Cattle Cars

I don’t want it to seem as if I bag on American Airlines or think they are the worst airlines in business (for at least as long as they stay in business) [1].  That said, every time I seem to fly American Airlines I am reminded of the sort of priorities that businesses have that are often at odds with their customers.  Considering that I am currently in Dallas/Ft. Worth’s airport and am in the middle of my flying experience with American Airlines today, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of my observations about the ways that the airline’s behavior appears to be at cross-purposes with the interests of its customers, in ways that bode ill for the companies continued survival in a crowded and cutthroat business.

Once upon a time, there were advertisements that showed flying as luxurious.  That is clearly not the case now, when there are barely enough seats at the gate for half of the passengers, and when even first classes feels the pinch to maximize the number of seats on a flight, which are mostly oversold to a high degree.  For example, while I was in Miami this morning ten people needed to accept travel vouchers before the plane was no longer overcrowded.  At about $500/a pop, that kind of overselling can get really expensive, and is likely threatening at least some of the profitability of the flight that I took from Miami to Dallas-Ft. Worth.  To be sure, our flight was lucky to leave on time given the way that many passengers were rather slow getting to their seats, a process not helped by customers who brought multiple pet carriers along (in seeming ignorance of rules about how many items can be brought onto the plane) or the way that some passengers had to gate check their luggage.  I suppose more could be said about this, but it’s about time for me to board so I will have to continue my thoughts when I arrive in Portland, I suppose.

[Four hours later.]

Now that I’m in Portland and about to head home (and to do some errands, like getting some more books at the library, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of the ways that American Airlines caught my attention.  As usual, I pondered the wisdom of making a fancy video for the safety instructions when one is so cheap about everything else in the customer experience.  As always, I prefer plenty of food to fancy videos.  The flight to Portland did a better job at that than the flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth, at least.  Intriguingly enough, it was striking that my experience was better in the smaller plane that had a longer flight, although not by a huge amount, it should be noted.

Lest people think that I am down on the people who work in American Airlines, though, I have to say that I have some real compassion for their flight attendants.  Flight attendants often get at least some attention on normal flights, but not here.  And when flight attendants give out fewer drinks and snacks there are fewer times for them to be thanked as well, which is a shame.  But wait, there’s more.  In the first flight there were repeated calls for passengers to sign up for an American Airlines credit card at every turn during the last half an hour or so of the flight, which I found a bit awkward.  I imagine that the flight attendants receive some kind of bonus, but it’s a sad thing when a company is seeking to ensure its profitability by getting its customers in more debt.  That is definitely not acting in its customers’ best interests.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Cattle Cars

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    I will not fly American Airlines if at all possible. This option is quickly one to be considered on par with the cheapo ones (Spirit, Air Tran, etc.) I really enjoyed our Jet Blue flight from Tampa to JFK, of 2 1/2 hour duration, in which we were offered beverages at least twice and snacks twice. We were given delicious options–and more than one selection each time! it did not feel like a cut-rate operation. I remember several AA flights when I was not served a beverage and the flight attendants appeared hurried or tired. I don’t blame them. They probably didn’t like the situation they were forced to deal with either, or as the customers who vented about it, once they were on the very crowded (with no elbow room) plane.

    • Yeah, I don’t blame the flight attendants either; they do look harried if their salaries are dependent on getting people to sign up for their credit card. This is the same airlines that once demanded 1.4 billion dollars of cuts from wages from employees and then gave a 700 million bonus to their CEO, so calling them a cheapo or cut-rate option is rather accurate and likely to remain so without a drastic change of corporate culture.

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