[Note: This post was originally supposed to be published last night but on account of bad internet it was erased before being posted.]
My recent trip from the United States to Suriname provides a useful chance to contrast the business model and attitude towards service that two very different airlines services have. It is my intention that after this comparison is made that the reader can decide for themselves whether they prefer the attitude that American carriers have or that which Surinam Airlines operates by. I will also make my own preference plain as well, but in order to present this comparison I wish to make the comparison as honest and matter-of-fact as possible so that others may draw the conclusions fairly and without undue bias.
My flight to Suriname involved two flights on American Airlines, an evening flight from Portland to Phoenix and a redeye flight from Phoenix to Miami. After waiting all day at the airport, my flight to Suriname was on an antique 737-700 from Miami to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, through Aruba. The flight offered some instructive opportunities for comparison. The flights from Portland to Miami through Phoenix were somewhat cramped in a modern Airbus flight that was well appointed with electronics equipment for my amusement (at a cost) that I did not use. The flight from Miami to Surinam was in a plane that had no electronics at all and was even more cramped, barely able to fit my girth in the back row window seat that I happened to have. Neither flight had much in the way of space for luggage either, as there were crowded overhand bins. In terms of cost, my flight to Miami was about $200 dollars and my flight to Suriname about two and a half times as much, although that appeared to be due to the general remoteness of the area rather than anything involving the plane or flight itself. Yet the difference that was most noticeable to me was that on the flight from Portland to Phoenix I received one glass of water and some hard cookies and between Phoenix and Miami I was not offered any food or water at all, while between Miami and Paramaribo we had two full meals (one of which, with chicken and yellow rice along with a warm roll, was extremely tasty) and four drinks served over the course of four and a half hours.
The experience that I had with the two airlines can be contrasted thus. American Airlines gave an experience that was like a European discount airlines but without the low cost of such airlines. Everything was being upsold rather than provided as part of the experience. Before check-in I was hassled for seat upgrades for $29 or various other little expenditures without the flight after check-in. My checked-in luggage cost me $25, and so on. On the contrary, while the flight from Miami to Paramaribo was exceptionally crowded, the food was tasty and the service was warm and friendly, even if the plane was a relic of the Nixon administration. There is no question as to which of the experiences I preferred. Yet it should be noted that not all American airlines, even ones that offer a somewhat no-frills service, offer precisely the sort of experience in deprivation that the American Airlines redeye provided. For example, Southwest Airlines provides competitive routes around the United States in terms of schedule and price and on that airline, famously, bags fly free, and if the food provided is not luxuriant it at least involves a drink and a box of snacks that are generally tasty. I suppose the question for passengers is: do you prefer to eat, or do you prefer to use electronics?