"It's time to make a change..."
So says one of American Airlines' slick new commercials which just happened to pop up on my office television at precisely the same time I was reading a HuffPo article on American Airlines CEO Tom Horton's 20 million dollar 'golden parachute' for his year and a half of service during American's bankruptcy (about a million dollars per month of service, give or take).
"It's time to become better versions of ourselves..."
If 20 million dollars seems like an enormous amount of money for a single individual presiding over the death/rebirth of a financially crippled airline, you'd be in good company. The U.S. Justice department and a federal bankruptcy judge have both agreed this amount is far in excess of anything one would consider reasonable. Sadly, part of the NEW American Airlines attempt to be a "better version" of itself is to insist on Mr. Horton's severance package.
"... two companies take the best of themselves to create something better."
Referencing the "best of themselves" would indicate to me that the merging airlines, American and USAir, have a solid hold on what they were doing correctly, what made them airlines worth flying. I'd love to be able to ask them that question with regards to "create[ing] something better," because not to be a Debbie Downer, but I racked my brain all night trying to figure out exactly what it is which prompts me to fly American when I do (besides it being the only option). What part of the customer experience do I believe they have perfected so well that it can form a base from which to build.
And I got nothing!
My personal preference is to always fly a foreign owned carrier when possible, because, let's be frank, their service and value for money spent blow every American carrier (including American) right off the map. It's my belief that if a third stage of the Open Skies Agreement were to allow all airlines of the world the opportunity to fly domestic legs in the U.S. it would mean the eventual end for United, Delta, and the NEW American.
"Let's introduce ourselves to the world, not again, but for the very first time."
Does this indicate the NEW American is going to dump all the baggage of the OLD (pun intended)? That it might reinvent itself in such a fundamental way as to eliminate every trace of outdated technology, disgruntled/abused attendants, abysmal on-time performance, mishandled bags, ancient planes, opaque fee structures, transparent greed, and outright customer neglect.
Or will the NEW American Airlines give Tom Horton 20 million dollars they don't have, hike up the price on checked bags, consider charging for beverages, push the seats closer together, buy a few new planes geared for business travelers, and call the whole thing a "better version" of itself. My gut tells me the "change" needed to invent a truly new airline capable of competing on the world stage with the likes of Singapore, Emirates, or Qatar is far beyond the capabilities of anyone working at the current American, no matter how much money the corporation throws at them. However, I'd love to be proven wrong.
I've put together a slideshow below to help OLD American get some ideas of items they may want to address in formulating the NEWness in the NEW American.
Should the traveling public be requiring more of its airlines' customer service overall, across the board? My ever-tested belief in free market economics tells me we should, and we can (somehow). When I figure out exactly how, I promise to write another article. Until then may I just suggest that 20 million dollars might go a long way in fixing at least one broken aspect of the American Airlines customer experience.