So, Just What Is Wrong With American?

I recently wrote about American CEO Doug Parker’s view on why things are on the right track at American, but that’s certainly not a view shared by many these days.  There seems to be something wrong with American, but it’s hard to figure out exactly what that is.

Certainly investors aren’t happy, and the stock is in the toilet.  Doug has repeatedly explained his view on why Wall Street is wrong, but that hasn’t moved the needle.  (Go figure. Wall Street usually loves being told they’re wrong.)  Most analysts would agree that the stock is oversold relative to the underlying value of the company, but being undervalued doesn’t mean it should be valued the same as its peers.  Delta has long been the leader of this pack, but United is having a great year.  And American is not.

The Issue At Hand

The most recent and obvious issue is American’s lagging revenue performance.  In the most recent quarter, United and Delta were able to push for huge gains in unit revenue to almost (if not completely) offset the impact of rising fuel prices.  American didn’t even get close. 

American has put forward some seemingly valid excuses to explain this away.  For example, Latin America has been problematic with overcapacity and fare pressure.  American has much greater exposure there than United or Delta, so it will feel the pain more.  But that’s not enough to explain what’s going on.

Below you’ll find some domestic-only numbers.  This should eliminate the effects of foreign exchange or weakness in various global regions.  It’s also been stage-length adjusted to make for a fair comparison.

Last year in the third quarter, American was sitting relatively pretty.  But now?  United has surged ahead in unit revenues.  American just hasn’t grown its revenues the way others have. 

The hard part is figuring out exactly why this is happening.  We don’t have a full set of data for the third quarter, but even if we did, it would still be hard to tease out why this has changed.  It could be something we can’t see, like revenue management issues, but it could also be something in plain sight.  Today I’ll focus on some of those areas that could be contributing to the airline’s revenue woes. 

A Little Too Basic Economy

Let’s start with one of the more visible issues this year: the overly-aggressive Basic Economy roll-out.  American went with a model that restricted carry-on bags, but that gave a distinct advantage to any other airline selling on price.  On Google Flights, for example, you can toggle if the fare should include a carry-on or not.  When selected, Delta’s Basic Economy fare would show up, but American’s regular economy would show, putting the airline at a disadvantage.

American reversed this in September when it allowed carry-ons once again for Basic Economy fares, but this is still hard to pin blame.  After all, United still has a carry-on restriction in place and seems uninterested in following American’s lead.

Questionable Network Decisions

Some of American’s flaws aren’t as tactical as the Basic Economy roll-out.  I talked about the Latin America problem, but that is something the airline just has to ride out.  There are other network issues that I see as questionable strategic moves.  Just look at the coasts.

American thinks it needs to have a big presence in the biggest cities in the US.  In New York, that means serving the largest business markets and then maintaining a semblance of a presence in other markets.  Why bother?  The non-hub routes that remain aren’t going to perform well, especially compared to the rest of American’s network.

On the other side of the country, American has decided to stake its claim in Los Angeles and make it the airline’s Asian gateway.  These Pacific routes do not do well, and that’s being kind.  The domestic network out of LA was ill-advised when it began under the previous management team, and it remains ill-advised today.  Being big in LA is a no-win situation that’s a drag on earnings.  I understand nobody wants to cede any ground, but maybe American should.

American thinks it needs an Asian gateway on the West Coast, but does it really?  I’m an armchair quarterback, yes, but it seems to me that Dallas/Ft Worth can be the Asian gateway for the airline.  From the cities west of Dallas, American should try to build up flights to Tokyo with its joint venture partner Japan Airlines and feed people through that hub.  Leave LA to the others who want to fight it out and throw money away.

The Diminishing Onboard Product

Another part of American’s issue may lie with a series of onboard product decisions that have put a negative halo on the brand.  It is historically challenging to tie most product decisions to a direct revenue impact, but in a consolidated world, those things should have a greater impact than before. 

Rationally, having robust streaming entertainment and removing screens from seat backs may sound fine.  In fact, United is largely doing the same on new aircraft deliveries.  But in practice, customers see an airline that’s skimping and saving while Delta invests in something better.

Then there’s the never-ending densification effort.  American almost set a new bar for a legacy airline by having sub-30 inch seat pitch in a few rows on its new MAX aircraft.  Internally this must have been hated by some, because the news was leaked before it was set in stone.  The backlash made American reverse course, but that was a small victory.  American is still going very dense onboard.

Delta, meanwhile, tried that on the Airbus fleet and removed some seats because of flight attendant backlash about the galley size.  It stuck with 9 seats abreast on the 777 instead of 10 on American and United.  In general, Delta seems to be willing to give each person in coach an extra inch over American.

Delta finds itself controlling the story by rolling out new aircraft with great amenities.  The C-Series A220 has wide seats, fewer middles, seat-back screens, and an excellent overall customer experience.  That doesn’t change the fact that if you’re in row 36 on the MD-88 in Delta’s fleet, you aren’t happy.  But the overall narrative is one of Delta moving forward positively while American isn’t.  That impacts customer perception which may mean higher dollar fares go to Delta (and increasingly United) while American has to fill seats with lower fares.  MAYBE.  

A Poor Operation

There has been loads of discussion around American’s poor operational performance this summer.  That certainly has a cost impact, but revenue?  In theory, people will choose another airline assuming price and schedule are in the same ballpark if one airline doesn’t perform well.  So let’s look at the numbers. While American did have a bad summer, these numbers (which include regionals) might surprise you.

What’s the surprise?  Well, American isn’t the only one having a bad summer.  United — an airline that has recently been vaunted for its improved operational performance — has been running neck-and-neck with American in a race to see who can do worse.  Yet United remains the darling while American is in the dumps.  This goes back to brand perception.

Neither United nor American have run consistently good operations in years.  When Scott Kirby departed the scene at American, I figured the elevation of Robert Isom into the president’s role would provide more focus on the operation.  If that happened, the results certainly aren’t there.  The company has admitted that its operation isn’t good right now, but it isn’t giving details. 

Rumors are swirling that some of this is a labor issue.  The mechanics and fleet (ramp) service workers still don’t have a post-merger contract, and some have suggested that a slowdown could be occurring.  I don’t know if that’s true, but the protracted negotiations do take a toll on morale, even for those who just want to do their jobs well and stay above the fray. 

American is saying it will fix the problem, but how many times will people have to hear the same thing before they stop believing it will reliably improve going forward?

The Softer Side

The lack of hard number evidence leaves me in an uncomfortable place, assuming that at least some of the problem is from something softer, less tangible.

If we think about American’s operational performance, we also need to think about its approach. American’s management team has for years (since the US Airways days) focused on the D0 metric.  D0 means departing exactly on time or earlier.  That’s the way the management team feels is best to keep the airline running on-time overall.

