Monday, February 4, 2013

AA: Risks of a make-over.

Living in the Dallas Metroplex, I am highly dependent of American Airlines for all my air travel and therefore follow its developments closely. When I left recently for my meeting, I spotted one of the first airplanes at the DFW airport that had gone through a make-over, i.e. with new colors and logo. The rumor has it that the flight attendants also will be outfitted with brand new uniforms. I guess the reason for the make-over is to create a perception that this is a new beginning and supposedly resulting in a more customer focused corporation.

Here are some of my recommendations for AA getting more customer focus:

-Be focused on leaving on-time: One time, there were not enough meals, which caused the crew to call the catering representative, who had to have his supervisor re-count the meals, and then the supervisor of the supervisor recount it as well, till finally 45 minutes later 3 additional meals were brought in and we could leave. This migth have caused some of my fellow travelers to almost miss their connection. I experienced with another airline that the captain himself ran out across the hall and got a few hamburgers from McDonald to cover for the missing meals and we left in time.

-Keep your bathrooms clean: Anyone who ever has flown a 10+ hour flight knows that the toilets look like a battlefield at the end of the flight. If you are lucky, there is still toilet paper left, and the sink is not disgusting, but the chance is small. Now take Japan Airlines: at any time during the flight, the toilet is spotless, the paper is even nicely folded. What a difference.

-Get rid of those ancient planes as soon as you can: imagine a large screen monitor with more movie channels than I have on my cable at home, nice leather seats, excellent food, and free beer and wine on international flights, pretty much most other airlines, but Delta and Emirates are the best in my opinion.

There are many more recommendations; bottom line is that the risk of trying to create a new perception top-down is that if there are no actual changes “inside”, it might actually backfire. This applies to any company. To be honest, in this particular case, I have not noticed any difference flying this week flying American, and am skeptical that changes are “in the air”. But hopefully I am wrong.