American Airlines Pilots Frustrated By Company’s Business Model

American Airlines Pilots Frustrated By Company’s Business Model

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American Airlines pilots recently negotiated a new contract, which gives them massive pay raises. That’s not stopping pilots from being frustrated, though, as union leadership is unhappy with American’s business model. I suspect this is a sentiment that many American frequent flyers share, but for different reasons.

American pilots union trashes American’s business model

Ed Sicher, the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), penned an open letter, expressing displeasure with the company (as flagged by View from the Wing). The letter is titled “1995 Just Called – America West Wants its Business Model Back.” Hah.

The letter essentially recaps how American’s management team continues to talk about how the key to profitability is to focus on short haul, leisure flying, while the union wants American to focus on long haul, premium flying. For those not familiar with America West, that was American’s predecessor (America West and US Airways merged, and then US Airways and American merged — the America West management team survived throughout all of this).

I think many will find this letter to be interesting, so let me just share it in its entirety:

American Airlines management has been busy for the past few weeks. For the first time in seven years, management hosted an “Investor Day” on March 4, using it to unveil portions of their updated business plan. The Investor Day and the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference that followed gave us a peek into the company’s strategy and how it may affect our future flying.

Unfortunately, the news isn’t good from our pilots’ perspective. Chief Executive Officer Robert Isom sees future profitability as dependent on growth opportunities in underserved domestic markets, with the crux of his business plan revolving around these marginal locations. In other words, the airline management team responsible for producing profit margins that badly lag those of Delta and United believes that opportunity beckons by taking on Southwest Airlines and the ultra low-cost carriers. Not mentioned once: defending the cornerstone cities that American Airlines’ historical business plan was built on, which produced a revenue premium.

In his Investor Day remarks, Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja emphasized that “short haul is the foundation of value for customers and investors.” The importance of the Sun Belt, upgauging the airline (flying larger airplanes to smaller cities), and improving the domestic network were his primary focus. He mentioned “opportunities in El Paso” more than a dozen times. At least there’s good news if you happen to live in El Paso. But where are the legitimate opportunities for future growth that produce profits?

Vasu remarked that long haul will be used “only when demand peaks,” signaling an intention to revert to the regional operation this America West management team cut its teeth on, albeit on a larger scale.

Chief Operating Officer David Seymour followed up with an emphasis on operational reliability improvements and the airline’s ability to recover from IROPS “better than anyone else,” but he made little mention of how his original schedule construction will change to build robustness into the system from the get-go, thus avoiding the need to put the operation back together in the first place. He also didn’t address our persistently high reserves head count that far exceeds the industry average. American Airlines puts thousands of pilots on reserve who could be holding lines and flying more predictable, profitable, and efficient schedules. Our average reserve pilot flies approximately 55 hours each month, while the average lineholder flies more than 85 hours. Efficiency takes a back seat to reliability as long as David chases on-time metrics and emphasizes reliability while leaving thousands of reserve “firemen” on the schedule to put out the inevitable fires when his computer-generated schedules fall apart.

Boeing recently relearned the hard way that ignoring input from its most valuable resource, its employees, is not in a company’s best interests. Yet American Airlines management seems intent on doing the same things over and over while expecting different results. Our schedules have been broken since before emerging from the pandemic. Narrowbody trips continue getting longer and more onerous. Average line values have not moved down appreciably, our trips haven’t been broken up into more manageable pieces that our pilots can pick up between large chunks of flying, and our trip trade lights have remained stubbornly red since David locked them down in September of 2022. Despite the promises, we’ve witnessed little if any actual improvement.

Management’s “new” business plan doesn’t include a focus on improving operational efficiencies and instead centers on future short-haul revenue opportunities that may or may not produce profits. As we have seen from the recent foray into Austin, these well-intentioned plans are typically money-losers. The profits are almost never in line with our competition at Delta and United, which see the benefit of catering to the premium, business, and international customers that American Airlines appears to be abandoning.

There is another problem with the new business plan. The increased emphasis on short-haul domestic flying also leaves the company on an inevitable collision course with our Scope clause. Section 1 of our contract is the foundation of our flying agreement, capping management’s ability to fly regional jets while also limiting their ability to fly from non-hub cities to other non-hub cities with RJs (spoke-to-spoke). This was the source of the most recent Scope violation that we arbitrated in February, with the arbitrator’s decision pending. The only ways out of this “square corner” the new business plan creates are absorbing one or more of the wholly owned operations, putting RJs on our seniority list, or attempting to renegotiate our Scope clause, and the latter will most certainly be met with virulent opposition.

Investors didn’t like what management had to say, with American’s stock dropping while Delta’s touched a year-to-date high. It’s unclear why management wants to play in the ULCCs’ sandbox and try to compete for their price-conscious customers instead of fortifying and defending the strong hubs we once had in cities like New York that historically produced a revenue premium. If our paltry profit-sharing checks are any indication of the plan’s efficacy, we’re in trouble. The decisions made in the front office don’t bode well for those of us who thought we were being hired by a mainline flag-carrying airline that would provide us with widebody long-haul opportunities and remain solvent in the next inevitable downturn. America West 2.0?

As your advocates, we will continue voicing our concerns to management about their stated plans. While we don’t run the airline, we possess a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge thanks to serving as the airline’s frontline leadership. We see firsthand what works and what doesn’t, and we understand what’s in our best interests as pilots. We are convinced American Airlines needs a significant course correction, and we stand ready to help make that happen by working collaboratively with management, provided management is willing to work with us.

American pilots don’t like the company’s direction

My take on the pilots union’s perspective

I think many American frequent flyers can relate to the core of the union’s complaint. American might technically be the world’s largest airline (at least by some metrics), but really the airline is heavily focused on domestic and short haul international flying.

