3 Links I Love: United Comments on American’s Path, Flat Beds on a 737, Another Canadian Start-Up

American, Links I Love, Singapore Airlines, United

United CEO Vows to Beat Margin-Leader Delta on Quality not Quantity – Skift
The Skift Live conference was this week, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed watching United CEO Scott Kirby’s interview. I don’t see public link to watch it, but here’s an article that Skift put out talking about the conversation. Scott keeps pushing United ahead and has no qualms disagreeing with American’s strategy, but then he’d say, “and that’s ok.” I keep flashing back to Seinfeld and “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Ultimately, he isn’t shy and he’s a great interview every time.

Video of the Week

The Wings Club awarded American CEO Doug Parker the Distinguished Achievement award this year, and here’s a 15 minute video retrospective. There are some funny parts that make it worth watching, but I’d also note that the achievements largely stop after the merger is done. But those achievements before the merger? It is very impressive, and Doug deserves this for that alone. You can see more videos from the gala here.

Two for the Road

Experience world class, no matter how short your journeySingaporeair.com
Flat beds on the a 737? Check. Singapore’s long journey toward bringing SilkAir in house and upgrading the product has arrived. And it looks mighty nice for those in the pointy end of the airplane. Then again, SQ can only have 154 seats on an airplane that American fills with 172, so it is a sacrifice.

Canada’s Jetlines to launch in late 1Q22ch-aviation
Are we taking bets? Jetlines has been trying to get off the ground for a long time, and so far, it hasn’t figured it out. This wet lease of a single airplane while it continues to try to get its certificate does not give a ton of confidence in its long term efforts.

13 comments on “3 Links I Love: United Comments on American’s Path, Flat Beds on a 737, Another Canadian Start-Up

  1. Not sure why the Skift article says Kirby was responsible for removing in seat screens at AA. Even Scott has publicly said that decision happened after he left AA.

      1. Best response ever, Sean.

        Off topic, but this conversation is really giving me some good ideas for dad jokes at the Thanksgiving table… After all, the difference between a “dad joke” and a “bad joke” is only a single letter flipped around… :-)

  2. Hmmmmm…aren’t the Canadian skies getting a little (metaphorically, at least) crowded? You have the Big Duo, Air Transat, Flair, Porter with its aggressive expansion plans, Sunwing, Lynx Air announced this week, and now Jetlines? (And, of course, the airlines that specialize in the far north!)

    I’ll bet a box of Timbits that Jetlines never owns a single airplane of its own and goes away quickly.

  3. CF, Are you subtly hinting that American is ready to take over Alitalia’s hallowed title of the “World’s Worst Airline”? LOL! (to be clear, I’m being very facetious).

    I don’t want to come off as Parker’s apologist, but I do believe in being fair. I can’t understand all of the apparent hate. American was a bit of a mess before Parker got there. It had long deferred ordering new aircraft, so had little choice when it came to replacing them, and incurring the financial hit that came along with the transactions. According to a YouTube video I saw (a seminar held at TCU about American’s bankruptcy and its possible future), Holly Hegeman stated that American’s service, pre-bankruptcy, wasn’t as good as many of its current apologists say it was. I didn’t fly American often in those days, so I really can’t speak to that issue intelligently. The decision to re-seat and harmonize American’s fleet was made before the advent of practical, wi-fi-based entertainment systems. And as Howard Cosell used to say, “Hindsight is always 20-20.” I don’t see a lot of criticism about Hawaiian, Alaska, Frontier, Allegiant, or Southwest’s lack of built-in, in-flight entertainment. Yet they seem to do quite well financially, and escape the criticism aimed at American. And the aforementioned airlines compete with the legacies, even though many critics seem to think the only real airline competition is among the “big three.” If my observations are correct, it seems the fastest growing sector of the airline industry is the LCC/ULCC space, not the legacies. Has Parker’s tenure as American’s CEO been perfect? No. But has it been the complete disaster some critics allege? Not in my opinion.

