I write frequently about all of the ways that American Airlines disappoints me. They are intentionally making their domestic product worse along several dimensions even as they invest heavily in their international premium cabins.
- Less space between seats — and not just in coach but also their ‘Main Cabin Extra’ and even in first class.
- Less comfortable seats — slimline seats with less support in back, and poor quality seats up front even aside from the bar that protrudes out the lower back.
- Removing seat back entertainment so that passengers can stream (older) shows to their phone instead.
- Smaller lavatories
New American Airlines Domestic First Class
What’s more American is very poor at communicating with customers during delays. They tend not to provide updates at all until flight times have already passed. Nearly every delay in my experience is a rolling delay, with projected departures updating a little at a time only when Newton’s laws dictate that the previous departure time is impossible.
When I fly Delta I don’t find that their operation is that much better than American’s. They have squeezed more seats into planes too. There’s no enough leg room in first class even. However,
- Delta first class offers pillows and not just blankets, and a bottle of water at each seat — and yet they still offer predeparture beverages.
- Their flight attendants seem happy to be there.
- And when delays happen they seem to communicate more regularly.
Delta Domestic First Class Pillow and Water
In other words, the dimensions along which Delta seems to be better are modest. But they make a difference.
I was supposed to fly home from DC on American via Charlotte this week. My inbound aircraft was coming from Charlotte but didn’t have crew. It was posted (naturally) as a rolling delay, and eventually I was going to misconnect. Since I’m an Executive Platinum the airline was still willing to put me on another airline. They moved me over to United and I made it home.
Two things struck me about flying United.
- Their slimline seats seem worse than American’s (and Southwest’s). They’re hard and 90 minutes in I needed to stand up, because they were just rough on the back.
- Internet was basically non-functional through the flight. That happens occasionally, though United’s internet is generally worse than Delta’s and American’s.
And I realized that all I really want on a domestic flight is to get where I’m going safely with enough space to work and functional internet. Once I’ve hit that basic I’d like to be treated like a human being rather than self-loading cargo.
Other passengers have different priorities. I’ve written frequently that inflight entertainment doesn’t matter to me at all. I don’t want to rely on an airline to keep me entertained. However I know this is something that matters to more people than it doesn’t.
For me though I’ll choose American or Delta over United because of their functional internet. When US Airways finally installed internet on its plane, CEO Doug Parker explained that they didn’t believe they were going to make money selling it which is why they hadn’t made the investment. When they saw customers were booking away onto other carriers because they lacked internet they changed course. Now merely having internet isn’t enough, the internet needs to work. And American is doing a good job providing that on their mainline narrowbody aircraft.
Living in Austin Delta isn’t an option for much of my travel. I’m often choosing between American’s (Dallas) and United’s (Houston) hubs. United needs to make a bigger investment in internet or else I won’t contribute much to their ‘natural share’ of business in any market.
What’s the most important thing for your domestic travel, and what does that mean for which airline you fly?