American Airlines’ Chief Customer Officer Retiring

American Airlines’ Chief Customer Officer Retiring

21

An American Airlines executive largely responsible for the passenger experience will be retiring…

Alison Taylor retiring from American Airlines

American Airlines has announced that Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor will be retiring from the airline. Taylor will remain in an advisory role, and her day-to-day responsibilities will transition to Vasu Raja, Chief Commercial Officer, and Scott Laurence, Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships and International.

Here’s what Raja had to say about this development:

“Alison’s career has been nothing short of legendary. She has been an integral part of our leadership team since joining American in 2016, leading the work to create a world-class experience at every step of the customer journey. We will miss Alison, but we’re very happy for her as she and her husband move back to Australia to be closer to their family.”

Taylor has had quite a career in the travel space. She has “only” been at American since 2016, when she joined as SVP of Global Sales and Distribution, before being named Chief Customer Officer.

Prior to working at American, she was at Starwood for a long time (before the merger with Marriott), where she eventually became the Global Senior Vice President of Sales.

In the press release about Taylor’s retirement, American credits her for being “committed to providing a world-class customer experience.” Among other things:

As Chief Customer Officer, Taylor has been committed to providing a world-class customer experience in the air, including the development of best-in-class inflight entertainment offerings and new interiors on American’s Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A321XLR aircraft, and on the ground, including redesigned lounges at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

American’s new A321XLR business class

My take on this American Airlines leadership change

First and foremost, I wish Taylor all the best in retirement. A few thoughts:

  • American has no doubt had some highs and lows when it comes to customer experience under Taylor’s leadership; of course there are some good things that have happened, as mentioned above, though not mentioned is inflight catering, TVs being ripped out of planes, and the carrier’s general lack of a cohesive vision when it comes to the passenger experience (admittedly much of that may not have been her decision)
  • For all practical purposes, Raja seems to increasingly be running the airline nowadays, and his responsibilities just keep growing; he talks a great game, but I find that to be concerning (but also not surprising), and I know a lot of employees share that sentiment
  • One of the things that I really respected about Taylor was that she was an “outsider,” as American has a history of primarily promoting from within, and promoting people who have been at the company for decades; while it’s great to reward long time employees, it would be great to see more out-of-the-box thinking at American management
The highs of the American customer experience
The lows of the American customer experience

Bottom line

American Airlines Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor is retiring, and her responsibilities will be absorbed by Vasu Raja and Scott Laurence. Taylor oversaw the American Airlines customer experience for the past six years, which was no doubt a big role.

All the best to Taylor in her retirement!

Conversations (21)
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  1. iamhere Guest

    It's not like what the customer will see and experience will change much

  2. Jose Guest

    American Airlines has a poor customer service, when I had an issue I was on the phone more than 10 minutes to have my call answered. Delta in the other way has much better care of their customers. In-flight entreteriment is non existent in AA, no screens on theirs 737, when Delta provides screens and great movies and games. Catering in Delta is superior. I flight frequently from my city to Miami for more than...

    American Airlines has a poor customer service, when I had an issue I was on the phone more than 10 minutes to have my call answered. Delta in the other way has much better care of their customers. In-flight entreteriment is non existent in AA, no screens on theirs 737, when Delta provides screens and great movies and games. Catering in Delta is superior. I flight frequently from my city to Miami for more than 2 years and the snack served is always the same, no different option offered. So AA must change to be competitive.

  3. Flynmama Guest

    There are many many flight attendants who remember the ‘old days’ at AA where the customer came first behind safety, and work hard to provide a good on board experience despite catering issues and reduced staffing.

  4. justlanded Guest

    "As the former Chief Revenue Officer for American Airlines, Vasu Raja is uniquely qualified to ensure our customers experience the satisfaction of earning more miles from our new fares."

  5. Josh Guest

    Wish I was in charge with this position as I would make it to where the customer is #1, the employees of the company #2 and the stock holders on the bottom! AA used to be one of the best airlines in the sky, what happened here?

  6. H Kanner Guest

    Alison's tenure was coincidentally during the period when American was noted as one of the worst in customer service. I spent 37 years being loyal. American killed that in a year. Whoever the writer is here clearly knows nothing about customer service or has never flown the airline anonymously.

