American Airlines CEO Doesn’t Know About JetBlue Mint

American Airlines CEO Doesn’t Know About JetBlue Mint

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American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are currently in court, as their Northeast Alliance is being challenged by the Department of Justice. There are some really interesting tidbits coming out of the hearing (like American losing slots at JFK because it forgot about them), so here’s another one of those…

Robert Isom knows very little about JetBlue

American Airlines CEO Robert Isom appeared in court yesterday as part of the current Department of Justice case. While being questioned, the topic of JetBlue Mint came up, which is JetBlue’s business class product.

Isom claimed that he has never flown JetBlue Mint, and doesn’t know if JetBlue Mint is lie-flat. He then clarified that he understands that Mint is JetBlue’s domestic first class, but “can’t speak to all the amenities they include.”

I think most people would be pretty shocked to hear this:

  • JetBlue introduced Mint in 2014, and it has revolutionized domestic premium cabins, both in terms of passenger experience and pricing
  • JetBlue is a partner with American, and American sells Mint tickets on its own website, and books its passengers in this product
  • JetBlue is a competitor to American in many markets, and is expanding across the Atlantic

Look, I don’t necessarily expect the CEO of the world’s largest airline to know everything about the product of competitors, but to not even know that JetBlue Mint is a flat bed product? That’s… surprising.

Ironically I’m not sure the Department of Justice’s whole point with bringing up JetBlue Mint had much merit (essentially suggesting there would be less competition among premium products due to this alliance), but that’s besides the point.

JetBlue Mint on the Airbus A321LR

The airline industry executive knowledge gap

Many would argue that “it’s not important for the CEO of a major airline to know what competitors are doing, because they have people who can keep tabs on that.” They might say “well an airline CEO doesn’t have to be an avgeek, they just have to run a business.”

I respect that take, but this brings me to a bigger point that I think is worth bringing up. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with quite a few senior airline executives over the years, and I find that their knowledge about competitors is typically one extreme or the other:

  • Some airline executives literally couldn’t tell you the first thing about their competitors, and have no knowledge of their passenger experience, fleet, etc.
  • Some airline executives know literally everything about their competitors, down to being able to tell you how many seats competitors have on specific planes

I find there are very few executives who are just kind of in the middle, as it’s pretty polarizing. Either they know virtually everything about competitors, or nearly nothing. Without naming any names, I’ll say that generally speaking there’s a high correlation between airlines that have a great passenger experience, and airlines that have executives that keep very close tabs on the competition.

If you ask me, every CEO of a US airline offering a premium product should have to fly JetBlue Mint, to see how good seats, service, Wi-Fi, entertainment, food, and drinks, can be on a domestic flight.

JetBlue Mint catering
American Airlines first class catering

Bottom line

American Airlines’ CEO doesn’t even know if JetBlue Mint is a flat bed product, even though it has now been around for roughly eight years, and has consistently offered a similar experience.

JetBlue is both a partner and a competitor, and has revolutionized the premium cabin experience in the United States, so you’d think this would be something an airline executive would keep tabs on. Ultimately I can’t say I’m surprised, though — airline executives either seem to know very little or just about everything about what competitors are doing, and I guess Isom falls in the former category.

Are you surprised that American’s CEO knows so little about JetBlue Mint?

Conversations (36)
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  1. iamhere Guest

    The executives should have to fly and pay for the ticket so they get the ENTIRE experience including paying cash and using points and get the full idea of what the passenger feels.

  2. Mikey Guest

    I work for AA and I am not surprised. This is the idiot who still thinks that on time departures are the most important thing in running the airline when our customers care about price, on time arrivals, and service - in that order. He preaches caring about people along life's journey but his policies and behaviors do not support that in any way. I just hope the airline stays around long enough to enjoy...