That may be the case on paper, but it also creates really ugly customer interactions.  People show up to the gate 10 minutes before departure and are told they can’t board.  This problem is exacerbated by American’s desire to build more efficient connections at its hubs.  In Chicago, for example, American will allow connections on some flights to go as low as 29 minutes.  These short connection times give much less buffer to make up for an inbound delay.  Throw in a D0 obsession and there’s even less margin to recover.

Delta offers really tight connections, but it has also put more buffer into the schedule. That means it can run a great operation so people can actually make those connections.  Delta sacrificed pure efficiency in aircraft scheduling so that it could get greater overall efficiency and provide a better customer experience. 

American is trying too hard to squeeze out efficiency here.  Then the airline puts in place policies to make the problem even worse.  For example, there was the recent decision to not allow non-elites to be put on non-partner airlines.  Think about Chicago again.  If someone missed that 29 minute connection, they’re going to immediately think about the other major hub airline at the airport.  But agents are now told that only important travelers can fly United.  The unwashed masses have to suck it up or get an exception from a manager.  Every airline favors elites, but for some reason it feels harsher with American these days.

This has two big impacts.  One, it just makes travelers even more angry, and like I said, this in theory should eventually impact revenues.  But then we’re also back to a familiar refrain: it really hurts employee morale.  No employee wants to have to deal with things like this.

The Employee Relationship Problem

I’ve heard several comments from loyal United fliers lately about how employees just seem happier and friendlier.  There is a momentum at United for the first time in probably two decades, and that makes people more pleasant when they come to work.  Delta has had that momentum for years.  American should have been able to ride that momentum longer after the merger, but it has stalled.

It’s hard to point to a single issue that could fix everything here, but there have been several flash-points.  For example, there was the uniform fiasco where a relatively small group of people reported having allergic reactions.   We’ve seen other roll-outs since then at other airlines where this has just been a non-issue.  While not everyone was impacted, those who were undoubtedly brought a more negative attitude to work.  And that spreads.  Throw in a poor operation and a variety of other factors, and there is a perception that American is just generally less friendly these days.

The Solution Lies With Management

The solution, of course, falls squarely on management.  Whether it’s a brand issue, an operational issue, or a revenue mismanagement issue, they’re the ones who have to set the tone and guide the ship.  On the last earnings call, American pointed broadly to all kinds of initiatives it had in place to fix things, including a $1 billion revenue increase primarily from fixing Basic Economy and rolling out Premium Economy further. If American can hit those numbers that will quell much of the discontent on Wall Street.

For now, however, the rumblings aren’t positive.  The narrative around United is that is an airline that’s, ahem, rising.  The narrative around Delta is that it has already risen long ago, but it, ahem, keeps climbing.  And the narrative around American?

There is a general feeling that American has lost the nimbleness that used to exist with US Airways.  There’s no question that’s true.   The word “stagnant” has been batted around a lot, and “customer-unfriendly” has become synonymous with many of the moves American has made. The thing is, that doesn’t necessarily impact the bottom line, especially if you still believe in a world where price and schedule matter above all.  What we do know is that something is hurting American’s revenue performance.  It could be some or all of what I’ve highlighted, or it could be something else.  Regardless of the issue, it’s up to management to figure it out and fix it.  I would say the next year is going to be crucial to see if this team is up to the task this time around.

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84 Responses to So, Just What Is Wrong With American?

  1. ganttc says:

    I’ll give you another tidbit.
    Twice this past week, we had clients show up at the airport for an international flight with a transposed letter in their MIDDLE NAMES…I know, I know, they should have been more thorough and checked their confirmations (these were both booked online by the client).
    Everything else, including Date of Birth was correct. Both parties were told they had to purchase completely new tickets – both well over $1000 – in order to board. Now THAT’S great customer service and something that really builds loyalty.
    Now, fighting AA Accounting for refunds on the original tickets. They are saying no. I hope Karma comes back to bite these people.

  2. uk says:

    It’s all of that, and more. I don’t want to fly paid tickets on AA unless I have to because the FFP is so utterly worthless to me now, based as I am in NYC. Yes, I know I can credit to other FFPs, but that doesn’t solve the issue that for domestic flights finding sAAver awards on days-of-the-week that are useful (Fri/Sat/Sun), even many months in advance, is nigh-upon-impossible. Even at EOS there are no awards. If I can’t redeem miles for coach, and if the number of non-stops destinations out of NYC have been decimated, then why would I pay to fly them? That, and Doug seems to be utterly, utterly tone-deaf just leads me to fly Delta domestically

    • Eric says:

      As a frequent flyer based in Phoenix, I opt for Southwest or Delta.

      People often complain about Southwest because of lack of seating assignments. I personally prefer to chose where I sit/who I sit next to. It also enables me to select window or isle seats without being charged extra. Also, avoiding the rediculous ticket change fee has kept me loyal to Southwest.

      Delta is my second option domestically and first option for international travel. I’ll take a connection any day on Delta versus flying AA. Parker created a nickel & diming environment that is now hurting AA.

  3. Fake Bob Crandle says:

    CF,
    Great article. As a EXPLAT the two things that are grating to me is the continuous issue with their Boeing 737 MAX and boarding. To sit in F on this plane and have hardly any room to open up a laptop to work is a big negative. I made a comment one time to a GA while I was boarding about the tight space in F and his response was that maybe I should be using an iPad. Really? I have been moving some of my flying over to Delta. Not perfect but a whole lot better.

  4. > Below you’ll find some domestic-only numbers

    So why not include Southwest as well? Of all of the carriers, it seems to me (as a customer) that they have figured out that whole employee morale thing….

  5. Former AA Executive Platinum Member says:

    Hi Brett,

    I have been an Executive Platinum member on American Airlines for several years…No more. They treated me poorly when I had to change flights due to a death in the family. It ended up costing me $3000 for 2 round trip tickets between Boston and Miami. AA only cares about revenue – forget customer loyalty.

    The airline called me because they noticed I am not flying AA anymore. Then they called my husband but it was to my cell, so I repeated the problems. Both times, I was told, “so sorry, let me see if I can do anything, blah, blah blah”, but nothing happened.

    More? The prices they want from Boston or Miami are not the least bit competitive. AA capitulated to Jet Blue in the Boston market, so I can no longer fly nonstop to San Juan even thought they used to have 3 very full flights a day.

    They took out the TV Screens and made the seats in First thin and more uncomfortable then they were before. Of course, it’s been years since we were given pillows.

    It’s impossible to use my system-wide upgrades or use my 1.8 million miles to get good flights for a family trip. They want at least 135,000 miles per ticket and that’s is for a one way ticket. The “Anytime Award” is not valid on partner airlines, so flying first or business on those is out of the question.

