The head of the world’s largest airline said that the two biggest U.S. carriers could force him to put entertainment systems in economy seats, arguing that customers have a right to some form of entertainment during their flights.
American Airlines CEO: United And Delta Could Force Us To Put In Seat Back Entertainment
I’ve been to the United States before, and I’ve flown on both American and United Airlines. I was surprised that the seats on United’s international flights are far more comfortable than those on American’s domestic flights. American Airlines has one of the worst premium economy seats in the industry, with the seats being poorly designed, uncomfortable, narrow, and lacking enough leg room. I was also surprised to hear that American Airlines CEO Tom Horton stated that the airline could run out of aircraft if they did not implement seat back entertainment on domestic flights.. Read more about american airlines travel and let us know what you think.
United and Delta may force us to install seatback entertainment, according to American Airlines’ CEO.
on July 25, 2023 by Gary Leff
At a town hall question and answer session on Thursday, American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker told workers that they’ll be monitoring what United’s new proposal for seat back video displays – coupled with Delta’s existing screens – means for competitiveness. According to him, this may compel the airline to reinstall seat back displays as well.
American Airlines is obviously on the defense about its domestic inflight service, which not only provides two inches less room per passenger than Southwest Airlines, but also lacks cushioning and personal video displays. Delta has long been a proponent of seat-back displays, and United recently announced not just a new order for domestic aircraft with screens, but also a plan to modify their current fleet to include them.
Last week, on an earnings call in the United States, airline President Robert Isom deflected a journalist’s question about whether they regret removing these displays off aircraft, stating he “want[s] to focus on what we’ve got.”
His main emphasis is on high-speed wifi and a plan to bring back live television, and he claims that screens are unnecessary (since everyone has a phone to watch anything on) and that displays are heavy, therefore they are terrible for the environment (since the added weight burns more fuel). That’s not very fulfilling, is it?
- Since Delta has always been dedicated to high-speed internet, and United’s fleet refit plan solves their internet shortfall,
- Because the airline has yet to officially commit to a timetable for live TV (which they weren’t the only ones to provide when it was available),
- The environmental argument is particularly implausible, given that the airline is adding seats to aircraft, increasing weight and fuel consumption.
Employees were also unsatisfied with the responses, who inquired about American’s competitive reaction, given that the other major global U.S. airlines would provide what many passengers perceive to be a superior offering.
Only a few months ago, United’s proposal to install television displays in each seat was ridiculed by American’s Chief Commercial Officer as “pretty[ing] up aging aircraft.” Now that United has placed orders for hundreds of new aircraft, she can no longer be so contemptuous.
She responded to the employee’s query by claiming that American had to pick between seatback TV and “excellent wifi,” “and of course, we selected the latter since wifi allows us to offer the most up-to-date rich material than we can.” Seat back screens, she claims, are “outdated by the time they’re delivered.” Delta, and eventually United, will provide both fast internet and displays, rather than one or the other.
“We’ll certainly watch the competitive environment,” Parker said, adding, “and if we discover this is really something that matters to consumers, we can adapt.” He went on to say,[A]s we look to the future, we think that if we do discover that this is a problem, we will most likely wind up with a wireless seat back device that just uses the current wifi we have… If it doesn’t currently exist, that technology will be developed shortly.
While others are working on this, it will be better by the time we need to accomplish it. We don’t believe it makes sense to have hard-wired seatback gadgets on aircraft with the same type of wifi as ours. We’ll keep an eye on it, and if it becomes a competitive problem, we’ll be ready to react swiftly.
They have years to find out whether this works, and if it does, we’ll be in a great position to do things like gadgets that are just disposable devices once they’re used in the seat back by that time.
Delta — and now United – will broadcast to seat back displays using wireless technology. It costs about a third of what the previous wired systems did. That isn’t some futuristic device.
While it’s encouraging to hear from the CEO that the airline is willing to admit it made a mistake – four years after their new domestic product debuted and after they ripped out screens from existing planes – it fails to learn the lesson Jeff Bezos teaches, which is to focus on what customers want, not what competitors do, because it’s only now that American is falling behind in passenger numbers.
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