    I work for AA and I am not surprised. This is the idiot who still thinks that on time departures are the most important thing in running the airline when our customers care about price, on time arrivals, and service - in that order. He preaches caring about people along life's journey but his policies and behaviors do not support that in any way. I just hope the airline stays around long enough to enjoy the benefits post retirement but I fear he may run it into the ground.

  3. Peter Evans Guest

    It is not important for a CEO to know everything about every competitors products...that is the marketing directors department. Clearly this is a problem with understanding that a CEO in virtually every business has a background as financial officer or a operations management or, in the case of I/T based companies (idiotically) a software developer...no one in marketing gets promoted to CEO. He is going to get the highlights of significant changes to the market...

    It is not important for a CEO to know everything about every competitors products...that is the marketing directors department. Clearly this is a problem with understanding that a CEO in virtually every business has a background as financial officer or a operations management or, in the case of I/T based companies (idiotically) a software developer...no one in marketing gets promoted to CEO. He is going to get the highlights of significant changes to the market and that's it. Not at all surprising.

  4. FlyerDon Guest

    Forget Jet Blue. I bet he’s never sat in a middle seat in the back of one of his own 737s or 321s. He needs to be more familiar with his own airline and the product it offers.

  5. Truth finder Guest

    Was his nickname Pinocchio when in school? The statement is BEYOND outrageous !

  6. Phil Guest

    I travelled from DFW to LAX recently in AA first class, the ‘meal’ was exactly like the one pictured in this article, cold turkey sandwich and quite unappetizing.
    Wether AA’s CEO is knowledgeable of another airline’s product is neither here no there, however AA should improve its catering product in first class if they are going to call it first class.

  7. Eskimo Guest

    A lot of people seems convinced.
    No wonder politicians get away with everything and yet we still keep the same rigged system believing it is working.

    Every smart people or rich people seems to suddenly become an idiot when it comes to giving testimonies.

  8. BenjaminNYC Guest

    Your photo comparison of B6 Mint meal to AA domestic F meal is slightly misleading. Yes, Mint meals are better than AA long-haul J means, but those pix aren’t comparable.

  9. Tim Dunn Diamond

    AA's CEO just said according to an article in Seeking Alpha
    Isom noted that Delta (DAL) has run a "nice, reliable airline" with key cost advantages over American.

  10. D3kingg Guest

    The food on American sucks. It only took me 8 premium cabin flights with international carriers to finally realize that.

    Why in the world would American try to code share with Jet Blue when they are competing in the same markets ?

  11. Donna Diamond

    Believe there’s some strategy for him to feign ignorance on the product he’s hoping to align with but it’s hard to guess at what it would be. Perhaps that J6 is some itty bitty insignificant carrier so as not to see this move as having a huge market impact? IDK but whatever the case, JFK as a hub for my AA TATL flights has been dead for several years now. Almost impossible to meet the...

    Believe there’s some strategy for him to feign ignorance on the product he’s hoping to align with but it’s hard to guess at what it would be. Perhaps that J6 is some itty bitty insignificant carrier so as not to see this move as having a huge market impact? IDK but whatever the case, JFK as a hub for my AA TATL flights has been dead for several years now. Almost impossible to meet the MCT from my start point on the west coast and there are better AA hub options. Not a fan of J6 without Mint. The extra legroom six across setup for domestic F is pathetic. Hard pass.

  12. John Cocktosin Guest

    He was clearly instructed by lawyers to say that. Did you take OJ's testimony at face value as well?

  13. George Romey Guest

    That's because he spends his time worrying more about Spirit or Frontier.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @George Romey

      Absolutely. After I lose my executive status with American next year why should I pay $432 to fly American when spirit has $250 fares out of Houston ?

    2. Carl Jr Guest

      Because it's more comfortable flying in an AA toilet than it is to fly on Spirit nevermind they don't participate in Prechek their app is a joke and you pay for extra for EVERYTHING

  14. Icarus Guest

    It is absolutely important for the CEO of a company to be aware what their competitors are offering. More so when they actually partner with them. I am fully aware of Mint, and Air New Zealand’s latest business class offering, despite never having flown them. Perhaps the CEO should take time to read various travel forums such as this one, flyertalk or business traveller magazine. I am aware of one that does.