    At an airport hotel, I recently sat next to an AA pilot. He told me he files for the WORST airline in the world. The company is not employee-friendly at all, so there’s unhappiness everywhere. When I asked him why he doesn’t leave and fly for another airline, he said he would lose all of his seniority.

    I am enjoying first class on Delta now and have even flown in coach on Jet Blue. I will no longer qualify for Exexutive Platinum on AA but I don’t receive the perks that I used to have, anyway.

    My company is in a competitive business. The only way we can shine above the others is to give the best service possible. AA has lost sight of what should be a priority for its clientele.

    • iahphx says:

      How did it cost you $3000 for 2 roundtrip tickets between BOS and MIA? That doesn’t sound right, even for last minute changes. And as an Exec Platinum, you should certainly have had better options to mitigate your cost.

  6. AA IsAJoke says:

    Crank,
    Does anyone with any authority from AA read your blog? have you ever seen anything positive come from customers like the ones who post here?

  7. Alexander says:

    I truly don’t understand how an airline with major positions in NYC/LAX/CHI/WAS/DFW/MIA has such a revenue problem and is a total disaster in the Pacific-*with* some of the best partners out there in CX and JL—outside of DFW. And this isn’t a new trend either—it’s chronic since probably post Crandall. It all seems to point toward Corp sales but at this point who knows…

    • Jake says:

      Alexander: I fly Transpacific in paid J (business class) monthly, and have been a top-tier AA flyer since the early 90s (back then the top tier, believe it or not, was called Gold!). I totally understand why AA is failing — after a few experiences with AA I’ve completely black listed them. Their crews vary from nonchalant to awful, they noisily chat during the flight in the galleys as if nobody was sleeping around them, never check on passengers, and a few hours before landing — in the middle of the night — turn on the lights to max brightness and make as much noise as possible in serving meals. And this is business class. On top of this, their reliability is awful: for example AA’s LAX-HKG arrives late >14 minutes 20-30% of the time, sometime with delays of several hours (due to mechanical — a controllable expense — or something similar), while CX departing at the same hours arrives late < 10% of the time.

      Yes, CX and JL are both wonderful, as is SQ, they all treat me far far better and I fly them often, sometime paying more for them (still a better value), and they're not AA.

      • Alexander says:

        I get that but that doesn’t explain the chasm between AA’s tpac performance and UA–it sure ain’t the onboard service

        • Tim Dunn says:

          AA tried to internally build its own tpac network while DL and UA bought theirs… acquiring someone else’s network comes with a lot of sales contacts.
          Also, DL and UA have much larger alliance partnerships. Remember that AA bought equity into China Southern and then can’t fully codeshare on them because of Skyteam restrictions. JAL might be a fine airline but when AA will alone sustain LAX-HND and DFW-NRT on AA metal, it is doubtful that the JV is really providing opportunities for AA and its employees. Given that AA is complaining about its profitability on LAX-SYD with QF as a partner and DOT filings show that QF gets very high average fares, it is clear that all JVs do not equally benefit all participants.

      • tvmccabe says:

        Disagree about CX. Planned to fly YVR-HKG-CMB.
        YVR-HKG arrived a little late but still had 38 minutes to connect to HKG-CMB trip. Two of us plus 4 other customers connecting. None had checked bags. CX agents met us at the arrival gate, refused to give us connecting the gate for HKG-CMB trip.
        It had been removed form the monitors.
        They had already offloaded us out of our seats HKG-CMB. They rerouted us on a CX flight leaving in 6 hours, HKG-SIN, with a second 6 hour layover in SIN to an offline connection to Sri Lankan Airlines. This lengthened out travel time by 17 hours and we are sure we could have made the connection HKG-CMB.
        No option offered to stay in HKG and go the next day versus the grueling option they forced us into after flying 14 hours YVR-HKG.

        When we emailed their consumer people they offered us a minimal travel voucher to say “sorry”, BUT the only way to use it was have their Ticket Office in downtown SFO redeem it. No other options. And we live in Seattle.

        Plus on our return CX somehow canceled our YVR-SEA connecting flight on Alaskan which resulted in 4 hour delay in YVR.

        Once considered CX the top performer. Now consider them the bottom of the barrell. They can keep the travel voucher. They are a disgrace.

  8. georgechesney says:

    I would add two things. I am lifetime Platinum closing in on 6MM AAdvantage miles. I would say that AA resembles the old US Airways more than it does the old AA. Onboard product is sub par to UA and DL (DL more closely resembling old AA). The second issue is the lack of any concern whatsoever for frequent flyers. For three weeks now have been looking for mile saver business class to Europe 330 days out. Not a seat in sight from any gateway, but when you check the individual flight, not one seat sold in business class. (You can always book BA and pay those outrageous additional fees for a”free” seat.) Tells me that all they care about is selling miles, not allowing for redemption except at the double mileage levels. Frankly I feel scammed to the max after nearly forty years of loyalty. Don’t think much of current management and very doubtful of the “financial genius” previously attributed to them.

    • Dave says:

      I’ve flown both airlines substantially over the years and here’s the difference. At United, the service always has been rather pedestrian except for the Steve Wolf days. American was a cut-above and its frequent fliers noticed the difference. Over the years, both airlines have gone through traumas due to mergers and integration.

      United had a couple of years head start in fixing things. I’d argue there would not be a morsel’s difference between the two had it not been for the fact that United fired Commander Jeff Smisek due to the Newark airport incident with PATH. The day after the Commander was wacked, morale went up a gazillion percent. It was as if United employees were suddenly human again.

      Reality is that we domestic passengers (and I’m a UA Million Miler almost all due to Domestic) are all UDPs. UDP is an acronym meaning Unprofitable Domestic Passenger. We’re cattle, whether we want to think that way or not. Some of us are more expensive cattle, but in the end, the airline only makes money if they herd us on like cattle, pen us up in conditions that would make the ASPCA grimace (if we were animals) and collect our money as best they can. Sometimes, I think veal or cows at high volume dairy farms are treated better than we are.

      The amazing thing is we want it this way. We’re willing to put up with cattle car conditions because its cheaper than a little bit of extra leg room. America proved that with their “More Room in Coach” years ago, only to find United and Delta were beating their brains out on yield by building cattle cars.

      If some corporate travel managers thought they could get an extra 5 percent more by restricting oxygen usage on a plane and limiting bathroom trips, we’ll we’d have pay toilets and excess oxygen charges. We get the airline system we want!

      Don’t get any ideas, American!

    • peter says:

      I think the screw up happened back when Useless Airways bought Piedmont. It should have been the other way around. Now, that was a passenger friendly culture. I can only imagine if they (Piedmont) were at the helm now at AA… hmmmmmmm

      • John Ham says:

        And unfortunately “Piedmont” is just some small regional now.