As an American loyalist, it’s kind of depressing to watch United’s long haul network continue to grow. With United, you can fly to Cape Town, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Singapore, Tahiti, and so many other destinations, while on American you can fly to Tampa and Tulsa.

Now, of course it’s important to understand why American pilots are frustrated by this kind of flying. Pilots are paid per flight hour, and it’s much easier to rack up hours when you’re working 16-hour flights than when you’re working a bunch of 90-minute flights. Never mind that long haul flights have relief pilots, so you potentially have up to four pilots working these flights.

The thing that I’m puzzled by is how the union is acting as if the current business model is something new. For years American has long been a largely domestic airline, trying to compete more with ultra low cost carriers than in the premium market. Sure, American briefly dabbled with the concept of expanding long haul flying across the Pacific, but that didn’t work out. But nothing has actually changed here. Rather, American’s management is just more vocal with trying to “sell” its strategy to investors.

I’d say the one point that the union makes that most of us will disagree with is about the number of reserve pilots. American has massively improved its operational reliability in the past couple of years, and that’s great news, because it’s an area where the airline previously struggled. That’s largely thanks to there being more reserve pilots (meaning they’re on standby for when things go wrong). Of course the union doesn’t like this, since reserve pilots typically get fewer hours, and have less predictable schedules. But from an operational reliability standpoint, more reserve pilots is great. Furthermore, being operationally reliable is a key part of winning premium business.

I appreciate American’s improved operational reliability

Bottom line

American’s pilots union is frustrated by the carrier’s business model, and about how the world’s largest carrier essentially just seems interested in being a primarily domestic airline competing with Southwest and ultra low cost carriers. Not only is the union unhappy with the lack of profits this is delivering (since they have profit sharing), but it’s also frustrated by the impacts that this has on flying opportunities for pilots.

While we have different motives, I think many American frequent flyers share that sentiment. We’d love for American to be more global and more premium, but that just doesn’t seem to be a focus for the airline.

What do you make about this letter from American’s pilots union?

Conversations (93)
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  1. Geoff Williams Guest

    As a 5M mile AA flyer, I am old enough to remember the good old days of 80’s to 90’s where AA was the very best for us biz travelers with high quality service and planes and most importantly, FLEXIBLE staff, far ahead of the go-by-the-handbook Delta. The end was the integration of the lowest common denominator in USAir and recovery nowhere in sight. I will keep being hopeful, but moving into retirement mode, will probably just pay for 1st class and suck it up!!

  2. A. Lincoln Guest

    The APA wanted to merge with US Air prior to merger. They went behind the backs of the old AA management to make that MOU despite being offered a contract that gave them everything they wanted and more (twice). You made the bed. Now sleep in it.

  3. Harry Callahan Guest

    So many inconsistencies with the pilots, as usual. First they cry when there are not enough pilots and they forced to work too much when irregular operations hit (ie weather, TFRs or IT disruptions). Then when they hire more pilots, they complain that the lower seniority pilots have to sit reserve (pay there dues). Now its the route structure, so they can have more attractive, longer routes. They want an overseas overnight verses a night...

    So many inconsistencies with the pilots, as usual. First they cry when there are not enough pilots and they forced to work too much when irregular operations hit (ie weather, TFRs or IT disruptions). Then when they hire more pilots, they complain that the lower seniority pilots have to sit reserve (pay there dues). Now its the route structure, so they can have more attractive, longer routes. They want an overseas overnight verses a night in Kansas City or Tulsa. They want the long haul flights but don't want the regionals to get too much of the smaller markets. The Airlines need the regional carriers, that cost less, for a portion of their flying to to keep their costs down. How else do you expect them to afford the insane salaries and raises the pilots are getting. The only motivation for trying to get what they think are more lucrative routes, is so their profit sharing checks will pay for their new luxury car. Pilots have for ever been so arrogant that they thing the entire industry revolves around them. To hell with all the other support people that keep the airline running. They believe that any time the company makes money, they deserve a raise. You don't see the front line employees getting 20% or more raises. Let's not forget who is already getting paid the most, the pilots. A 20% raise on $400/ph is certainly much more than 1.2%to 2.5% year over year (which is the average) for someone who is making $15 to $25/ph. It takes much more than just pilots to run an airline.

    I have more than 26 years in the industry and have many friends who are pilots. I can say with certainty that not all pilots think like this and will openly admit their pay is MORE than adequate. I have found times when they seem embarrassed to say how much they make. Especially when talking to others in the same company who have gone much longer without receiving significant raise at all.

    Make no mistake. I have worked with many exceptional people/pilots in these 26 years, but their are some that I have encountered, that are the most self serving, arrogant A$@#$$%s in the industry.

  4. Longfelloow Deeds Guest

    APA Americans Union had to sign off on the merger with US Air. If they didnt American would not be around today. The union had to exchange one toxic management team for a slightly less but still toxic team just for survival. Alaska would have been a better merger US Air was circling the drain American saved them.

    1. A. Lincoln Guest

      No. Wrong. They didn't have to do anything. They chose to merge with USAir. Get the facts right.

    2. seatac315 Guest

      Uh, no, AA was in Chapter 11 at the time and had to come up with a restructuring plan, Horton’s preferred stand-alone plan to emerge lost out to the US Airways merger de facto takeover plan when US became a significant AA creditor and flipped legacy AA’s unions to their side.

  5. FlyerDon Guest

    In an unintended way American’s strategy might work out in the short term. With higher labor and fuel costs on the horizon it seems likely that airfares are going to go up. At some point the post covid demand bubble is going to pop and discretionary travel, to far away places, might decline. Actually I think both domestic and international travel will slow down. If a downturn starts, airlines with a lot of international exposure,...