  7. Thugster Guest

    What a joke, this clown excuse for an airline has no interest in customer experience

  8. Jerry Diamond

    It's easy to take cheap shots at AA's product, but most of the ire is really directed at domestic Y. Internationally, and especially in premium cabins, AA is as good as any European carrier, superior to Delta, and evenly matched with UA. AA's lounges are better than they were when she joined, and their Flagship First dining is truly best in class. I think, as a customer, she will be missed.

  9. Donna Diamond

    I agree with @Gary, sounds more like they have pushed her out. I have a hard time understanding why hiring an outsider, one from the hotel industry, for a senior leadership job in the airline industry was ever a good move.

    1. John Shepherd Guest

      Yeah - a bit like appointing another (corrupt) outsider from the hotel industry to "model" undergarments. When will they ever learn...?

  10. XPL Diamond

    What, American had someone responsible for customer experience? Could have fooled me. (Which is no reflection on Ms. Taylor, who is perhaps relieved to have escaped such a thankless task.)

  11. Joe Guest

    Oh no. Was she responsible for the Chelsea lounge?!

  12. Fred Snow Guest

    We have been American clients for 30 years (Admirals Club, Etc.). For the last 8 years we have avoided American service whenever possible. Certainly hope American will someday again begin to take care of their customers.

  13. Lee Guest

    According to Mr. Raja, the route network is the product. The route network is something AA can plug into an algorithm and calculate great efficiency. And, Mr. Raja is undoubtedly good at such calculations. Who would have thought Charlotte, of all places, would be the ideal trans-Atlantic hub? I never would have thought about flying from JFK to FRA via CLT. But, Mr. Raja calculated it. As for airport and in-flight experience, those can't be...

    According to Mr. Raja, the route network is the product. The route network is something AA can plug into an algorithm and calculate great efficiency. And, Mr. Raja is undoubtedly good at such calculations. Who would have thought Charlotte, of all places, would be the ideal trans-Atlantic hub? I never would have thought about flying from JFK to FRA via CLT. But, Mr. Raja calculated it. As for airport and in-flight experience, those can't be calculated. So, it's probably best that AA eliminated the position.

  14. Golfingboy Guest

    AA, IMHO, has the worst inflight product (particularly the soft product) and the only thing they have done right is the long haul J hard product.

    I am with you and many others about Vasu. He is a great person, but lacks the drive to differentiate. Just look at what he has done to AA’s route network which has been the biggest part of his job for the past 5-10 years. AA has turned...

    AA, IMHO, has the worst inflight product (particularly the soft product) and the only thing they have done right is the long haul J hard product.

    I am with you and many others about Vasu. He is a great person, but lacks the drive to differentiate. Just look at what he has done to AA’s route network which has been the biggest part of his job for the past 5-10 years. AA has turned into a major “feeder” airline for IAG, B6, AS, JL, etc. They have given up on the secondary markets in EU, TPAC, and domestically they lack a real cohesive network with the necessary strategic variety to be competitive (hence the dependence on “B6/AS). He spoke big game on developing a unique and leading international network and re-establishing AA’s clear market leadership position in the domestic market. All of that ended up going backwards.

    This does not have me feeling enthused about him overseeing the customer experience as I do not think he is someone who delivers real meaningful results.

    1. UA-NYC Guest

      Dunno, domestically UA has worse wifi, worse food. Wins for UA are more E+ and screens. Toss-up IMO.

  15. John Guest

    The competition between Isom at AA and Scott Kirby at United continues to fascinate, since they both wanted the same job that went to Isom, So far, Kirby seems to be showing that living well is the best revenge. United is more creative in expanding routes and generally is rehabilitating its performance after the turmoil of the Continental takeover years ago. But, writing from Berlin after a United flight over, I have to say that...

    The competition between Isom at AA and Scott Kirby at United continues to fascinate, since they both wanted the same job that went to Isom, So far, Kirby seems to be showing that living well is the best revenge. United is more creative in expanding routes and generally is rehabilitating its performance after the turmoil of the Continental takeover years ago. But, writing from Berlin after a United flight over, I have to say that United is also showing the same uneven thinking about passenger experience you describe with American. After all the hype about Polaris soft-product during the rollout, it is now clear that the food and service are staying at low levels--lower than the pre-Polaris product--even as the pandemic recedes. Yes, Polaris lounges are nice, but I wonder how much they will be cut back in due course, in the same way on-board product has been. It's clear this comes from the top and people like Alison Taylor--or her counterparts at United and Delta--don't make these decisions. Kirby's view is that consumer choice is driven almost exclusively by low fares and travel time, and a CEO's job is mainly to obsess about margin. True enough in economy. But I'm not sure that's true in business class. Especially these days with transatlantic fares routinely at 10K or above, it is really indefensible how mediocre the experience is on US airlines.