        • peter says:

          And that’s a pity. At the time of USAir’s acquisition Piedmont was larger than they were and considerably more profitable. It was a great airline

          Peter M McDevittManaging Director MACWorld Trade Group / FiDiVi USA +1 336 998 5757

  9. Gary73 says:

    I try to be loyal to AA. Long history that dates back to TWA days and, despite some negative experiences by others, I and my family were treated well in the acquisition. But AA has revenue management and scheduling problems. Several times, I find them uncompetitive in fares vis a vis Southwest (see PHX). They also keep tweaking the schedule; flights that I need are suddenly not in the schedule. I have not had on time issues and, despite the vastness of ORD and DFW, have not had to run the equivalent of Delta’s sprint from one end of Delta’s “East Alabama” concourse to the opposite “West Carolina” gates. (yes, I did….and not surprisingly missed the flight and subsequent reprotects due to oversales). Morale problem? That’s an individual, person by person issue that gets acerbated by “feed the narrative” rumors and chit chat. Certainly there remain residual issues from the USAirways and TWA acquisitions. I see it on some of my flights. So to Doug Parker…. Come on man. Step up and do the right things to fix these issues. Your team wants to win.

  10. peter says:

    Wow! This is an analysis that hits virtually all the problem issues with American but, one thing that you’ve given attention to is Customer Service, at all levels. It just plain sucks at AA.  I’m going to Frankfurt in January, GSO / FRA.  The fares on American are sub $1,000. Fares on Delta, $2,000 +/-  I’m not even considering American, citing all those issues cited in your article plus the Customer Service levels. What more can I say?

  11. Jake says:

    Cranky: you hit it in the nail with your comment on screens: “customers see an airline that’s skimping and saving while Delta invests in something better.” For me it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. DL retrofits screens; AA actively rips them off. DL gets the super-quiet wonderfully spacious A350s and puts seats with doors; AA cancels their A350 order. DL gets the spacious A220s, AA gets a super-crowded configuration 737-MAX8s. DL invests in turbulence-avoiding technology, AA flights have emergency landings for flying into turbulence. And on and on,

    Acquaintances who have flown the 737-MAX8s in J report that the new seats are worse than a hard park bench and has less space than premium economy, and this seating is being rolled out to all of AA’s existing 737 and A321, many of whom fly 6 hour transcons (e.g. SFO-MIA). So yes, as a premium cabin traveler I am putting my (domestic) eggs where they’ll be safe in the future, and that’s with DL. As they say, you must “skate where the puck will be”.

    The board of AA needs to fire this management team and re-hire Horton and its genius Marketing and Product SVP, Virasb Vahidi, who totally understood customers (the wildly successful A321T configuration comes from their leadership) and were successfully righting the ship before it was hijacked by these pirates who effectively bribed union leaders (who miraculously left shortly thereafter). Parker and team belong at the helm of Allegiant or Frontier, where fleecing customers is a viable (if niche) business strategy, not leading a global carrier.

    Good comprehensive article. Awesome job, as usual.

    • A says:

      Delta has some of the oldest planes among the legacy airlines yet you’d never notice it because you have amenities like seat back IFE. Seems simple but a 20+ year old A319 looks pretty damn modern with those silly screens. When I’ve traveled on short haul flights in Europe and Asia my spouse has said “why don’t they have screens like Delta.” THAT is all you need to hear AA. Penny wise and pound foolish as they say.

      • Kilroy says:

        Exactly. I flew a Delta roundtrip recently where both A320s were originally purchased by Northwest (~NW tail numbers), yet the interiors looked brand new and sparkling. Very impressive.

    • Justin Decodence says:

      “its genius Marketing and Product SVP, Virasb Vahidi“

      LMFAO!!

    • Tarnished_Eagle says:

      You’re witnessing the America West mindset having a caustic impact on AA. Parker and his HP buddies are playing big airline now and getting a failing grade across the board.

  12. Sam Skardon says:

    Yup. Nailed it. I travel enough that I could come up with bad anecdote for every major carrier, but American is the only one that seems to actively want customers to have a negative experience. They’ve got absurdly high fees for things like same-day changes and seat selection, and their employees seem to be trained that revenue maximization in every interaction is more important than long-term customer happiness (I’d argue DL, WN, and B6 employees are noticeably more concerned about the latter). AA’s attitude borders on disdain for non-elite customers.

    After about half a dozen “I’ll never fly this airline again” moments with American over the past year… I decided to actually follow through with it. Glad it appears I’m not the only one :)

  13. danwriter1 says:

    “…for some reason it feels harsher with American these days…” says it all. AA did an excellent job of building relationships, through its AAdvantage program, over the last three decades. It kept more than a few of us onboard (literally) during economic and other pullbacks. Once Discount Doug hit the scene, he disassembled all of that, often following (and lagging) the leads of the other two legacies in such a way as to appear to be me-too management. The rise of the CK flier — always called to board first, even though 9 times out of 10 there are no CKs to be found — underscores a kind of Goldman Sachs attitude towards everyone else. What’s truly terrifying is that Doug couldn’t even qualify as an Uber driver yet he’s driving the bus at AA. Right off a cliff.

  14. Jerry says:

    AA platinum with 2.7 million miles ( BIS).

    Today, I choose flights based on schedule. I used to choose Aa even if it involves a change of planes. No more.

    The AA seats are uncomfortable, ife is being ripped out, fa’s and GA do the bare minimum and ….

    Doug is competing with frontier and Ryan instead of with UA/DL and the ME3

  15. ORDflyer says:

    I’ll echo several of the comments that have already been posted. As a Chicago-based flyer, I’m lucky to be able to choose from major AA, UA, and WN operations. These days I actively find myself doing everything possible to pick United or Southwest. AAdvantage redemptions have become absolutely ridiculous. As another poster mentioned, absolutely impossible to find saver available to Europe, even at 330 days out. In the rare occasion there is availability, expect terrible connections. I recently saw ORD-LGA; JFK-LHR; GAT-DBV. Airport changes in two different cities? No thanks! And the TATL segment operated by BA to $600 fuel surcharges. It’s insane. My last few paid first class seats were miserable, too. Subpar food and just 2 passes of drinks from SFO-ORD. And another trip home from SJU resulted in 2 mini bottles of Tito’s dropped off on my tray and flight attendants that went MIA for the next 3 hours. I’ve not yet had the pleasure, er, misery to fly on a Max or a refurbed 737 but I’m certainly not looking forward to it. I’m not going to say that United is perfect but it seems AA is slowly dying a death of 1000 cuts.

  16. Steve Fleck says:

    If you cut to the core, you have America West Airlines at American.

    The HP management team and game plan worked just fine for the low fare hubs of PHX & LAS. This is a whole new world at AA and it’s clear you can’t take the Cactus DNA out of the management, which is nearly all from the America West days.

    I’m surprised people are surprised. This is exactly the minimalist way Doug ran his previous two airlines….