    In an unintended way American’s strategy might work out in the short term. With higher labor and fuel costs on the horizon it seems likely that airfares are going to go up. At some point the post covid demand bubble is going to pop and discretionary travel, to far away places, might decline. Actually I think both domestic and international travel will slow down. If a downturn starts, airlines with a lot of international exposure, especially long haul flights with 3 or 4 crewmembers and tons of fuel on board, are going to have a tough time just covering the cost to operate such flights.

    If demand does fall off, an airline with a strong domestic operation with limited international flights might be the best way to get through a period of rising costs and declining demand.

    American might have backed into a strategy that could work out for them in the next couple of years.

  6. Jim Johnson Guest

    I wouldn't blame this on America West. Scott Kirby was the brains behind the America West/US Airways merger and US Airways/American merger. He was also the one who tried to make US Airways an LLC which failed. But these infinitive were innovative at the time as cutting costs was the only way to survive in a market with too saturated. Now look at him at United!!! It is more about being an innovative leader. To...

    I wouldn't blame this on America West. Scott Kirby was the brains behind the America West/US Airways merger and US Airways/American merger. He was also the one who tried to make US Airways an LLC which failed. But these infinitive were innovative at the time as cutting costs was the only way to survive in a market with too saturated. Now look at him at United!!! It is more about being an innovative leader. To be honest, American had to decide on Kirby or Isom as their next CEO, and frankly, they chose poorly. That's what they have to live with.

  7. ScottE Guest

    I totally agree with the perspective that American Airlines is only focused on domestic, Mexico leisure flying. Ever since the merger, the leadership and guidance has been in the wrong direction. It's time for the Board of directors replace the whole of the upper management. Vote of No Confidence here. With this direction, can anyone say "Bankruptcy Again"?

  8. Timtamtrak Gold

    Thank god Richard Anderson left the great and all-powerful Delta when he did to come to Amtrak to raise employee morale to all-time lows and slash frequencies and routes, and make it nigh-impossible for anyone to tell when trains are available.

    Sounds like Amtrak missed out hiring some of the former America west folks.

  9. niji248 Guest

    On the other hand, I'm wondering if United is too aggressive with its widebody order and long haul expansion. Some of the new United routes to Asia and Europe just sounds so... questionable. I'm sure revenue management has studied the potential market etc., but I'm also skeptical that this post pandemic premium leisure travel boom will continue to grow in the same trend they've been seeing. It's like investors looking at 2020 Peloton results expected...

    On the other hand, I'm wondering if United is too aggressive with its widebody order and long haul expansion. Some of the new United routes to Asia and Europe just sounds so... questionable. I'm sure revenue management has studied the potential market etc., but I'm also skeptical that this post pandemic premium leisure travel boom will continue to grow in the same trend they've been seeing. It's like investors looking at 2020 Peloton results expected the same growth to just continue to infinity. You'd think these are some incredibly smart and savvy people but then sometimes they seem completely out of touch with reality. Back to AA, while of course I think AA could expand some more on its international network to South America and Europe, but I can get their conservative bet on domestic expansion. Does Manilla has that much premium demand to fill a high J 773?

  10. AirSerbia Guest

    Hey, glorified truck drivers (OK, I'll give you 20+ IQ over truck drivers, even though I might be too generous), STFU! You are not living in communism, you are not shareholders either, therefore, you have no right to comment on how management that just caved in couple of moths ago and gave you insanely big pay-rises, makes money to secure funds for your $300,000 salaries. Just drive your aluminum flying trucks, and collect your paycheck...

    Hey, glorified truck drivers (OK, I'll give you 20+ IQ over truck drivers, even though I might be too generous), STFU! You are not living in communism, you are not shareholders either, therefore, you have no right to comment on how management that just caved in couple of moths ago and gave you insanely big pay-rises, makes money to secure funds for your $300,000 salaries. Just drive your aluminum flying trucks, and collect your paycheck you fought for. As the old (idiotic-nonsensical) American proverb says "you can't have your cake and eat it too". Either you partake in decision making and assume the huge chunk of risk (meaning no guaranteed salary), or you take your paycheck, make sure you completed all the items from your checklist and go home without thinking (you are not paid for thinking, just flying from A to B).

    This is not to say that airline management is not notoriously corrupt, out of touch with reality, and frequently borderline criminal, but just calling out GLARING HYPOCRISY on pilots' part. Yes, your job is equally important and bears the same responsibility as the one of a truck driver hauling the cargo from East to West coast, but nothing more than that. That uniform with couple of sausages on the shoulder is the only (decorative) distinction.

    If one of you is brave enough to rationalize here why FedEx truck drivers (or any other big trucking company) should storm the C-suite meeting in Memphis and teach FedEx executives how to lead this multi-billion dollar company, I am ready to change my views.

    1. PHLPhlyer Guest

      Did you get laid off from FedEx? Or maybe you got replaced by a 3rd rate contractor? Sounds like someone definitely needs to help Rajipoo and his cronies over there…

  11. Crosscourt Guest

    So too are premium passengers. incompetent lot along with checkin staff .

  12. Blind Guest

    Not sure what y'all mean. I haven't seen an ad on the internet in ages. Ublock Origin. Or Firefox focus on mobile.

    1. Biglaw V10 Partner Guest

      You are aware revenue from banner display ads on this website is income for the author, whose published work you are reading at no out-of-pocket cost?

  13. George Romey Guest

    I would wonder about the strategy of pursuing smaller but potentially profitable routes to hubs. Business travel will never be what it is Pre COVID so airlines will be more dependent with filling seats from more price sensitive (non OPM) flyers. So if a smaller market is successful how long before one of the desperate ULCCs come in with much cheaper fares?

  14. IrishAlan Diamond

    I think part of the issue here is also the OneWorld alliance. Since BA and JAL are such large carriers that now dominate the alliance, AA does a lot of flying to LHR and the Tokyo airports and lets BA and JAL take passengers onwards from there.

