MIAMI — American Airlines unveiled a plan to invest $2 billion in the passenger experience, from aircraft upgrades to the Admiral’s Club. The announcement comes a year after the Fort Worth-based carrier completed its merger with US Airways.
Among the Changes Passengers Will See Aboard the Carrier’s Fleet are:
- New seats from nose to tail on several aircraft types and fully lie-flat seats on all of American’s long-haul and international fleet.
- Satellite-based Internet access.
- Upgraded Admirals Club lounges with new food and furniture;
- New aircraft equipped with onboard power ports at every seat.
- Improved and updated kiosks to expedite airport check-in.
American’s fleet of Boeing 777-200s will feature a business class seat with direct aisle access in 1 1-2-1 configuration similar to the 777-300ER. Currently one example of AA’s 772 is in this new configuration and is serving DFW-Santiago. The carrier’s 757s used on trans-Atlantic and Latin America flights will also get fully lie-flat seats in business class. The legacy US Airways Airbus A319 fleet will get all new seats with power outlets in all of them. This matches the configuration of AA’s new order A319s.
The carrier has already upgraded 11 767-300s, with another 14 planned for completion in 2015. The aircraft will feature fully lie-flat seats with direct aisle access in Business Class and satellite inflight connectivity.
Seth Miller is the founder of the Wandering Aramean blog that covers, among other things, the airline passenger experience. He is also a contributor to AirwaysNews.com. “My gut reaction, is that it’s nice that they’re finally catching up. Lie-flat seats on international flights and Wi-Fi is something United and Delta did a few years ago,” he said. “It’s about time American decided that they should at least keep up with the Joneses.”
As for committing to upgrading seats on newer aircraft, Miller said the airline has committed to refreshing its fleet at a reasonably rapid pace. “So it would be silly to do it on aircraft they’re returning,” he said. “But on the other hand, they may risk having passengers not seeing consistency in the product they offer. If American has a long transition with different seats, it could hurt their goal of a better passenger experience.”
American said it will roll out a modern design for the Admiral’s Club, with new and expanded free food options, refurbished restroom and shower facilities, toiletry amenities, and improved technology for customers to use before flights.
WIth the Admiral’s Club announcement, Miller said American is doing something that other airlines have already done. “But it’s good that they’re doing it, because they needed to do it to remain competitive. Otherwise, it’s not a big dramatic announcement,” he said. “Unless there’s more coming, it’s hard to see how adding greek yogurt and soup is reimagining the lounge experience, since Alaska has been doing it for years and Delta started doing it as well.”
On the overall announcement, Miller said that none of this is bad news. “It’s good news for passengers, but not great news. There’s nothing here that says American wants to be ahead of the pack. It just says that American wants to stay with the pack,” he said. “It was announced at the same time as Delta announced its own rebrand. And Delta is also trying to keep up with the pack.”
The airlines are trying to present themselves as giving travelers a better passenger experience, said Miller. “But the announcements don’t really change much. But given the industry’s history, making changes that don’t further cut the inflight product is great to hear,” he said.