  17. grpsy says:

    Re: “The Employee Relationship Problem”. I tend to be employee friendly in general, but not this time. They voted and advocated for the US/AA merger, against pretty much every other constituency, based on promises from someone for whom they should (and did) know better. Now they complain? They made their bed, now let them lie in it.

  18. Scott says:

    Just boarding an AA flight from PHX to EWR and you can see where they get the unfriendly title. Gate agent barely looked me in the eye when I scanned my phone and not one of three flight attendants greeted me as I past them onthe way to my seat. Only fly them for the convenience of the PHX hub, that goes away and I’m going back to UA.

    • CraigTPA says:

      And this is something you just don’t get at Delta. I recently flew SRQ-ATL-SFO and back on DL, and on each flight was cheerfully greeted at the gate, the flight attendants were friendly, and I was thanked several times for flying Delta. Even on the ATL-SRQ leg, which was fairly late, the FAs were still friendly, even though you could tell they were tired they still cared. It was every bit as welcoming as my TPA-ISP R/T the month before. And I like having the option of Wi-Fi or seatback entertainment, it’s not critical but it’s nice (although WN’s Wi-Fi was excellent too.)

      On the other hand, on my last flight on AA I felt like I was just an impediment to the smooth operating of a cargo airline.

  19. Kilroy says:

    Spot on with regards to Delta’s superior product.

    I flew a roundtrip last week on Delta. Both legs were on ex-Northwest A320s (tails ending in ~NW) that had clearly had their interiors replaced/refreshed very recently. I don’t usually care much about the age of the interior of the planes I fly on, as newer interiors rarely add much for those of us in the back of the plane, but the new interiors of Delta’s A320s are NICE and have some great additions. I did double takes both flights, as the only obvious indications that the planes were not brand new were the tail numbers.

    The planes have tons of overhead bin space, enough for one rollerbag per seat (at least if people follow directions and put their rollerbags on their sides and leave coats and briefcases out of the overhead bins), even in the back of the plane, despite gate agents’ requests that people gate check their bags. Despite the larger size of the bins, the interior of the planes felt spacious. Pitch was “just right” for me (again, 3 rows from the rear lavs, very back of the plane), with about an inch between my knees and the seat in front of me (I’m 5′ 11″, with a 32″ inseam, and often have to angle my legs or jam my knees into the seat in front of me). Nice blue mood lights in the service consoles above the seats, with power and IFE via seat back screens.

    The IFE on one flight had a much more limited selection of movies that usual, but it didn’t matter to me, as I rarely use IFE and the flights were < 2 hours. Also, one flight attendant kept fiddling with the service console above the seats a few rows ahead of me, as turning on the reading lights for one seat apparently also triggered the flight attendant call button… Guessing some wires got crossed/shorted on that one.

    I'm not loyal to any airline, and consider the marketing around plane interiors/amenities to be mostly puffery, but I was very impressed by Delta's product and service in basic economy, to the point that it would likely tempt me to book away from my aircraft of choice (I'm a Mad Dog fanboy, and prefer to fly members of the MD8x, MD9x, and B717 families, given a choice), and to consider paying a small premium for Delta's A320 v2 if all else were equal.

  20. Chase says:

    From the top down, what I think is off is the KPMs AA rams down manager’s/employee’s throats. Otherwise, why would you implement the worst, most bizarre policies and changes at a time when the overall business is failing miserably???

    -Our brand perception sucks…Project “oasis” full steam ahead!
    -We have a revenue problem…Destroy remaining goodwill with upper elites by making the status harder to obtain!
    -Our lounges are overcrowded…Raise prices and enforce an AA only boarding pass rule, diminishing the value of a paid ‘club membership’! So what if everyone cancels!
    -Our operation is poor…Keep the cheapos on us to prevent revenue leakage to competitors, and piss them off along the way!
    -Ooooo look what DL just did…Let’s copy that only in the most restrictive way, but don’t spend anything more or give anything back to the poor souls in back! NO SCREENS FOR YOU!!!

    So to summarize, rather than using tools like the loyalty program to retain revenue and valuable customers when other parts of your business are in trouble, AA thinks doubling down in the worst way is the best course of action instead? I mean it’s just become a running joke at this point, and I’m done with AAdvantage after next year.

  21. Randall Riddle says:

    Besides all the issues already mentioned, AA schedules flights for their convenience, not the Customers. If you’re goal is to attract business travelers, have a flight schedule that is convenient for them. They also compete against themselves- for example: they will schedule 4 flights to their hubs all departing within minutes of each other. All of these flights provide connections to the same cities. A lot of their originators keep getting earlier and earlier. No thanks, I don’t want to catch a 5:30a flight. Whomever is in charge of schedule planning needs to be replaced too. (Besides Parker.)

  22. AA-Platinum says:

    I’ve been a loyal AA flyer for years (multiple life-time Gold/Platinums in my family….myself included). However, when AA doesn’t fly where you need them do, there’s no option but to go elsewhere. For example, last year we flew LGA-PBI on RJ-175s……fine, comfortable trip (much better than Delta’s 717 that we’d taken the year before). We were booked again (happily) again this year….then AA pulled the rug out from under us. While the non-stop LGA-PBI still exits, there is no return non-stop. When you’re traveling with kids, you want (need) non-stops. Thus, we’re back to Delta.

    Delta has upgraded these flights to A-321 and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to offer. I will miss the benefits of lifetime status that I have on AA (no $$$ for bags, quicker security, etc), but better than having to transfer with young children in CLT or DCA.

    • A says:

      CLT sucks as a hub. I know it works based on geography but the terminal layout is awful. If you need to go from B gates to E gates or something similar you best have a good amount of time between turns. My local airport is MSP and I’d say the same thing about that airport if not for the link between C & G gates. The planners in Charlotte were definitely asleep at the wheel for that one. Say what you will but Atlanta and the “plane train” has proved itself very effective.

      • Kilroy says:

        Agree with CLT connections. I have done some LONG walks (okay, runs) at CLT trying to make connections.

        However, on one trip to MSP it took me 40-50 minutes (not kidding) and at least half a dozen escalators (up, down, down, up, up, etc) to go from gate to rental car counter.

        For large airports, ATL definitely gets my vote for most efficient, though I wish the concourses were wider and had moving sidewalks like the tunnel between the concourses does. For mid-size airports, it’s tough to beat TPA in my opinion. From touchdown to feet on the curb it’s usually only about 15 minutes for me (once clocked it at 12 minutes), which is less time than it takes to taxi to the gate at many airports (or, for that matter, to deplane from the rear of some single aisle planes).