    UA and DL don’t just fly to more international destinations, they also have a much larger range of international partner hubs that they fly passengers to in order...

    I think part of the issue here is also the OneWorld alliance. Since BA and JAL are such large carriers that now dominate the alliance, AA does a lot of flying to LHR and the Tokyo airports and lets BA and JAL take passengers onwards from there.

    UA and DL don’t just fly to more international destinations, they also have a much larger range of international partner hubs that they fly passengers to in order to connect to Star Alliance and SkyTeam carriers. This is particularly true of UA in Asia and DL in Europe.

    1. Geoff Williams Guest

      ….and Code Share with these partners have NEVER worked well after 30 years!!

    2. Sedward Guest

      @IrishAlan, good points overall, but AA is larger than both BA and JAL. While BA has a strong international (they had no choice but go global to grow because their domestic market is so small), JAL is not exactly a global powerhouse. Nothing against BA or JAL, just sharing facts. This all being said, AA is being foolish by building up an unbeatable domestic market (great job!) but then throwing that advantage in the toilet...

      @IrishAlan, good points overall, but AA is larger than both BA and JAL. While BA has a strong international (they had no choice but go global to grow because their domestic market is so small), JAL is not exactly a global powerhouse. Nothing against BA or JAL, just sharing facts. This all being said, AA is being foolish by building up an unbeatable domestic market (great job!) but then throwing that advantage in the toilet by not leveraging that domestic market to feed an unbeatable global network. Like they did with their fleet: spending tens of billions on it but then tossing it all in the toilet by nickel-diming via no seatback entertainment, cramming too many uncomfortable seats, skimping on in-flight amenities.

  15. Mark Guest

    These comments by the president of American's pilot union are grossly unprofessional. He basically has become a Facebook meme of a know it all pilot.

  16. James Guest

    Well, the old model of flying from JFK and LAX chasing premium cabin customers with profits are no indication that it can work again. Competition at JFK is so feirce that its often cheaper to fly to LGA domestically, spend the night, and then fly in a half empty bargain price international fare the next day. Business class fares from JFK are often half the price!

    I think AAs strategy is great. But, I live...

    Well, the old model of flying from JFK and LAX chasing premium cabin customers with profits are no indication that it can work again. Competition at JFK is so feirce that its often cheaper to fly to LGA domestically, spend the night, and then fly in a half empty bargain price international fare the next day. Business class fares from JFK are often half the price!

    I think AAs strategy is great. But, I live in a small market and its nice to have an airline other than Allegiant that cares to fly here with frequency and larger planes. I am sure if I lived in NYC, I'd want the extra privilage of even more options, and flights too, but my effing god, appreciate what you have for a change.

    1. UncleRonnie Guest

      Have you met the modern human, James?

  17. Josh Guest

    Last time I checked, pilots are paid to fly the planes, not run the company! Let management run the company, you fly the planes!

    1. Cindy L. Guest

      The new AA management (Usair/america west) is running the airline to the ground, so of course the pilots are upset.

  18. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    I started flying alot later in life, and probably alot more recently than most readers on this blog. I remember when every quarter a new spot on the map would be filled in. I actually relished earning status and filling up those spots on the map. AA would send me an annual email with the "farthest place you flew" and how my flying was "2.3 times to the moon" or whatever. I don't remember getting...

    I started flying alot later in life, and probably alot more recently than most readers on this blog. I remember when every quarter a new spot on the map would be filled in. I actually relished earning status and filling up those spots on the map. AA would send me an annual email with the "farthest place you flew" and how my flying was "2.3 times to the moon" or whatever. I don't remember getting that email since 2019. They've taken away Welcome Kits to members. They've reduced "amenity kits" to a sad lunch box. They've even ceded ground in South America and other parts of the world where they used to be strong. They've pushed off receiving Premium planes that we as AA loyalists have been waiting for YEARS for with zero explanation. It's really, really, sad and depressing. Just as a note, I have to go to Frankfurt from DFW in a few weeks. In Premium Economy the rate was $3300 USD for me RT. For my colleague coming from Portland thru SF to Frankfurt, it's $1800 USD in POLARIS Business Class the whole way. What on earth is happening here? That is not competitive in any sense of the word. My clients have repeatedly urged me to switch Airlines, it no longer makes sense to be loyal to AA, even living in DFW. I could just hop to Houston and fly United. Crazy world. Lastly, the Unions get what they bargained for.

    1. James Guest

      But that is the point. AA charges a high price on DFW based international flights because they can. 400 something inbound flights a day, many to small markets that United and Delta barely serve (if at all), feeding into there. Swing em to LHR and a few choice locations that will fill the planes and you have a profitable international operation and superior domestic nerwork.
      I fly dfw to europe a lot and PE...

      But that is the point. AA charges a high price on DFW based international flights because they can. 400 something inbound flights a day, many to small markets that United and Delta barely serve (if at all), feeding into there. Swing em to LHR and a few choice locations that will fill the planes and you have a profitable international operation and superior domestic nerwork.
      I fly dfw to europe a lot and PE and J are nearly always full on AA, despite double to pricing.

    2. Biglaw V10 Partner Guest

      Premium Economy rarely looks good in any fare comparison.

  19. DesertGhost Guest

    Of course, the union only has its own narrow, selfish interests in mind. That's its function.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      if this is the right model, it should turn into more profits and more revenues.
      It simply does not.

    2. Timtamtrak Gold

      It never has and never will.

  20. D3kingg Guest

    Not surprised. At the rate American takes delivery of new 787s it would have to be deliberate but you can always do the mayor Pete finger point and blame it on someone else like Boeing.

    The revenue management deliberately sabatoges long haul routes with ridiculous fare buckets. How many people are paying $2,700 roundtrip in economy ?

