  43. bloggers including Gary are not financial analysts; they compare passenger service and it is true that foreign carriers offer higher service.
    But a whole lot of people -including yourself – forget that US carriers pay some of the highest labor costs in the global airline industry. There is no way any foreign carrier could offer the service they do if they had to pay US labor rates – which is what would be required IF they were allowed to fly within the US.
    Delta dominates its core 4 hubs – I have said that repeatedly – but they also have managed to grow into 4 highly competitive coastal hubs – NYC, BOS, LAX and SEA – and the only way they could have done that is by offering a high quality product.
    and I would strongly bet that in total, AA has a higher percentage of its network in its dominant hubs – CLT, DCA, DFW, PHL and MIA, than DL does in ATL, DTW, MSP and SLC.
    DL’s NYC and LAX operations alone are much larger than DTW and MSP combined while BOS and SEA are about the same size and combined are larger than SLC.
    AA’s ORD and PHL hubs are now two of the smallest of the big 3.

  44. AA will ignore your advice and reap record (or, perhaps, near record) profits this summer. Have you seen transatlantic fares beginning in May? The things you value are not the things the average customer values. What AA is doing now is running a reliable operation. Having a schedule that meets the needs of their customers and having decent reliability and relatively humane policies (no charge for carry-ons, change fee reform) is what generates profitability. The rest is all on the margins. You should know that.

  45. @TimDunn — you are delusional if you think DAL is now offering a materially better product than UA or AA. Have you actually flown these 3 airlines? I have, including 20,000 miles on DL in the last 3 months. DL has cheapened its product to the level of its major competitors. The only thing DL does a bit better is its airport lounges (which, of course, suffer from over-crowding). This does not make DL a “premium airline” for most of its customers. Its on-board service is now, sadly, mostly identical to UA and AA. The only advantage I’ve seen flying DL is that their load factors seem a little lower, which can be good for passengers but not investors. Sorry to burst your bubble. There apparently wasn’t any money in being a bit better.

  46. Airlines are the only DEREGULATED business where all State laws and regulations protecting consumers don’t apply. These are the laws that regulate Amazon.

    And it shows.

    It’s high time to REREGULATE the airlines and make them subject to the same State regulations that Amazon is subject to. That will immediately make customers more important to management, as consumers will regain the power that DEregulation robbed them of.

  47. AA’s current management made a fundamentally bad pact with the devil to overpay (senior) flight attendants and reduce staffing and training to compensate for this, while promulgating the rotten structure of no advancement for these employees (the only thing that matters is how long one has squatted on the job, not a reviewed performance on the job: pilots are fired if they miss their proficiency checks, FAs are never ever tested or observed for performance!).

    Flight attendants are already the highest compensated job in the US not requiring a college degree (source: US Bureau of Labour Statistics). It is an occupation where there is a significant amount of offer. They’re also key to the customer experience, and probably one of the major drivers of revenue premium.

    Redistributing the cost of FAS so that younger ones are paid above poverty line and get 2 to 4 months of training and staffing is improved would fix a lot. But then the older (college-degree-less) FAs won’t earn $100k+ for squatting on a job that requires less than two calendar weeks a month, and that is effectively their second job.

    Of course, this deeply flawed structure is almost impossible to overcome, at least in the short term, so they are doomed to continue in their downward spiral doom loop.

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