    • Pedro says:

      Hope you enjoy Delta’s A321. Just returned from ATL to San on one and it was great. Legroom is just ok, the 737-900 is tighter but the big seatback screen is great (flight tracker is cool). The flight attendants were constantly in the cabin serving drinks and snacks.
      Especially the SAN based crew on the way back to ATL were awesome! The lead even recommended a couple movies to watch.

      The week before had done ATL to MEX and back on Southwest. Flight attendants served snacks and drinks and then kinda disappeared. I like Southwest’s customer service oriented rules but I’ll have to say Delta beat em service wise this time around.

  23. Tim Dunn says:

    CF,
    your post today captures the increasing negativity toward AA which is growing not just from AA customers (or ex-customers) but also from their employees.
    The most accurate assessment that many have made is that Doug Parker and co. have managed to merge their way up the airline food chain from America West and have never figured out how to run a global airline. US didn’t focus on service but on protected markets and undercutting other carriers on pricing. It was a given at the time of the AA/US merger that the higher labor costs would require a much higher level of service and revenue but AA has failed to deliver that. The answer to fixing decreasing profitability has been to cut costs and cheapen the product, not a surprise given that AA execs have made note of the high percentage of their customers that have no brand loyalty – rather than focusing on the potential high revenue that a small group of very loyal customers can (and did) bring the airline.
    Employees were thrown multiple bones outside of CBAs to bring up their pay but AA can’t do that anymore now that margins are falling. There are many AA employees that are losing confidence in the ability of management to protect the employees’ futures.

    on another note, I’m not sure if anyone else is having the same problem but your SLA adjusted RASM vs. CASM chart will not display for me and I have used multiple browsers. I have never had a problem with displaying any of your charts. Can you reload that picture, perhaps in another format? I would like to see that chart

    good article in a sad sort of way.

    • CF says:

      Tim – It’s in a format that works fine for me, and shows up. You can try this link: http://bit.ly/2RQ8Q2x

      • Tim Dunn says:

        got it now…. changed browser security settings..

        stage length adjustment of RASM and CASM helps to compare macro-level data and I am glad you showed both.

        However, each airline builds its route system around its own profitability at the route level or potential to increase it so the real metric that matters is either a direct route to route comparison or to look at bottom line margin results – which shows that American has slipped over the past few years.

        Hopefully the board at AAL is asking some serious questions but there is also little doubt including from the comments here that Delta and United’s financials are being improved by defections of high value passengers from AA. Remember that UA went thru the same thing post 9/11 and now the pendulum is swinging back in UA’s favor and against AA.

  24. Blake says:

    Former AA Plat here, left AA after it became “Doug Air” and went to Delta. Much better service, employees seem happy and no longer need to buy upgrade stamps, the upgrades are “complimentary”. Delta FA’s actually come through the cabin more than once and same with collecting trash, I no longer have to leave my empty cup in the aisle or under my seat! What AA needs is new management.

  25. tvmccabe says:

    Excellent Article.
    One additional comment, despite the fact that both AA and UA had challenging summers from an OT 14 perspective, I believe UA significantly outperformed AA with completion factor, with both DL and UA outperforming AA and Southwest with completion.
    Interestingly, Southwest also has a PRASM issue. A delay will always keep customers and employees happier than a cancellation, especially during peak summer loads when the reaccom choices may be days away, especially if you (AA and Southwest) can’t go offline.

    • Anthony says:

      Do DL & UA still reaccomodate each other’s pax?

      • tvmccabe says:

        Delta and United do exchange passengers, keeping in mind that Alliance Partners have priority. Obviously AA has agreements with non partner carriers, but tells employers not to use them.

  26. Tim #2 says:

    GREAT article. Nails the problems with AA…as a buyer of premium tickets, AA has fallen way, way behind. If not for being the only non-stop on my one key route, I would have left for Delta long ago…why?

    If you are “going for great,” probably a good idea to fix these things…probably few of these, on their own, create a drag on revenue. BUT, these are all common, and together, these are strangling the business.

    AA FA’s (not all, but way more than a few) are apathetic. Delta’s want to be there (no union means ample career flexibility).
    Refurbished old seats in “first,” which isn’t really a “first” class product.
    The FA’s treat first like a set of upgraders…when I pay for more, it would help to have a really great experience each time. On Delta, I’m welcomed EVERY time. Water at the seat, just waiting.
    Lack of IFE feels cheap. It’s 2018.
    Lack of power at seats…it’s 2018, at least standardize this simple stuff.
    CLT transfers across B/C to E. Awful. Tired of having carts almost run over me. No Club in E.
    Crowded lounges. Cheap snacks. Long lines to check in when I’m a member…waiting behind 5 people getting flight help or paying to enter.
    Closed lounges…and no substitute facility…for way, way too many months. “New” lounges…not that different.
    No creativity with on-board snacks or drinks. Zero. Stale, run-of-the-mill offerings.
    Hard premium product is actually “hard.” Not comfortable on many flights, and certainly not special.
    Multiple types of in-flight wi-fi, when I’m paying a monthly fee to get access…different fleet types is not my problem. Figure it out!
    Terrible ORD connection times (mentioned) and on-time performance, especially from smaller cities (read: regional flights delayed first). How can it be that hard to run on-time on a clear day?
    Call the ExPlt 800 number…the automated in-bound caller ID is awful…NEVER recognizes the phone number in my profile. Then, relies on a voice activated verification system, which gets false positives from the most mundane background noise. Using this in a busy airport results in a negative experience.
    Grossly impersonal responses from the Customer Relations Department. A 3rd grader would at least give the impression of having read the incoming email, and respond accordingly. When customers complain in a live format to an airport agent or a CSR by phone, they say “write to Customer Relations.” Hopeless.
    Opaque method of qualifying for ConciergeKey…it seems in part based on where you live (the system thinks I live in Miami, not where I actually live in Virginia) and where you fly, not how much you spend or class of service purchased. I fly more, buy first class, and spend more over this and prior years than friends, who are CK. Yeah, we did the comparison…Whahh?
    Terribly uncommitted staff in Philadelphia in the F Terminal. Total disdain for the customer. Disdain. This is a function of the hiring process.
    By contrast…many great things happen because I know the staff at my local airport (Richmond, VA). None of these interactions are generated at AA Corporate…they all come from knowing these people and cultivating relationships over decades.
    AA wakes customers on overnight flights to SELL A CREDIT CARD. C’mon, man!
    No closet to hang a sport coat because the closet, when it exists, is taking by the FA’s.
    Customer: “I would like decaf coffee, please.” FA response: “Oh, it’s instant coffee.” 2018, first class ticket.
    “Due to the short duration of the flight, we are not going to offer drinks.” This is curious because the SAME FLIGHT offers drinks some days, but not others. Feels like laziness from the apathetic FAs.
    Total garbage information on flight delays. Total garbage. Competitors have long since moved to address this issue.