  21. Ken Guest

    It was the unions who supported the merger of legacy AA with the US Air/America West. So you reap what you sow. The legacy AA business model is what the pilots now crave but lost when the clowns took over the circus.

    1. María Aquino Guest

      American was already shrinking and having a lot of issues pre merger. For over 20 yrs old nasty, smelly and cloth dirty seats. However it’ll be nice to see the airline to expand their international presence.

  22. steve64 Guest

    So if I'm reading this right, the AA Pilots would prefer AA operate more like the model that Horton was trying to continue and build on.

    Yet weren't the AA unions pivotal in getting the bankruptcy court to set aside Horton's goal of AA emerging from bankruptcy as a stand alone carrier so that other options could be explored ? And wasn't the option the unions preferred the most the takeover by Parker's America West...

    So if I'm reading this right, the AA Pilots would prefer AA operate more like the model that Horton was trying to continue and build on.

    Yet weren't the AA unions pivotal in getting the bankruptcy court to set aside Horton's goal of AA emerging from bankruptcy as a stand alone carrier so that other options could be explored ? And wasn't the option the unions preferred the most the takeover by Parker's America West (dba USAirways) ??
    I say "unions" because I think several of AA's were on the same page. However, I'd bet the Pilots were the most vocal and instrumental into getting the court to decide to take the America West option.

  23. scio nescio Guest

    Well, doesn't the name "American Airlines" give a clue to this? It is an American airline serving (mainly) the USA and Americas.

    They are not called American World Airways or the like. Not that I like it, but they do what they are called.

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      That's ignorant. So other Airlines can only fly to their namesake or former territories? Ridiculous.

    2. Don Guest

      Your calling this individual's observation and comment "ignorant" is ridiculous.

      Please read the link below :
      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ignorant

      An example of ignorant would be someone who has the knowledge and experience of something ............. let's say for example ....... searching for flights on the internet .... and ended up paying almost twice the price to fly in premium economy instead of POLARIS Business Class to the same destination .....

      Your calling this individual's observation and comment "ignorant" is ridiculous.

      Please read the link below :
      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ignorant

      An example of ignorant would be someone who has the knowledge and experience of something ............. let's say for example ....... searching for flights on the internet .... and ended up paying almost twice the price to fly in premium economy instead of POLARIS Business Class to the same destination .....

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Yeah, it's pretty ignorant and ridiculous.

      I guess "Southwest" will have to change their name, because their largest operations are in Florida, Colorado, and Illinois.

      Why is Alaska airline so named with the heart of their operation is in Washington?

      Delta is a Louisianian airline named for the Mississippi river delta region, but is based in Georgia with an international focus on New York. Guess that name's gotta go.

  24. Lee Guest

    Ben, thanks for this article. It explains a lot. It answers certain questions I had regarding whether certain AA routes might return. It appears not. Thanks again.

  25. MarkG Guest

    I bet most people here are points enthuciast. So why people care about long houl with US airlines? Does someone prefer to fly internationally with AA, UA or DL vs Qatar, Air France, Iberia, Eva, Singapore or Ethihad just to name a few? I had top tier status for many years with DL and AA. At the end I realized that it is not worth it. So for the 2-3hs domestic flights I select whatever is more convenient and use my miles to book international Biz/First class.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      Ofcourse elite members want to fly AA metal international ; more opportunities to upgrade.

    2. MarkG Guest

      Been there...had a difficult time using SWU. I rather have a confirmed biz seat for a long flight than playing the upgrade game.

  26. AdamH Guest

    Surprised the pilot union doesn't call out the lack of FA union contract which is clearly impacting the pax facing service levels and doing more to hurt the revenue premium the pilot letter keeps discussing.

    1. Sean Smith Guest

      The APA doesn’t care about the APFA or anyone or anything else except themselves. Never have, never will.

  27. Howdydo Guest

    Lipstick on a pig. Plain and simple. American should return to it's Legacy model. Not the first cousin inbred model.

  28. NedsKid Diamond

    This business model is bad for the union. APA gets paid as a percentage of pilot income.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      pilots get paid profit sharing. They want what maximizes their benefits -not just for the union but for themselves.
      AA's low profitability hurts AA pilots far more than how the union benefits.

  29. DCAWABN Guest

    So, the pilots are realizing that AA has been trying to a long-haul version of Spirit with the facade (and the lip service) of a full service airline? Passengers have known that for years. Basically when the merger with America West happened. Then Covid hit at AA used that as an excuse to degrade their overall quality even further. It's a subpar airline - even among North American standards - that's trying to be two...

    So, the pilots are realizing that AA has been trying to a long-haul version of Spirit with the facade (and the lip service) of a full service airline? Passengers have known that for years. Basically when the merger with America West happened. Then Covid hit at AA used that as an excuse to degrade their overall quality even further. It's a subpar airline - even among North American standards - that's trying to be two things at once, which are diametrically opposed, and yet it's failing at both. This isn't news to most people/passengers...just to the pilots.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      Absolutely clueless comment.

  30. Enrico Guest

    AA, before the pandemic, used to fly a direct route MXP/MIA with a 777: It was widely popular witj planes alwas full.
    Such route was cancelled and It never resumed.
    No one here in Northern Italy can understand why, considering that there isn't any other direct service from MXP to MIA.

    1. Jason Guest

      Sometimes full flights arent profitable.

  31. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The AA pilots are correct but not for all of the reasons that they raise.
    Based on domestic revenue as reported on each carrier’s financial statements, AA slightly edged out DL as the largest carrier of domestic revenue.
    Since airlines don’t break out mainline vs. regional stats (for the most part), the DOT helps see that DL operates more mainline flights than AA or UA and flies the most domestic mainline RPMs.
    ...

