Despite the flight operations mess from the past week, let’s pay attention to American Airlines to give us some inspiration
The past week has not been the prettiest for US commercial air carriers. With thousands of delayed or cancelled flights due to snowstorms, freezing temperatures, airport closures and skidded planes off runways, airlines have not been off to a good start in 2014.
Yet, in spite of this rocky beginning, we have so much to look forward to in the months ahead. Even though we’re not out of the woods with this week’s weather situation, and still have several months of winter ahead with the potential to snarl operations, a forward-looking vision is a necessary lever to pull through this.
When it comes to the changes to embrace, I’m looking in the direction of American Airlines and the OneWorld Alliance. There are some notable and truly remarkable product and service enhancements that are occurring one-by-one, and these qualities give me reasons to feel excited.
Yesterday, we learned about the alignment of consumer benefits between American Airlines and US Airways, who officially went live with their reciprocal frequent flier program. Rocky does an excellent job covering what this entails in the link above. Up next will be the codeshare implementation between the two carriers.
Someone even posted on American’s Facebook page:
Congratulations to the new AA on a smooth integration so far. Today I traveled on USAir and they immediately recognized my premium status on AA and I got to use the USAir lounge in Charlotte with my Admirals Club membership. Impressive so quickly after the close of the deal!
Also worth reading is Mike’s post documenting American’s brand new Airbus A321T service from New York to California. The ‘T’ stands for ‘Transcontinental’ and signifies the return of American’s LuxuryLiner service from New York JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco. American unveiled the product scheme in July 2012, and roughly 18 months later, it’s beyond thrilling to see it take to the skies. It will be truly top-of-the-line amid the major US carriers that compete in the ultra-lucrative transcontinental sector between the West Coast and New York.
American and DFW airport are creating a winning customer experience for travelers
Out of homage to my hometown airport, Dallas/Ft. Worth International, and to the carrier I flew on most often as a child who grew up in North Texas, I have always stayed on top of breaking news and development pertaining to DFW. I’ve covered several topics pertaining to air service development at DFW, which I’ve included in links at the end of this post.
However, earlier this fall, DFW Airport tweeted to me on their official Twitter page asking me to check out the new terminal refurbishments at Terminal A, which houses American Airlines’ domestic mainline flights out of DFW (and a few international ones). Although not entirely finished, part of the terminal just completed one major phase of the $1.8 billion Terminal Development and Renovation program, designed to dramatically improve the customer experience at DFW airport.
Last week, I was flying Sun Country Airlines from DFW back to MSP, but I took the SkyLink over from Terminal A to take some pictures and observe some of the changes. At the moment, gates A1-A16 are fully renovated, whereas gates A17-A29 are under construction. However, there is a passage way between the two terminals that passengers can walk through, as well as the SkyLink (which is much faster).
Immediately upon exiting the SkyLink for gates A1-16, one will notice that Terminal A already has tons of new food, beverage and retail options to boast. Part of the new terminal program entailed boosting revenue from airport concessions, as well as placing them closer to the SkyLink stations to improve terminal organization and layout.
Taking the escalators down to the departures level, the first thing I noticed was how modernized the new terminal felt without being TOO sterile, like hospital-style. In many ways, remnants of the old terminal still exist with the carpet scheme and signage, but the real noticeable differences come from the technology implementations that really drive a user-friendly feel to the airport.
The security check-points have been re-designed with a 90-degree rotation, meaning that the passengers actually exit facing a wall, but the actual wall space houses benches and signage to allow them to re-pack their laptops, coats, etc and replace their removed shoes. This will help process passenger flows very efficiently.
Meanwhile, special TV monitors are located throughout the terminal tailored towards connecting passengers or those affected by irregular operations. Two screens that I noticed in particular entailed the following:
As such, any passengers worried about IRROPS situations or missed flights can at least feel like the carrier cares about them and is reaching out personally via screen. I think that’s actually extremely meaningful and important.
The airport has also implemented touch screens at the gate areas to allow passengers to purchase ancillary products, admirals club passes, upgrades, make changes to reservations or seats and add early boarding. What I really liked about the marketing message on the screen is that it doesn’t force the choices on the user. It offers them as options and markets them in a polite way that doesn’t come across as intrusive nor frivolous.
Finally, one of the truly incredible things that I found to be very useful were the plethora of charging stations and WiFi ports available to customers. As the rate of smartphone and tablet adoption has increased significantly over the years, the absence of electrical outlets at airport has become a huge problem for frequent fliers needing to juice up. Airports and aircraft cannot install enough charging stations quickly enough.
In summary, American Airlines and Dallas/Ft. Worth International airport ought to be lauded tremendously for the new terminal enhancements. With the #NewAmerican coming on board, and with DFW airport gradually adding these enhancements to the airport, there is no doubt in my mind that American Airlines and OneWorld are going to be THE BRAND to rely on moving forward.
While I will be discussing this in further detail in a separate post, it is because I firmly believe that the new American Airlines is the brand, product and loyalty program to invest in this year. Stay tuned.