American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said this week that he has a plan to make sure his airline will never have another money-losing year. Part of that plan involves providing more perks for passengers; but another part involves cramming more seats into American’s single-aisle aircraft.
One new perk that Parker promised is free in-flight text messaging for passengers, using apps like Apple’s iMessage. It’s the same free service that Delta just announced it will offer to passengers starting October 1, and that Alaska Airlines introduced last winter. Parker didn’t give a date for the launch of American’s free texting.
He also said that in the first half of next year, American will introduce free drinks and dedicated overhead bin space for customers who buy American’s Main Cabin Extra seats, the economy class seats that provide extra legroom and priority boarding (took that from the Virgin America playbook). And he said that the airline will make more AAdvantage award travel seats available at the lowest award levels – in response to customer complaints that such seats are too hard to get.
American is also rolling out new Casper brand sleep products – including pillows, pajamas, blankets and slippers – for premium passengers on long-haul and key domestic transcon flights.
But American also has plans to renovate its 737-800 and A321 aircraft (except for A321Ts specially configured for AA’s primary transcontinental markets) by installing new, thinner seats. When airlines announce the installation of thinner seats, it generally means they will cram more seats onto each plane, and that is what American intends to do.
The A321s will each get another nine seats, and the 737-800s will get another 12. However, Parker said the airline intends to stick with a standard 30-inch pitch in economy class (except for Main Cabin Extra). The cabin overhauls won’t start until 2019. And the work will not include the installation of seatback monitors for in-flight entertainment. The company noted that with nine out of 10 passengers carrying their own personal electronic devices, streaming entertainment systems will make seatback screens unnecessary in the future.
With these changes and other trends in the industry, “I don’t think we’re ever going to lose money again,” Parker said. He noted that American has earned more than $19 billion in pretax income over the past four years, helped by lower fuel prices, a lot more passenger fee revenues, and a decline in competition due to industry mega-mergers. He said that even in a “bad” year, American should earn at least $3 billion in profits.
Do you fly American Airlines much? What do you think about the changes AA pushed out this week? Please leave your comments below.