    The AA pilots are correct but not for all of the reasons that they raise.
    Based on domestic revenue as reported on each carrier’s financial statements, AA slightly edged out DL as the largest carrier of domestic revenue.
    Since airlines don’t break out mainline vs. regional stats (for the most part), the DOT helps see that DL operates more mainline flights than AA or UA and flies the most domestic mainline RPMs.
    If you look at the percentage of flights by carrier at airports, DL’s ATL hub is the megahub and 85% of DL’s flights there are mainline. CLT and DFW are AA’s megahubs but they operate at best 65% mainline at the latter and 55% at the former. Even DL’s DTW and SLC hubs – which were previously at least half regional pre-covid – are now 65% mainline. Because of UA’s relatively small domestic system compared to AA and DL, UA’s hub percentages by mainline vs. regional are on the order of what AA operates even though UA has fewer regional jets to work with. UA and AA both still say they will have 50 seaters in their contracted operations for the remainder of the decade.

    Each of the big 3 are within a dozen or so domestic cities served with regional and mainline combined. There are a handful of cities that each carrier serves uniquely.

    In contrast, AA also outsources mainline flying – to AS on the west coast – and tried to do it as part of the NEA with B6 on the east coast. DL and UA do not outsource flying to other large jet (non-RJ) carriers in the US.

    AA has shrunk its share in large markets and is chasing serving small markets but they really don't serve that many more cities than DL or UA. And AA pilots carry a smaller percentage of AA's domestic revenue and flights than DL - whose pilots carry the highest percentage of DL's domestic revenue - or UA - whose domestic mainline operation is relatively small but its international network which is almost entirely mainline - is larger than AA or DL's.

    1. Timtamtrak Gold

      Tim, where exactly do you get this percentage data? I’m not refuting you but can you cite sources for us?

  32. Andrew Guest

    You mean, you don't think AA's model of connecting Charlotte with regional cities is a good model?

  33. Jacob Guest

    Who the heck still flies AA in 2024 anyways?

    1. axck Guest

      This blog's owner, apparently. It's kind of surprising but not too surprising considering he's a MIA captive. That said, he has FLL nearby.

    2. UncleRonnie Gold

      Lucky: "I booked this seat to AUH on AA in J for 34000 miles....."

    3. Jason Guest

      I live in DC. They are super useful. My friends live in Miami. I have others in Dallas. These are big cities where AA offers in general the most nonstops to the most destinations. Lots of people do. My parents live in Louisville. AA is the only airline that flies nonstop to DC. And has the most flights in general. Plenty of people still fly AA. What an ignorant thing to say

    4. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      How rude and pretentious Jacob. LOTS of people do. All types of people. Not sure where you live, obviously somewhere shrinking, as AA flys the most in GROWING SunBelt cities.

  34. Joe Guest

    Actually think the pilots are onto something here. American doesn't have the cost basis/efficiency to compete with low cost domestic (and it's so hard to retrofit this). And at the same time it is abandoning the route network to do premium long-haul, where maybe it can compete.

    I moved to the US a year ago. I'm a BA points collector pretty close to lifetime status so would really prefer to fly One World where I...

    Actually think the pilots are onto something here. American doesn't have the cost basis/efficiency to compete with low cost domestic (and it's so hard to retrofit this). And at the same time it is abandoning the route network to do premium long-haul, where maybe it can compete.

    I moved to the US a year ago. I'm a BA points collector pretty close to lifetime status so would really prefer to fly One World where I can. I've found that it's just way easier to shift to competitors than try and fly with American at this point. United is winning my business. I don't love the product. But I love the international route network.

  35. Anthony Diamond

    I get the complaints, but airlines can't be all things to all people. If you like United's international expansion, then switch to United. United flies to all of its major hubs from MIA, basically giving you one-stop access to all of their international destinations.

    On the other hand, I suspect that American's presence in Miami, its domestic schedule, and its partnerships actually do work well for you. So what is the issue?

    1. DCAWABN Guest

      I'd say that your first line is EXACTLY the problem. They ARE trying to be all things to all people. 1. A slightly less LCC version of an LCC with stripped down planes and lack of amenities that support that, and 2. A long-haul "premium" (laughable) carrier while also cutting routes but ALSO cutting amenities that would actually justify the word "premium".

      They're speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Are they a "premium"...

      I'd say that your first line is EXACTLY the problem. They ARE trying to be all things to all people. 1. A slightly less LCC version of an LCC with stripped down planes and lack of amenities that support that, and 2. A long-haul "premium" (laughable) carrier while also cutting routes but ALSO cutting amenities that would actually justify the word "premium".

      They're speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Are they a "premium" long haul carrier? If so, then why is the hard/soft product abysmal and the route network "meh", at best? Are they an LCC? If so, then just SAY that and stopped painting a picture that they're in any way competitive either in North America or among other carriers in the world.

      At this point, AA is good for a tiny handful of award redemption sweet spots. Or if you're hub captive. Ben has a sketchy past with United and lives in Miami. He basically has Stockholm syndrome for AA. I don't hold that against him because he chooses to live there, but I also don't read any of his AA reviews without taking a grain (or 10,000) of salt because I don't think they're impartial.

  36. Alonzo Diamond

    This just shows that even with massive pay raises, you can't make airline employees happy. Folks will always find something to complain or be ungrateful about.

    You think the pilots at United don't have complaints about the amount of long haul flights they're doing? The pilots at Delta? Come on.

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      I generally agree with you. The Pilots "priced themselves out" of Ultra Long Haul flying. Sure, when everyone is flush with pandemic checks they will spend a ridiculous amount on Business Class seats. But once those couple flights are done, Businesses start doing ZOOM instead on in person meetings, a little recession rears it's ugly head, and inflation Jack's up everything 30% PLUS, who on Earth can "afford" to pay for these seats? I mean...

