The New American Is Listening. Are We Headed For Greater Heights?

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that I’m skeptical about the American-US Airways Merger.  And, it really isn’t all just about US Airways, either.  When Delta and Northwest merged, their elites generally weren’t very happy.  But, everyone survived.

Then, United and Continental merged.  There were disastrous computer issues, some elites saw their upgrade percentage mimic the trajectory of some European Union country’s currency.  There were “over entitled” elites.  And, it’s not really over.

Even without considering the differences between US Airways and American there are plenty of reasons to worry.  And, there are major differences in some areas between US Airways and American.  I was recently quoted in a New York Times piece that outlined some of the biggest differences.

In fairness, there are two sides to every coin.  For example, Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal strongly believes that Doug Parker can get American organized when it comes to areas like on-time arrival, an area he thinks American severely lags in.  And, I’m certain that the folks at US Airways believe they can run the combined airline better.

Very certain.

US Airways removed any doubt from my mind that they are confident about the future and at least listening to their customers this morning around 10am.  The FedEx truck is a normal occurrence at my house.  A normal day at our house starts when my daughter gets on the bus.  A couple of hours later the first Fedex truck of the day shows up and my phone starts ringing.  So, when the doorbell rang this morning I didn’t stop what I was working on, I just kept going about my morning.  My wife arrived home shortly thereafter and brought a box marked “Fragile” into the house.  The package was from US Airways’ corporate HQ in Tempe, AZ.

Inside I found a letter from their VP of Corporate Communication and two bottles of wine.

Headed For

The letter brought up some improvements that US Airways rolled out just last week. In fairness, I like pretty much everything they’ve done.

  • A continental breakfast will now be offered on coast-to-coast redeye flights that consists of a yogurt smoothie, croissant, almond butter and jam. 
  • Dos Equis beer is now available.
  • A revamped wine list, including a pretty decent sparkling wine, Charles de Fere Cuvee Jean-Louis Blanc de Blancs.  My wife and I are always on the hunt for affordable bottles of sparkling wine (it’s kind of a sport for us) and we’ve had this sparkling a few times in the past.  It’s no Dom, but it’s a very good entry-level sparkling wines, one of our favorites under $20.
  • A new program where coach passengers can pre-order meals (called DineFresh) with such new options as marinated lime chicken breast, vegetarian tabbouleh and antipasto.

There’s also a revamped snack basket for first class.  I don’t have a ton of experience with first class on US Airways so don’t know how much of this has changed, but here’s the new list of snack items:

  • Boulder Canyon Kettle Chips
  • Nature’s Bakery Whole Wheat Raspberry Fig Bar
  • Chocobillys Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  • Emerald Walnuts & Almonds
  • Nonni’s Biscotti
  • Snyder’s Pretzels

Headed For

 

The letter itself was definitely humorous, which is not a side of US Airways I’ve seen before.  They made a point to tell me they didn’t want me to go hungry, which I can surely appreciate.  🙂

And they also promise more changes in the near future:

In all seriousness, while these are just a few changes we’ve made recently, I assure you that you will see more enhancements in the very near future.  We are listening to our most elite customers and using that feedback to provide you with a more comfortable travel experience, and just wanted to update you.

It’s still worth noting that, while these improvements close the gap, American is still a good distance ahead of where US Airways is.  I enjoyed a teriyaki beef salad with udon noodles and ginger dressing on my way home yesterday on a flight just under 3 hours on American.  US Airways still doesn’t offer meal service on any flight shorter than 3.5 hours.  American will also serve me a meal (not a snack box) on their regional jets, something no other US carrier does to my knowledge.

And, upgrades.  Oh, those lovely upgrades.  American has been great in this category for many years, including very generous rules for their systemwide upgrades, redeemable on pretty much any fare.

I know I’m not the only one concerned about potential changes, which is why this letter resonated with me.  US Airways and American have been putting out press releases and updating their websites with ideas of what’s coming down the pike.  I give them credit for making this gesture to let one of their future elite travelers know they’re listening and improving.  While I’m an occasional US Airways traveler, my status is with American, so I give US Airways a tip of the hat for addressing someone who doesn’t make them a whole lot of money yet.

I do my best to try to stay impartial, and I don’t generally accept gifts from programs.  It would be difficult (and rude) to ship back the wine, so I’ll plan to bring it with me to the upcoming Frequent Traveler University.  Come along and grab a taste of their new wines!

I’m curious to hear what everyone thinks about these changes.  Are you happy with the direction US Airways is going?  What do you want to see them change/improve?

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