    1. Bagoly Guest

      Back in the 1970s it was rumoured that one of the perks of being a senior executive at an airline was that one had to fly premium cabin in the competition to understand what they were doing.

  15. Raj Guest

    This is so clearly him bigtime'ing JetBlue. "Awww, do they have lie flat? I really don't know. Never flown them. I have actual business to transact here. Next question."

  16. Santos Guest

    This was strategic. Playing dumb is an effective tactic in litigation.

  17. Never In Doubt Guest

    My guess is that he’s denying knowledge on purpose following some sort of “say as little as possible into the public record” strategy that got into an area where following that strategy badly made him look clueless (which he also may be).

  18. Nun Guest

    This explains why AA doesn't bother to offer a tablet or seatback screen in all domestic first.

  19. Greg Guest

    lol, I doubt these ceos even fly their own products much less the competition. Probs 99.999% of their flights are done in private

  20. Tim Dunn Diamond

    This is the CEO of a company that touts itself as the world's largest airline on trial for an alliance which the government asserts that two domestic airlines should not be allowed to have.
    He absolutely should know about the marquee product on its alliance partner's aircraft whether he flies it or not. There might be other people that do competitive flying but the CEO and anyone that testifies in court regarding a competitor...

    This is the CEO of a company that touts itself as the world's largest airline on trial for an alliance which the government asserts that two domestic airlines should not be allowed to have.
    He absolutely should know about the marquee product on its alliance partner's aircraft whether he flies it or not. There might be other people that do competitive flying but the CEO and anyone that testifies in court regarding a competitor better be aware of its partners' products and services.

  21. Brandon Biden Guest

    He should be well aware of MINT as its the primary differentiator of his proposed partner. Likewise, he should have a strong understanding of all his competition and their offerings, competitive, absolute advantages, value prop vis a vis to AA, routes, etc.
    I'm not suggesting a CEO know every detail of every feature/benefit but perhaps he did not want to get into weeds about Premium offerings and the monopoly aspect of the partnership.
    ...

    He should be well aware of MINT as its the primary differentiator of his proposed partner. Likewise, he should have a strong understanding of all his competition and their offerings, competitive, absolute advantages, value prop vis a vis to AA, routes, etc.
    I'm not suggesting a CEO know every detail of every feature/benefit but perhaps he did not want to get into weeds about Premium offerings and the monopoly aspect of the partnership.
    Losing slot awareness also not a great look but frankly, I would not start a competing airline today on the premise I only to steal 5% of AA's business to be profitable bc those cats do know their #'s.

  22. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    Even the Judge was shocked to hear this. LOL! Just some random competitors: okay. Someone you have an "alliance" with: NOPE!

  23. Sam Guest

    C Suite employees of AA, DL, UA & AS should fly B6 Mint. It sets the bar for both hard & soft product domestically. They all compete for butts on these Mint routes to some extent. I feel that the experience makes the difference for change in behavior moving forward, not just knowing.

  24. LEo Diamond

    I would highly doubt AA's product development process if this is true. As a high school student enrolling in the IB design course, we are expected and often asked, how relative advantage affects the consumer's decision in the design of XXX etc. In fact, I have used AA a
    s an (often negative)example more than once on the paper...

  25. JAD Guest

    Firstly, I don't believe him for a second. Secondly, if he would fly them he would perhaps understand that it is possible to train his flight attendants in basic manners...how to say "please, thank you, or you're welcome"...something in which a vast majority of AA flight attendants lack a basic understanding.

  26. NSS Guest

    Yes, it's very surprising. I work in marketing and I can tell you that my clients always know everything about their competitors - pricing, packaging, formulations, changes to any of those, their ad campaigns. We spend hours each quarter reviewing the competitive set.