      I generally agree with you. The Pilots "priced themselves out" of Ultra Long Haul flying. Sure, when everyone is flush with pandemic checks they will spend a ridiculous amount on Business Class seats. But once those couple flights are done, Businesses start doing ZOOM instead on in person meetings, a little recession rears it's ugly head, and inflation Jack's up everything 30% PLUS, who on Earth can "afford" to pay for these seats? I mean I have looked into DFW to central Europe flights the last 2 years and they are INSANE. $14,000 RT to Zurich from DFW through PHL, $11,000 to Munich RT from DFW through CLT, $12,000 to Frankfurt RT direct from DFW, or my favorite: $18,000 to Geneva RT from DFW through Madrid on AA and Iberia. I don't even know of big businesses who would authorize these prices. It's completely unsustainable. How can AA pay it's Pilots crazy hourly prices on 14+ hour flights if they are charging THOSE prices for seats on flights all under 10 hours??? The Math isn't MATHING.

  37. AA FA Guest

    With all of this emphasis on ensuring every single small/mid size market is meaningfully connected to our hubs, you’d think that Vasu would be able to build a massive, profitable international network based on those connections. If Dubuque is so profitable, why don’t they feed into the rest of the intl network?

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      I agree. I think that (for now at least) AA is ceding all of that traffic to it's OneWorld partners. We've seen them all add flights to AA hubs. FinnAir and Iberia fairly recently added DFW flights, and Qatar, JAL, and Qantas are happy to eat up those AA customers and just pay AA a finders fee. Plus, many of those OW partners can (and do) pay their crew ALOT less than AA has to.

  38. Antwerp Guest

    Not sure why you remain an AA loyalist. I am a perfect example of what this letter was trying to convey. I saw the writing on the wall three years ago. When AA shifted focus from being a premium airline and basically handing status to anyone and everyone who simply spend on credit cards I jumped ship and left for United. This after 20 years of Exec Platinum. I am now 1K for two years...

    Not sure why you remain an AA loyalist. I am a perfect example of what this letter was trying to convey. I saw the writing on the wall three years ago. When AA shifted focus from being a premium airline and basically handing status to anyone and everyone who simply spend on credit cards I jumped ship and left for United. This after 20 years of Exec Platinum. I am now 1K for two years with UA and very happy with the change (other than Polaris catering). Further, being Washington based and primarily flying Intl, UA offers me so many more options with their flights and partners. With AA I was basically stuck with BA out of IAD.

    As to the pilots, they are largely correct. Though I think some of their points are less about the business model and more about them wanting more wide-body premium intl routes where they make more money.

    1. axck Guest

      I agree with this as well - was a one time EP who left after 2019 when it became clear that AA was spearheading the race to the bottom.

      I'm guessing Ben feels captive out of MIA.

    2. George Romey Guest

      If you live in Miami (like me) the only realistic US (if most of your travel is domestic) airline to go to is DL. Seven plus months out of the year you have to deal with thunderstorms and therefore connections (and for DL ATL being the primary connecting point also subject to thunderstorms) make that more problematic. Particularly if you have been upgraded or purchased an upgrade. Giving up 2A for 27B is something I'd like to avoid.

    3. Timtamtrak Gold

      It is indeed fortunate that DL’s huge profits now allow them to prevent thunderstorms at ATL.

    4. DWT Guest

      Same. Was AA Plat (and then Plat Pro) since 2010, but being based out of NY and LA, it's been hard taking them anywhere but transcon because they've retrenched so much in both markets. Finally gave in and status matched to DL last fall.

  39. Bill Guest

    Pretty clear more pay doesn’t get a happier workforce. Just wait until the next downturn when those unhappy employees face bankruptcy before UA and DL because they took out their highly paid dissatisfaction on customers who have choices.

  40. Franklin Guest

    I'm also beginning to not like this blog's business model. I had to close four popup ads to view this article. I never minded when it was two popups (after all, I want you to make money), but four is getting to be excessive and onerous.

    1. Ben Holz Guest

      This is part of the reason why nowadays I read the blog rarely while on the go (i.e. on my phone)... it got to a point where the pop up ads/banners made the read no longer worth it. That's why I only check in on my laptop with an ad blocker that's always kept on (nothing personal, do it on all sites).

    2. DaBluBoi Guest

      How come I always get zero popups? Is this a US-only issue?

    3. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      Probably. Many advertisers want premium customers. Or in the case of my particular pop ups today "Tobacco Pouches"(....weird) they (this brand) can only market to US citizens.

    4. Mark Guest

      Put it in an app like Feedly. You won't have the issue

  41. George Romey Guest

    I think the business model isn't all that new except an even bigger focus on domestic flying. State of the art business class on wide bodies and an enhanced Spirit like experience on the narrow body domestic flying. Little to non BOB, and what BOB AA has is crap. No IFE/AVOD. Reduction in first class meal offerings. No blankets in F. No consistently on PDBs. ACs that are crowded and dirty (although AA is very,...

    I think the business model isn't all that new except an even bigger focus on domestic flying. State of the art business class on wide bodies and an enhanced Spirit like experience on the narrow body domestic flying. Little to non BOB, and what BOB AA has is crap. No IFE/AVOD. Reduction in first class meal offerings. No blankets in F. No consistently on PDBs. ACs that are crowded and dirty (although AA is very, very slowly working on that one).

    Time well if moving towards more supposedly under served domestic flying will result in higher profits but management clearly sees domestic coach a little more than the Spirit experience.

  42. Jack Guest

    Pilots are right - AA has abandoned the legacy premium market and experience. They cannot compete with SWA

  43. AA FA Guest

    The reserve pilot commentary is actually more about profitability and efficiency than you may understand from the outside looking in. Paying a pilot 75-80 hours to sit at home is unprofitable and inefficient in its own right. If management built better, more palatable trips, the need for so many reserves would drop. Ed isn’t advocating for fewer reserves to recover in IROPS, which we can all agree is a necessary piece of the puzzle. Ed...

