As American and US Airways continue to merge their operations, one of the key issues is labor integration — and not just getting combined work contracts for flight attendants, pilots, and other groups, but getting the two work forces to operate as one and to be be both happy and productive.
American management does realize that they need to avoid the kind of ‘us vs. them’ mentality that often pervades mergers. Legacy Continental flight attendants sometimes still announce that their United flights are operated by Continental crew. They’re proud of their heritage, think they’re better, and resent legacy United employees.
So when American’s CEO says things like this, he probably isn’t helping:
Mr. Parker said the most surprising thing of the past year was how many things needed improving at American once he arrived from US Airways. He said the carrier was inefficient and accepting of common issues, such as broken seats and frequent delays.
“As we looked under the hood, there was more opportunity than we thought there was going to be,” he said. “That’s all good. Those are all things we know how to fix.”
Ironically, my sense is that the opposite is true. US Airways management came into American thinking that most of the things the larger airline was doing were ludicrous. As they’ve gotten to know things from the inside, they’ve seen there actually were reasons behind some of the decisions they questioned from the outside. In other words, there are fewer opportunities than they thought, at least less low hanging fruit than they assumed.
- American is expanding Asia flying. They’re doing it from legacy American hubs. (My understanding was Parker had real skepticism about growing Asia, didn’t see American’s hubs as the right place to do it in any case.)
- They’re installing power ports and seatback entertainment. US Airways had removed power ports from their aircraft, and Parker is on record hating expensive, heavy inflight entertainment systems.
- They haven’t (yet?) eliminated first class on the New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco aircraft, or shrunk domestic forward cabins.
- Even first class meal cuts have been partially reversed.
In fairness, we do see US Airways management ‘re-banking hubs’ meaning less spread out use of ground resources to make for shorter connection times in an attempt to appeal to business travelers looking for quickest transits. And there are fewer meals than in the past. So changes are definitely afoot.
But US Airways management came in thinking many of the things, like premium cabin investments, were ludicrous. And yet they’re announcing new premium cabin improvements.
Given that it’s not unequivocably and obviously correct that there’s more low hanging fruit than expected, insulting legacy American operations by suggesting they were a basket case probably isn’t a great way to get the workforces of both airlines on the same team and avoid an us vs. them mentality.
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