Last updated: 01:17 PM ET, Wed August 31 2016

How American Airlines is Reinventing Itself

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Paul Thompson | August 31, 2016

How American Airlines is Reinventing Itself

[IMAGEACPTION]Photo courtesy of American Airlines.

American Airlines has just unveiled a new marketing campaign — a customer-centric theme, appealing to the "World's Greatest Flyers." Rather than saying “look how great we are,” American’s new message is that their customers do things to differentiate themselves from those on other airlines. And it may just work.

On their specially created branding page, American says the Greatest Flyers “appreciate the gift of flight. They are redefining status. The right carryon is a must. They know their way around an airport. The red-eye is their secret weapon. They have their own uniforms for flight.” American is speaking to pro-level travelers — not the ones that only fly during the Christmas holiday week.

American explains their advantages to those of us who haven’t reached the supreme level of travel enlightenment yet, such as taking advantage of their world’s largest flight network. In addition, their fleet is being modernized with the delivery of a new plane every week on average. AA made headlines last week by retiring twenty Mc Donnell Douglas MD-80 series planes that were closing in on thirty years old. Passengers flying in Business Class will have direct aisle access on most aircraft, meaning you’ll no longer have to disturb your seat mate when you need to use the lavatory. Most of their aircraft are now connected with Wi-Fi, offering you the chance to work or just binge watch your favorite show.

I agree that the people flying with you can make or break your flight experience. Last year, I flew Lufthansa from LAX to Frankfurt, in Business Class, on the upper level of a 747-8i. Two rows ahead of me, a gentleman propped his bare feet up on the sidewall of the plane, under the windows. It seemed so uncivilized, but I managed to forget it as my champagne glass was topped off.

READ MORE: United Airlines' New President: Why Did Kirby Jump Ship?

But more importantly, it’s the service by the cabin crew and the attitude they carry while doing their jobs that really makes an impact on passengers. If a flight attendant has a nasty attitude, it doesn’t matter how comfortable your seat is. What American is doing is saying "Join us, and our loyal contingent of travelers. They are civilized, courteous, and you will find yourself at ease on our flights more than any other carrier.” American acknowledges that it’s up to them for the partnership to succeed, saying, “For you to be great up there, we have to be great down here.”

It’s an interesting concept. Personally, I hope it works. If passengers start flying with a different mindset, arriving with a positive outlook and their manners in check, then the flight attendants don't have to be on the defensive. They’ll be able to focus their efforts on going the extra mile, so to speak. Everybody wins! Airlines are notorious copycats, so if it works for American, we can expect to see a similar approach adopted by their competitors.

Internally, American is also shifting focus after company president Scott Kirby was let go on Monday and replaced by Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom, who began his service at the airline (under US Airways) in 2007. Kirby was terminated from American after 21 years, and walked away with about $13 Million in severance and stocks, plus lifetime flight benefits at American. Oh — and he’s now assuming the same role at United. He will be OK.

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