    The reserve pilot commentary is actually more about profitability and efficiency than you may understand from the outside looking in. Paying a pilot 75-80 hours to sit at home is unprofitable and inefficient in its own right. If management built better, more palatable trips, the need for so many reserves would drop. Ed isn’t advocating for fewer reserves to recover in IROPS, which we can all agree is a necessary piece of the puzzle. Ed is advocating for fewer reserves covering the day to day, blue sky operation. Build better trips, have fewer sick calls, reduce the reserves, save money. It’s a basic concept that every pilot and flight attendant understands, but the folks in a cubicle can’t seem to work out.

    1. DXR Guest

      An airline may not need many reserves today because the weather is nice and ATC isn’t wreaking havoc, but what about 2 weeks from now? Or a month when bud lines are built? You can’t predict that far out what will happen. AA operational reliability was crap for so long because it kept staffing and planning around blue sky weather days and hoped they could convince employees to come in on their days off to...

      An airline may not need many reserves today because the weather is nice and ATC isn’t wreaking havoc, but what about 2 weeks from now? Or a month when bud lines are built? You can’t predict that far out what will happen. AA operational reliability was crap for so long because it kept staffing and planning around blue sky weather days and hoped they could convince employees to come in on their days off to help out. It didn’t work. It is operationally better to staff as if one or even two hubs are going to have some kind of IROP and nothing happens than to staff for sick calls and then storms roll thru DFW.

    2. AA FA Guest

      Nobody is advocating for 0% reserves, or even 10% reserves. Staff for IROPS. Duh. But keeping 20-25% of your workforce on call is an untenable situation. AA has the highest reserve count in the industry, and it’s because they refuse to listen to their workforce and the unions that represent us. If they built better trips and allowed more flexibility in trading trips, they wouldn’t need 25% of us sitting around waiting for scraps.

    3. LP Guest

      Wouldn't pilots like reserve duty (being paid to sit at home)? Why is this bad for pilots? Is there a pay difference between reserve duty and flying (line? as the letter references? it'd be great if someone could interpret the jargon for us)? If so, what is the pay difference?

    4. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      LP, if you were a Chef, would you just want to sit at home and maybe be called in once a week for senior matinee lunch specials shift? Or for the Friday and Saturday night wine pairings where you get to create new menus and see the people enjoy your work? I mean sure, every once in while getting a paid day off is nice. But they are saying this is happening repeatedly for long...

      LP, if you were a Chef, would you just want to sit at home and maybe be called in once a week for senior matinee lunch specials shift? Or for the Friday and Saturday night wine pairings where you get to create new menus and see the people enjoy your work? I mean sure, every once in while getting a paid day off is nice. But they are saying this is happening repeatedly for long stretches and then when they get to fly it's Tuscaloosa to Charlotte and DFW to Tucson and they are getting challenging flights or long flights or the rewards and experience that comes with that. There is also ZERO career growth to look forward too. You fly the regional short "hops" for 5 years. Then get upgraded to the Caribbean or Ski flights (Aspen/Jackson Hole) for a few years. Then up to the Transcons for 5 years. THEN you get to fly the long haul flights to Tokyo and Sydney and Munich and have life experiences. If there is nothing to WORK towards, then what's the point? I mean as an AA loyalist, I see it too. I can't redeem points anymore for flights to Eastern Europe or SE Asia, or even Argentina anymore. Why would I want to save up miles for YEARS to the trade in said Miles only to fly on a crowded 737 in a domestic "first class seat" to Cancun???? I don't.

    5. LP Guest

      If I were a chef, I would count my lucky stars to get paid full-time for very part-time work.

      "Or for the Friday and Saturday night wine pairings where you get to create new menus and see the people enjoy your work?" - How much creative control and customer feedback do you think pilots receive? This comparison would only be valid if pilots showed up to work, and creatively chose the plane and route...

      If I were a chef, I would count my lucky stars to get paid full-time for very part-time work.

      "Or for the Friday and Saturday night wine pairings where you get to create new menus and see the people enjoy your work?" - How much creative control and customer feedback do you think pilots receive? This comparison would only be valid if pilots showed up to work, and creatively chose the plane and route they would fly, and maybe decorated the interior of the cabin before takeoff. I appreciate pilot's work, but there is no "wine pairing menu" equivalent of flying a plane full of people. Do you think passengers regularly compliment pilots on their altitude choice or takeoff speed like chefs might be complimented on the flavors in their food?
      "There is also ZERO career growth to look forward too." - Unlike almost every other job in America, they are promised a guaranteed raise for each year of service. Most workers would be happy for that kind of career growth.
      "If there is nothing to WORK towards, then what's the point?" - Maybe being paid an extremely lucrative salary with additional perks/benefits beyond their salary? Maybe getting a cockpit as an office, where you get to fly multi-million dollar machines across the country (or at least across state lines)?

      There are ~110k commercial pilots in the US and ~15k at American. Do the math - if all 15k American pilots could only be happy at their jobs if they were flying long-haul, they never should have gotten into the career.

    1. axck Guest

      Wish there was a way to mute specific commenters. Who has that much time to spend living on this blog?

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

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Franklin Guest

I'm also beginning to not like this blog's business model. I had to close four popup ads to view this article. I never minded when it was two popups (after all, I want you to make money), but four is getting to be excessive and onerous.

10
kk Guest

DL comparison incoming, any minute now.

6
Ken Guest

It was the unions who supported the merger of legacy AA with the US Air/America West. So you reap what you sow. The legacy AA business model is what the pilots now crave but lost when the clowns took over the circus.

5
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