In a meeting last week with pilots, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker was asked what the airline is doing better than competitors, in particular Delta and United. And Parker’s immediate response was, “at the moment..?”
Then he offered a discussion which, I think, really points to what Parker sees as the most important thing for an airline: it’s schedule. To Parker’s American the product is the schedule. And then he always acknowledges employees, in particular front line employees.
We’re doing much better job of keeping our schedule integrity in place, therefore carrying a higher percentage of people than we have in the past…keeping our hubs intact, just do a google flights search on some connecting markets. I hope this is true..just go check some markets like Birmingham to San Francisco where you have to connect and you’re going to see more flights on American than on other airlines because we’ve kept more markets like that in place.
..You’ll see it in the results, our revenue per seat I think is going to be higher than Delta or United.
..It’s hard to say what’s going on at the other airlines, but I know I’m really proud of, I can’t speak for Delta or United, is how our team has just shown up and taken care of the customer and taken care of each other. I can’t imagine they’re doing it better, I don’t know how anyone could.
Saying that what American is doing well is flying people in connecting markets is a little bit like the fast food chain Checkers adopting as a slogan “you gotta eat.” Technically that’s true, and what Checkers serves is food so satisfies the minimum critiera. But they aren’t giving you a reason to want to eat there.
American Airlines has more flight options, Parker offers, but it never seems to occur to him to compare the experience flying his airline versus another. And if that’s just because, as he tells it, he’s flown American over 100 times during the pandemic but not a similar amount on other carriers then it troubles the CEO doesn’t find a way to get a better sense of the competitive landscape.
It took six months, for instance, before he even experienced his own airline’s new standard domestic interior once it was flying. (In contrast American Airlines Executive Vice President Elise Eberwein does trip reports on the competition.)
Parker closed the session by the way with the airline’s success in securing government subsidies.