Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal gets American’s Doug Parker and Delta’s Ed Bastian to sit in coach in the back of a Boeing 777-200. United’s Oscar Munoz refused to play along.
Parker defends the 10-abreast product, though it’s an empty plane so nobody is sitting next to him. Having an empty seat next to you is the number one determinant of how you’ll feel about a flight.
Bastian emphasizes that sticking with 9-abreast seating on the aircraft is core to their strategy of earning “more revenue by having a better product.”
Airline CEOs Fly Coach… Sometimes, on Short Flights
Doug Parker says he flies coach about a third of the time, when he books onto a flight that’s already sold out up front. Parker’s answer to how he’d feel in coach on a transcon?
“Without a doubt, this is, by design, less space than you have in cabins for our customers who desire a different product.”
American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Economy
Parker though can’t get that product a third of the time, and American is removing business class seats from Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 787-8s.
Delta has a new rule that director level employees and above must fly coach on flights under 3 hours.
Neither Airline Will Shrink Legroom Any Further
Delta acknowledges they have Airbus narrowbodies with some rows at 30 inches of pitch, but their CEO says “We’re not making those decisions any longer.”
American had planned to make some rows of their new domestic configuration just 29 inches of pitch, but backed off that idea when there was a backlash when word leaked. In order to get the inches back they reduced the number of extra legroom seats on the plane that allow customers to escape standard coach.
Parker makes the case that slimline seats mean the total amount of space for each passenger is the same. That’s true as far as it goes. But less padded seats, combined with less recline, make seats less comfortable. They’re manageable on those under three hour journeys Delta executives now take in back, far less so on anything longer.
American Airlines Economy, 737 MAX
He maintains that American hasn’t “done anything that makes the main cabin product less desirable than it was before,” though customers who like seat back video, recline, and turning around in the lavatory might disagree. The airline claims customer satisfaction scores for the new interior are the same as scores for the old interior. This just means the new interiors are so bad they offset bigger overhead bins and high speed satellite wifi.