  27. Danial says:

    It seems here that when every other airline is moving in an upward trajectory, American is racing to the bottom. I’ll be sure not to consider flying American on any future trips to the US!

  28. SK says:

    As a tall non-elite (I fly enough to care, not enough to have meaningful status. Mix of business and personal), my order of Airline choice is Southwest, Alaska, Delta, United, Jetblue, American.

    American does an impressive job skimping on legroom (their MCE is no better than Southwest regular seats) and customer service,and operationally only JetBlue is more of a dumpster fire – but at least you get a decent onboard product.

  29. Eric in ICT says:

    In my experience flying American several times this spring and summer, what you’re saying about operations, morale and on-board product definitely rings true. DFW seems like a mess in terms of operations and connections, and a hotbed for delAAys (see what I did there)? Domestic product is blah, the MD-80s and smaller RJs are getting ragged and tired. Customer service employees don’t seem overly happy or like they go out of their way to help “regular” coach customers. Chicago connections can be long in terms of time and walking/switching terminals if you’re flying international and ORD customs took forever/was causing people to miss connections. International product to/from Europe was one bright spot.

  30. Jeff says:

    Hi CF – I’ve been silent on this board for a bit, just because I’ve been traveling for business a lot. That’s a good thing. Your post is getting to the core of AA’s issues.

    In the middle of last year I decided the drive to LAX and back from Santa Barbara County was just too much. So I decided to drop my allegiance to Delta and lose my Platinum Medallion status to fly out of Santa Barbara.

    Flying from SBA is really convenient until you have non mainline delays on every trip which I did on both AA and UA.

    However in May of this year I had to book short notice AA from LAX to ORD. It was an 8 AM fight, we pushed from gate and taxied around for 30 minutes until we were told the A321 went mechanical. Taxied back to gate, were told to take our carry on luggage with us. Once in terminal our boarding passes on our phones expired. Walked up to a gate agent and received an astonished look where she said “what are you doing here?”.

    That was the moment of lack of teamwork of AA staff at a major airport on an important flight with many with domestic and international connections depending on it. Lots of wasted time and money for AA to rebook. I was lucky as my meeting was later in the day.

    I’m writing this while on a multi city trip from the West to the East Coast to Midwest and back West using Delta and glad to be back.

  31. MC says:

    Doug Parker needs to fly in the middle seat on a full 737-800max for a few hours then try and use the lavatory, experience the service and see what the real world is like….maybe if he experienced the product he might find some solutions, densification isnt the answer….he needs to wear the uniform and see what the issues are, women in management could wear the female uniform and also see if there is any merit to the complaints….sitting behind a desk isnt going to solve anything, he probably couldn’t tell a Boeing plane from an Airbus….
    Doug Parker needs to experience what his company is doing from the front lines, not behind a desk looking at graphs, statistics etc…..let him be a Flight Attendant for a week, a gate agent for a week with weather delays, thats how you see your company and what employees have to deal with….that is where the real work is….

  32. J Walter says:

    Ahem, did you miss Hunter Keay’s point on the UA call about agency/tmc payola?

  33. Eric says:

    AA’s customer service problems (on the ground and in the air) appear to be a rebellion by AA employees against the current management team.

  34. DPcat says:

    I wonder how much of this under performing at AA and dramatic performance improvement at UA can be simply attributed to a large group of executives with a clear understanding of AA’s financials moving to UA. There was surely lot of cream to skim off the top of AA that was pure profit, especially at ORD, but also in other overlap markets.

  35. Michael Rowan says:

    As an AA customer my loyalty is rewarded with their drive to the bottom on product, service, and loyalty benefits- but it doesn’t improve the stock price? Perhaps they’ll take a risk and reverse course at some point. Leg room, easier connections and maybe improve aadvantage at least once.

  36. CP says:

    Multi-year Executive Platinum member here. Good analysis, Cranky. AA has rapidly deteriorated this year, with on-board customer service being noticeably worse (domestic and international) and airport customer service often being awful, from the Admirals Club to the gate agents.

    Big things I have noticed:
    –The retrofitted 737s and new 737 MAX aircraft just stink. The legroom is awful, even in first, and other design choices mystify. For instance, in first, they have NO ROOM under the seats for your briefcase, due to the design of the seat. Which creates even more pressure to get on the plane first to claim overhead bin space. What was wrong with the old AA first class seat design? There is now a dramatic contrast between a retrofitted AA 737 or a A319 and, say, a Delta 319 or 320. DL has noticeably better entertainment, seats, legroom, etc. Consequently, on flights like ORD-SEA, I’m moving my business to the competitor with the better product.

    –Meals in premium cabins have declined markedly in quality and variety, especially in comparison to the old AA. Just feels like things are constantly chipped away and FAs are too often put in the position of apologizing for poor product. Even little stuff: fly LAX-SYD on DL and you get your pre-departure sparkling wine in a glass. On AA, if you get it, it’s in a plastic glass. That’s one example, but the larger point is that the stuff stacks up and creates the impression that AA is going cheap while DL is willing to spend an extra few cents on brand impression stuff that matters.

    –Coach service compares poorly to competitors. On ORD-SEA, on Delta in coach I get two full beverage services and, in-between, walk-throughs of coffee and water. And a selection of name-brand snacks. On AA?–typically one beverage service and a tiny bag of pretzels. Again, now noticeable contrast between two competitors on the same route, and I’m choosing the better product.

    –Airport gate agents are flat-out unfriendly. Cannot even look you in the eye bother to acknowledge you when you board. This is in marked contrast to Delta, where not only am I wished a pleasant flight by 95%+ of agents but often thanked BY NAME even as my status is two levels lower than AA status. Stuff like this grates over time; why can a gate agent not squeak out a “good morning?” Maybe some of it is D0–so pressured for time they just cannot focus on anything else–but it really irks me when a gate agent scowls and scans a boarding pass without saying anything.

    –Boarding process is out of control. I’m stymied by this one, because the process that DL uses is very similar. But at AA it is universally more chaotic, with a huge group around the boarding door. And most AA agents are now so resigned to the chaos that there is simply no attempt whatsoever to impose order–routinely I see people in Group 9 (Basic Economy) allowed to board with Group 2. If you’ve earned Group 2 through your loyalty, that’s tremendously annoying.

    –Delays are more frequent–but they are also poorly handled. It’s one thing to take a 2-hour delay. It’s another to have that delay announced in 15 minute increments, with the news of the delay hitting your phone only after the latest unrealistic departure time has passed. This makes people go from annoyed to pissed off.

    –A basic inattention to design. Maybe I’m fussy, but I notice a big difference between, for instance, the attention DL pays to gate layout and the attention AA pays. Or maybe it’s in the freedom DL management is given to make good choices. But AA makes its own problems worse at times with decrepit gate areas, unclear signage, etc. DCA has several gates where simply moving the desk and signs to different spots would make a huge difference. But no one seems to engage in an effort to make it better–and that gives a strong impression that they do not, in fact, care.