    It's bizarre he didn't know. I wouldn't expect him to know number of seats, menus, IFE details, but lie-flat is pretty basic.

    1. DCAWABN Guest

      Exactly, this. Ben is way off with his BS platitudes about "meeting lots of senior executives" and other positing of "they're good guys" tripe that appears so often on this rag. Though we don't look to Ben to run an airline...and apparently rightly so. You should ALWAYS ALWAYS know what your competitors are doing. You don't necessarily have to play "Keeping up with the Joneses" and rush something to market to match - especially if...

      Exactly, this. Ben is way off with his BS platitudes about "meeting lots of senior executives" and other positing of "they're good guys" tripe that appears so often on this rag. Though we don't look to Ben to run an airline...and apparently rightly so. You should ALWAYS ALWAYS know what your competitors are doing. You don't necessarily have to play "Keeping up with the Joneses" and rush something to market to match - especially if it isn't ready, but you absolutely need to know what the market looks like as a whole otherwise you end up the shitshow that AA is today. Uncompetitive in nearly every market with terrible service, poor soft product, and a middling hard product both domestically and internationally. Isom has just proven he's a relic with no concept of what modern day air travel looks like and he needs to be put out of his misery. Maybe AA can start to crawl its way back to "meh" from "godawful" with Isom gone.

    2. Gaurav Community Ambassador

      You're actually kind of making Ben's point. Execs who don't know their competition end up running companies like AA

    3. DCAWABN Guest

      Not at all. Ben has repeatedly proven to be “soft” on shitty CEOs, constantly resorting to platitudes like “He seems like a nice guy” when clearly they are idiots. Being a nice guy has nothing to do with running a successful airline. Tim Clark can do both. Ed Bastion can do neither at the moment. Isom is a relic and needs to go. Admitting that you (here: Ben) understands why a CEO knows nothing about...

      Not at all. Ben has repeatedly proven to be “soft” on shitty CEOs, constantly resorting to platitudes like “He seems like a nice guy” when clearly they are idiots. Being a nice guy has nothing to do with running a successful airline. Tim Clark can do both. Ed Bastion can do neither at the moment. Isom is a relic and needs to go. Admitting that you (here: Ben) understands why a CEO knows nothing about his airline and its partners is pathetic and shows an utter lack of business acumen and invalidates their opinion. This isn’t about how terrible Isom is, it’s about excusing idiocy with milquetoast statements about efficacy.

    4. Bagoly Guest

      I interviewed for a fairly senior job at an online-computer-gaming company.
      They were really surprised that I had played the game (for free) for half an hour.
      I was surprised that they were surprised.
      Surely anybody pitching for a job or mandate from an online business should have tried it out?

  27. SINJim Guest

    I believe that this was a way to not get sucked into a conversation about a competitor. Adam Carolla has a question for these types of respondents: "Stupid or liar?"

    1. DCAWABN Guest

      That's a semi-fair point if you're talking about an actual competitor, but we aren't, so this is misplaced. If they're attempting an alliance, Isom 100% should know what his partner airline looks like.

  28. Anton Guest

    the food on the pic looks pretty awful, I would say

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NSS Guest

Yes, it's very surprising. I work in marketing and I can tell you that my clients always know everything about their competitors - pricing, packaging, formulations, changes to any of those, their ad campaigns. We spend hours each quarter reviewing the competitive set. It's bizarre he didn't know. I wouldn't expect him to know number of seats, menus, IFE details, but lie-flat is pretty basic.

6
Santos Guest

This was strategic. Playing dumb is an effective tactic in litigation.

5
Never In Doubt Guest

My guess is that he’s denying knowledge on purpose following some sort of “say as little as possible into the public record” strategy that got into an area where following that strategy badly made him look clueless (which he also may be).

5
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