What Happens When American Airlines Says Their Schedule Is The Product? [Roundup]

News and notes from around the interweb:

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I get the optics aren’t ideal but the duck tape itself does nothing to impact the first class experience – it’s a routine repair that keeps the plane flying despite minor malfunctions. And most Americans who are even vaguely frequent flyers know that domestic first class is nice, but in no way luxurious.

    If this passenger had focused on the fact that promised, dedicated overhead bin space was being taken away from first pax, that would be more compelling

  2. I’d rather duck tape than a cancelled flight, but the optics of planes in such a sad state of repair is not the sort of thing that generates a revenue premium.

  3. I would argue it’s about more than optics…it’s about brand. When you use words like “premium,” or “first class” and then you give people duct taped overhead bins, malfunctioning powerports, busted seats, filthy cabins, etc. you are failing to deliver on the brand promise you are making to consumers. If it truly just about flying a plane despite minor malfunctions we’d all be perfectly happy to plant our rears on a Spirit or Frontier flight…but it’s not.

    Where do you draw the line on “minor malfunctions?” is it:

    – a busted overhead bin?
    – a malfunctioning seat that forces you to moved to a middle seat in the back?
    – a non-functioning lavatory (or all lavatories as been the case on a flight or two)?
    – failure to cater the plane so there’s no beverage service?
    – busted heat / AC?

    It’s a slippery slope.

  4. Agree, I’ve been on DL flights that had missing seats and bathrooms duct taped close or all completely unusable (that flight should have never left btw). One bin, not an issue.

  5. I don’t think it’s fair to insinuate that American’s full schedule equals poorly maintained aircraft. The airline’s hard product is generally good. The aircraft are new and usually clean. I assume the workers duct taped the overhead bin to avoid cancelling a flight. With Boeing and Airbus delaying airplane deliveries, new airplanes are in pretty short supply right now. Also, airplanes don’t make money on the ground. I’m sure the bin will be fixed when the plane sits overnight or for an extended period time. I’d much rather have my flight operate on schedule than have it cancel because the airline is worried about optics or their brand. While not ideal, a duct taped bin doesn’t impact service, safety or the overall experience.

  6. I totally agree with SOBE ER DOC it is more than “optics” as some have opined to, how long has this been ducted taped? I remember an AA flight back from HNL to San Jose a long time ago the bathroom in first was duct taped all over the place, upon exiting I heard the pilot joking to a FA that Alaska was flying “those small single isles” to Hawaii. To which I replied you know those planes are not carrying duct tape!!! I have more than one flight over the years on AA that things didn’t work, duct etc. AA use to be a once proud airline to be lost forever after Parker took it over.

  7. “I don’t think it’s fair to insinuate that American’s full schedule equals poorly maintained aircraft. The airline’s hard product is generally good. The aircraft are new and usually clean.”

    @ MT, you need to get out more. AA flies lots of old planes that should have been ditched years ago after the USAir merger.

  8. The demand is generally for lower cost flights.

    The response is to maximize the resources to deliver on that target. And that means getting the same planes in the air faster.

    Back in the day, when I flew NWA, they printed a monthly flight schedule booklet. That thing was my reference doc to make sure that I could try to fit in a life with my tech job. So I get it: YES! The schedule is the product. From a planning and purchasing perspective.

    Or at least the first step of that product. You expect the plane to be there, and the crew, and the resources working the gate (counter and rats) to be there on time and do their jobs. There is no question that you expect the plane to be safe.

    So the question is: what constitutes “safe”.

    Anything ahead of the secured doors, anything below deck and on the wings, and pressurization. If that is good, they are ready to fly.

    With faster turns between flights, there is absolutely no time for any non-critical maintenance. Because every plane must be in the air to deliver revenue and that schedule.

    Because if the plane is delayed even 5 minutes, just listen to the whines and groans that arise from the passengers.

    So half measures: we get duct tape, broken seats, filthy planes. Every frequent flier here knows better than to report a first class seat flaw until AFTER takeoff, because they know if they do it before flight, then the likelihood of them being downgraded is remarkably likely. And then only if the flight attendant cares about their jobs will it actually get entered into a log book for when there actually is a chance to do maintenance.

    Nearly all our gripes here have to do with service. If schedule is the product, then service takes a back seat to everything.

    How many are really willing to pay for service? Our expectations have gotten so low that people actually get remarkably excited about Biscoff or Stroopwafels. One beverage service (if lucky) in coach. Thinner pitch, thinner seats, less of… everything.

    If we really cared about service (and not just whine about it), domestic first would look more like international business. And right now, there is nothing that indicates to me that the bottom of American tolerance for domestic below-standard-service has been breached.

    If you look at most coach flight, the current pricing seems to be $400 rt for the non-peak-cities. Would people be willing to pay an average of $600 for the same flight for flight attendants trained in service? An actual meal worth eating? Would passengers be willing to suffer an hour delay to have a seat replaced?

    And would the airlines culture actually allow that? Because I have a feeling that if ticket cost were to go up, then the difference would quickly be captured by the CFO to generate quarterly returns.

    So we keep marching down and down and down.


    If the airlines were honest with themselves, the product today is the frequent flier program.

    If America loves to outsource to lower costs, then American, Delta and United should outsource the entire fleet (planes and staff) to either an Asian or Middle Eastern carrier that focuses on service.

    Bring ’em over and paint the livery the necessary colors.

    But that won’t happen either.

    So, the only end game for the frequent fliers is: Get to know the planes and decide which you like best. Then pick your best seats, and bring your own lunch. Even in Domestic first.

    Because if the schedule will get you there “safely”, then service is entirely up to you.

    (Name changed to protect my miles)

  9. To restate Nick-Adventure’s point, the average consumer is a price-sensitive commodity purchaser who is not willing to pay up. When the commodity is an airline, something has got to give. And, all of the airlines are dealing with this.

  10. Hey @roundtree, I do get out quite a bit actually. American has the youngest fleet of the three major US carriers. They retired their old 757s, 767s and A330s during the pandemic. The above picture shows the Boeing sky interior meaning the aircraft or cabin is relatively new. The bin needs to be fixed and doesn’t look good — but the aircraft likely isn’t old.

    Ghostrider5408 mentioned an experience seeing a duct taped lav on his HNL-San Jose flight. I don’t think American has flown between Hawaii and San Jose since they closed that hub in maybe 2001. Can’t blame that experience on Doug Parker. Parker was there as American went through its largest fleet renewal effort in its history.

    Bottom line — would the lady tweeting about the broken bin opt for a less convenient flight or a higher ticket price to avoid looking at duct tape? Doubt it.

Comments are closed.