    As I keep restating (probably too much), an airline’s main function is to provide transportation, not entertainment, food, or a hotel bed. How many of the decisions Aviation geeks criticize (which seats to buy, catering, seat pitch, etc.) are made exclusively by the CEO? It’s rather interesting how Parker hasn’t been on many of the investor conference calls recently. Vasu Raja seems to be the new voice of the airline. I’m not sure if that’s significant, but I find it interesting. I also find that there’s really not as much difference among airlines as many allege. A lot of the quibbling is over details unrelated to getting people from point A to point B.

    No one knows how the airlines will perform post-pandemic. And no one knows what the new normal will be. But unlike some who regularly host (not CF, by the way) or post on airline blogs, I want to see a healthy airline industry across the board. I’m not rooting for any airline to file for Chapter 11 or be liquidated.

  4. Yeah, these new 737MAX aircraft that SQ is bring on line will have awesome business class seating. Which is great for the few who are able to be up there. For the remaining 92%, you’ll get a tight 30″ pitch and no AC plugs at your seat. So, it’s all SQ in front and AA in the rear.

  5. To me the most important customer experience is when airline operations hit a speed bump. Funny how that wasn’t brought up.

    1. True but nobody appears to be doing a particularly good job of that right now, particularly AA, DL and WN.

  6. United Airlines has come a very long way from the mess it was, long before its merger, through its botched merger with CO, and the numerous problems it continue to have post-merger, culminating in the David Dao incident. But United is no Delta, and it has a long way to go to close the gap on many levels. UA does run a better operation, to some extent, over AA, but it still generates very long delays at some airports, continues to have inconsistent products across some of its wide body fleet, and its cabin crew are all over the place when it comes to service ethos. Is UA on the upswing and on a steady trajectory, absolutely. It is not the awful airline it was for decades any longer, but it is still widely recognized as a provider of average service at best.

    1. The notion that United runs a better operation than American, let alone Delta, needs to be put to rest post-haste.

      When companies serve over a hundred million customers per year, which the big 4 are on track to do once again, anecdotes don’t matter. Statistics do.

      According to the DOT, for the year through Aug 31, 2021, United’s system on-time (including regional carriers) was 10 points behind Delta and 1.5 points behind American and only 2.5 points ahead of Southwest.
      For cancellations, United’s cancellation rate for August was 3.1, just ahead of WN’s 3.4% but noticeably better than AA’s 4%. Delta was the best of all US airlines at 0.3% cancellations. Even if UA wants to ignore those pesky regional airlines that fly more than half of its domestic flights, United’s mainline cancellation rate was 7X worse than Delta’s.
      For the month of July when American and Southwest both had spectacular and public operational failures, United cancelled a higher percentage of flights (2.5%) than American or Southwest which were both at 1.7%. Delta was at 0.3% while industry leader Hawaiian was at 0.2%.

      American’s baggage handling rate is consistently the worse in the industry but that is about the only statistic where it is consistently much worse than the industry.

      United’s consumer complaint ratio for August was almost 4x Delta and Southwest’s and worse than American and that too is pretty consistent and it isn’t explained just by complaints about refunds.

      Ghost is right that American gets excessively trashed about some things but it should be clear that United is not just a little behind Delta in every statistic the DOT measures.

      Add in that United’s hubs are in the most competitive metro areas – with the biggest overlap with Southwest – and fare pressure will continue to be much more significant for United than it will be for either American or Delta.

      United can talk all they want about their progress but until their DOT statistics show a clear advantage over AA and WN, which is not the case now, and are a whole lot closer to Delta than AA or WN, the highest revenue passengers will continue to choose their travel based to a large degree on what UA delivers fare more than what it says.

  7. For starters, United needs to ditch those wretched pre-pkgd snack boxes and bring on time-of-day appropriate snacks/meals even on shorter routes.

    United has definitely improved IRROPS handling and I personally think the CRJ550 is their small market differentiator. They also have quite a bit of regional to mainline upgauging to do.

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