Stuck in Dallas, or Everything old must be made new again.

American Airlines is Kaput!I’m stuck in Dallas at a Clarion hotel (with crappy wifi to boot), the victim of a freak ice storm that’s caused all out-bound San Francisco flights to be cancelled for the day. Odd turn of events, but hey, it happens.

So a couple things on my mind. First, American Airlines has one and only one thing going for it and otherwise, the airline should go bankrupt along with its ailing competitors; time to bow out gracefully, exit stage left, making sure the door doesn’t hit’em on the way out. Just get over it and let the next generation of airlines like Southwest, JetBlue and Song pick up the mess of the industry you’ve left behind.

Anyway, the only thing American Airlines has going for it are shapeable headrests. And that’s it. I love these things. You bend in the edges so you can sleep without having your head swivel as if it were mounted on a ball-joint. A decent touch, and evidenced by the condition of the rest of the plane’s interior, I’d say an innovation that’s been in place for 35 years. Or at least that seems to be the last time they considered the design of their Boeing fleet.

Everything else about the airline is mediocre at best (and note that I’ve got nothing against the good people who work for the airline — I’m ranting against the inertia within the corporation that’s lead to a lack of keeping up with its younger, more sprightly competitors — a decision which obviously has had dire consequences on the customer experience AA offers).

Perhaps if I thought of AA as a discount airline, I might give it a break (my round trip to Paris from San Francisco, for example, came in at a reasonable $560.) But I see the airline itself as a 1970’s holdout: living in the past, an aging relic from a time when having a “business class” separate from “economy” somehow made sense and wasn’t insulting to the people in the rear. (“Where was Rosa Parks of the air?”, I wonder to myself.) Nowadays, after my repeatedly positive experiences with JetBlue, any airline that continues to segment its flyers into upper and lower classes strikes me as a divisively elitist corporate cocksucker (pardon my French).

So that’s not the least of it. My issues really come down to the decisions that the airline has made about what’s important to them with regards to their customers’ experience. They actually don’t make anything better or easier, so I really wonder what value they think they do provide. The sense I’m left with after flying with them, however, is that they’re stuck with an aging fleet of planes that weren’t built for retrofitting and they’re far too cramped for cash to be able to make the necessary investments to improve their offering. I mean, here I am, my flight cancelled, and the best they could do was give me discounted hotel accommodations for 38 bucks. That’s $38 more than I should be spending to get back home plus whatever it’s going to cost for wifi, dinner and being late tomorrow. Bitch bitch, moan moan, but hey, other airlines I’ve used have done so much more to make sure that everything is taken care of when weather or other minor calamities intervene.

So yeah, sucks to be them; no surprise, but from this point forward my money’s on the tiny upstarts takin’ over and making flying enjoyable again. If it’s really all about the destination and not the flight, you’d think that they’d be making the flight part as painlessly wonderful as possible. Like Kayak does for booking flights. Old guard holdouts like AA ought take heed; with choice as readily available as it’s become, the Clueparade marches not only towards better price but better experience as well. Consider yourself on notice.

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Author: Chris Messina

Product guy, friend to startups, inventor of the hashtag, proponent of bots and conversational apps; Xoogler and X Uber.

One thought on “Stuck in Dallas, or Everything old must be made new again.”

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