    • LA EXP says:

      12 year EXP – switched from UAL due to a relocation. I have gone from being an AA evangelist to absolutely hating the airline. I desperately miss the pre-US Air leadership who genuinely cared about the frequent flier. I have no issues with raising the bar a bit to make EP, but they are constantly making the in-flight experience worse! The exact opposite of the previous leadership, who was truly focused on making AA a pleasant experience for elites. The 737 MAX is the ultimate insult.

  37. henry LAX says:

    DFW being the only Asian gateway is pure economic suicide. DL/NW tried using that type of fortress hub strategy in the earlier part of this decade with DTW and it didn’t really work out all that well for them, so SEA came along (which became much more of a domestic hub while the TPAC aspect of it also stalled). The situation at LAX always ensures that there is no winner, but plenty of loses for every single participant.

    Their continuing surrender of ORD is both fun and painful to watch. Yes UA always had a slight upper hand at ORD, but the scenario (in terms of brand strength and pax perception, not raw pax or flight numbers) was a lot closer to 52-48 than say the 60-40 that we are seeing today (and could widen even further).

    They can spin it any way they want, but truth is that DFW CLT PHL is getting all the love lately while ORD PHX are both rotting very slowly while their NYC presence is being decimated at Mach 5 speeds. Every-time some AA fan says “better to be at PHL fortress than at NYC knife fight”, tell them to run a fortress out of Manchester instead of London, Lyon instead of Paris, Nagoya instead of Tokyo, and tell us how it goes.

    • Eric says:

      Your comments about LA and NYC contridict each other. LA that “ensures that there is no winner, but plenty of loses for every single participant” is the same thing that would happen in New York if AA would have stayed and attempted fight it out against DL, JetBlue, and the international carriers.

      • henry LAX says:

        @Eric : AA LAX is like 200-210 daily departures (and they’re already the largest one). Not counting LGA, UA EWR alone is 430-450 daily departures. Not even remotely close. AA’s domestic LAX yield of 21.0 cents is also far lower than UA’s domestic EWR yield of 28.0 cents.

        The key diff is Southwest at LAX versus Jetblue at JFK. jetblue specializes in Florida and ethnic Caribbean traffic while Southwest goes head-on with many of the bread-n-butter routes that AA LAX needs.

        And a final point – both UA and DL, if need be, could retreat to SFO and SEA for TPAC, while AA literally has no choice but to stay put at LAX.

  38. iahphx says:

    Let’s give it until next summer. I’m pretty certain I know what’s going to happen: AA’s comparative financial performance will improve largely due to its new DFW gates and rejiggered flying (cutting underperforming routes and adding more profitable routes) and the EXACT same number of “complaints” will appear in threads like this. The reality is that there is precious little difference between the service provided by the 3 major US carriers (statistically, DL runs a better operation, but the difference is too small to be perceptible to almost any individual traveller). Personally, I routinely fly all 3 of these airlines (and countless more), and screw-ups — and good service — are pretty random. In other words, if you’re looking for a reason not to fly an airline, it’s easy to find one. No airline in America runs a business model that provides lots of warm and fuzzies, and our most profitable airlines are still the ones that provide the worst service (like Spirit). Indeed, the difference between the 3 major US airlines is so small that it is unimaginable to me why any rational person (are we really rational, though?) would choose one of these carriers over another for reasons other than price and schedule. I suppose that if the Dr. Dao incident happened on AA, that would have been considered the “leading cause” of AA’s underperformance, but since it happened on UA — which had other reasons for IMPROVED financial performance — it’s deemed irrelevant.

    • DL running a better operation is useful for those who have connections. It’s not fun to mis-connect. So, running on time 6% more than your competitors can mean the difference of making your connection or not. For those of us who fly 50+ segments a year, that’s 3+ flights a year. It’s nothing to sneeze at.

      • Beth Peck says:

        I guess this is theoretically true, but in the real world it probably wouldn’t work like this. Many other factors would come into play (things like how long are the connection banks) before you could actually make that comparison. But in the real world, how often do you actually get the ability to choose between, say, AA and DL on a connecting itinerary where everything else (fare and schedule) are equal? I can’t recall the last time I actually had that choice. It’s almost never true if you start or end your itinerary in a major city.

        • If you’re not flying to/from a major city, it happens on a fairly regular basis. Most of my trips to the eastern time zone do not have a non-stop from any nearby airport, so they involve connections.

          If all your options involve connections, then usually at least two of the three major airlines have a schedule that will work for you and the price will be similar too. Once you get a connection that is less than 40 minutes, even small delays can have impact your ability to get to and from where you need to go.

          Misconnects are no fun, so reliability is a fairly important factor.

          I do agree, that the service from airline to airline isn’t all that different and isn’t really a factor in making your decision. It really is price and/or schedule.

          • iahphx says:

            I agree, if I regularly had to fly from small market to small market with a connection, I would at least consider the reliability of the various carriers I could fly. Still, even if fare and schedule were about the same, connecting time (and connecting city, including things like possible winter weather delays) would weigh more heavily than whether one airline had a 5% better average ontime performance. It’s just hard to get apples to apples equality, which is why there generally isn’t “cut throat” competition between the major US airlines.

    • tvmccabe says:

      Have also flown all three quite as bit as well, plus Jetblue and Alaska Airlines.
      Jetblue’s abysmal On Time Performance knocks them right out of consideration. Plus AA is the only carrier I ever wrote to the DOT on because of the arrogant and belittling attitude AA FAs took towards my disabled wife flying BUE-JFK.

      DL and UA are about equal now.

      Try Alaska Airlines.
      You may find some are much better

  39. Tarnished_Eagle says:

    Too much “America West” mentality has infected AA.
    Legacy AA managers are being walked out in droves, Legacy US managers or America West managers now find themselves playing airline and being hopelessly outclassed by Delta and United.

    DFW now obsesses about Spirit and Frontier, not so much United and Delta.

    Is the lack of unified contracts for ground services people have an impact? To some extent yes, but with patently passenger unfriendly decisions the norm these days,labor can not solely bear the blame.

    Mister Parker bemoaned his “Inability to make money in New York” shortly before dismantling the dominant slot holdings at LGA and closing the crew base there.

    He is in way over his head and a fine company is being turned into a large version of America West.

    • Tarnished_Eagle says:

      Look at what they’re doing in ORD. They’re trying to give ORD back to United with one asinine decision after another. Over reliance on regional jets,slapdash scheduling, fascist level customer service policies, its a joke what America West is doing to AA.

  40. Michael Rowan says:

    Apathy is a good customer service policy when you want to hit D0, it’s easier to hit if you don’t have as many passengers to board.

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