    1. Adam Guest

      I think the two things that keep the Polaris Lounges safe from gross devaluations are (a) the fact that United's onboard Polaris catering remains exceedingly mediocre for a J product and (b) Delta's plan to open Delta One lounges.

      Maybe United will wait to see how good Delta's lounges are before deciding whether it can chintz on the Polaris Lounge. But they also have to be aware that the Polaris Lounge is one of the...

      I think the two things that keep the Polaris Lounges safe from gross devaluations are (a) the fact that United's onboard Polaris catering remains exceedingly mediocre for a J product and (b) Delta's plan to open Delta One lounges.

      Maybe United will wait to see how good Delta's lounges are before deciding whether it can chintz on the Polaris Lounge. But they also have to be aware that the Polaris Lounge is one of the few things keeping Polaris semi-competitive with European carriers. United's Polaris hard product is the other thing. But if I'm taking off for Europe, and my options are decent service and a decent bed on AF or BA (or Delta), or a maybe-slightly-better bed and a screw-you soft product on United, and there's no Polaris Lounge to compensate, I'm flying AF/BA/DL unless I desperately need the miles (which I usually don't) or United is half-off, which it isn't.

      The Polaris Lounge makes United competitive enough for me, and only just.

  16. Gary Leff Guest

    She is not retiring she is being retired. Virtually her entire portfolio had been moved from under her over the past year. This was all inevitable since Isom named his leadership team and it did not include her.

    1. Darin Member

      Sounds like she was in a position I’ve been in before. You may have great intentions and ideas, and know how to execute them, but if they don’t align with leadership vision, you have no choice but to leave. Not surprising that someone who advocates for customer experience at AA would feel frustrated, and speaks volumes that they really had no other choice but to leave the company.

    2. Gary Leff Guest

      She was the one who described UA putting seat back screens in as "prettying up old aircraft" in contrast to American's new planes without screens. That was right before UA... ordered a bunch of new planes that would also have screens.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Golfingboy Guest

AA, IMHO, has the worst inflight product (particularly the soft product) and the only thing they have done right is the long haul J hard product. I am with you and many others about Vasu. He is a great person, but lacks the drive to differentiate. Just look at what he has done to AA’s route network which has been the biggest part of his job for the past 5-10 years. AA has turned into a major “feeder” airline for IAG, B6, AS, JL, etc. They have given up on the secondary markets in EU, TPAC, and domestically they lack a real cohesive network with the necessary strategic variety to be competitive (hence the dependence on “B6/AS). He spoke big game on developing a unique and leading international network and re-establishing AA’s clear market leadership position in the domestic market. All of that ended up going backwards. This does not have me feeling enthused about him overseeing the customer experience as I do not think he is someone who delivers real meaningful results.

3
Darin Member

Sounds like she was in a position I’ve been in before. You may have great intentions and ideas, and know how to execute them, but if they don’t align with leadership vision, you have no choice but to leave. Not surprising that someone who advocates for customer experience at AA would feel frustrated, and speaks volumes that they really had no other choice but to leave the company.

2
John Guest

The competition between Isom at AA and Scott Kirby at United continues to fascinate, since they both wanted the same job that went to Isom, So far, Kirby seems to be showing that living well is the best revenge. United is more creative in expanding routes and generally is rehabilitating its performance after the turmoil of the Continental takeover years ago. But, writing from Berlin after a United flight over, I have to say that United is also showing the same uneven thinking about passenger experience you describe with American. After all the hype about Polaris soft-product during the rollout, it is now clear that the food and service are staying at low levels--lower than the pre-Polaris product--even as the pandemic recedes. Yes, Polaris lounges are nice, but I wonder how much they will be cut back in due course, in the same way on-board product has been. It's clear this comes from the top and people like Alison Taylor--or her counterparts at United and Delta--don't make these decisions. Kirby's view is that consumer choice is driven almost exclusively by low fares and travel time, and a CEO's job is mainly to obsess about margin. True enough in economy. But I'm not sure that's true in business class. Especially these days with transatlantic fares routinely at 10K or above, it is really indefensible how mediocre the experience is on US airlines.

2
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