An American Airlines flight attendant recently asked the carrier’s President Robert Isom at a Q&A last week in Dallas, “What is being done to create more consistency in onboard service for example I commute through Denver, Denver-Phoenix you might see one service with a different crew base side you might see a different service.”
Here she’s talking about the service offered by different crews — largely culture issues between legacy US Airways and legacy American.
Isom, though, saw this as an opportunity to emphasize the theme of consistency which is important to the airline all of a sudden. It hasn’t seemed to matter much that the airline lacked seat power on most legacy US Airways planes for the first four years of the merger (or that it will take nearly four years more to get them across the fleet) and lacked extra legroom coach sections as well.
Consistency across all of our products, this is really important. A couple of years ago we launched an initiative called ‘One American’ and the immediate focus for that was really the disparity between our regional product and our mainline product… 60% [of our regional product] is two class RJs. One of the things we noticed is we weren’t doing a great job with our regional partners ensuring that they had the same type of amenities and food and service levels so there’s been a tremendous effort placed on that.
…It extends past just food and flight attendant service, it’s the actual configuration on the aircraft. Sometimes you’re out there flying and you have aircraft with two seats more or two seats less.
As an incredibly large airline we have to simplify. So one of the big efforts that we have right now is to make common all of our LOPAs our seat layouts for aircraft on every single aircraft type. Today we fly I think it’s 52 different subfleets of aircraft. Over the next 3-4 years we want to get than down to about 30 subfleets. I think that will really make life easier. So when you take a look at clubs, same thing, is it different every place you go?
..As an airline we need to do a much better job making consistent everything we do so customers know when they buy a ticket on American they can expect a level of service, the same type of seating configuration, the same type of amenities no matter where they go.
American’s Vice President – Flight Service Jill Surdek was more on point with the issue of different crews providing different service in flight. She acknowledged,
We make it hard for people to know what the right service is. Maybe you’ve been on flights where people say ‘so what service are we doing?’ and it really shouldn’t be a question, we should tell you what it is, it should be on your tablet ‘oh this one does have the follow-on service’ or ‘we’re doing a separate marketplace cart’.
Surdek suggests that ‘setting clear expectations’ would get them 75% of the way there.
Consistency though is why we’re losing business class seats on 13 Boeing 777-200s. And American’s 737s are going to become clones of the dreaded MAX.
It’s not only important to be consistent, it’s important to consistently offer a quality product.
And for employees offering service they need a clear message about what the goal of the airline is — are they providing mass transportation for self-loading cargo, move through as many people as quickly as possible, or are they trying to offer a premium experience? That’s about communicating the vision of the airline and getting team members excited about it. And that’s precisely the piece that, as much as I follow American Airlines, I haven’t even heard it articulated by management.