Popular airline publication Air Transport World gives awards to airlines every year, including the sought after “airline of the year” award. Last year this award went to Etihad, while prior to that it went to Southwest, Delta, ANA, Air New Zealand, Emirates, Singapore, etc.
American Airlines won the airline of the year award for 2016, which I’m sure is leaving many of us scratching our heads. Per ATW’s press release, here’s the reasoning:
The ATW Airline Industry Achievement Awards recognize excellence across a broad range of airline operations and are widely considered as the most coveted in the air transport industry. To win ATW‘s Airline of the Year award, an airline must demonstrate exceptional achievements and capabilities across operations, financial performance, customer service, safety and labor relations. Its executive leadership must also clearly show innovation and strategic thinking that sets the company apart.
American Airlines was selected by ATW‘s editorial board in recognition of the phenomenal achievements by American’s leadership and employees this past year. The integration of American and US Airways was practically flawless despite it being the largest, most complex airline merger in history. And throughout the integration process, American has maintained a close eye on delivering profitability and shareholder return while also investing more than $3 billion in new customer products and services that include greater onboard connectivity, new entertainment and dining choices, upgraded lounges and new city pair services. American is also spending billions more to upgrade its fleet with hundreds of new aircraft.
“The creation of the ‘New American’ has been a remarkable journey for employees, customers and investors. American Airlines has never been in better shape to deliver more to all of its stakeholders and that is because of the leadership skills of American’s executive team and the dedication and hard work of its employees around the world. I sincerely congratulate Doug Parker and everyone at American,” ATW Editor-in-Chief Karen Walker said.
To me this is puzzling. Don’t get me wrong, I commend American for the job they did with the integration. I think it went very smoothly, at least in terms of technology, minimal customer interruptions, etc. I was hoping that would be the case, given that they could watch the other big U.S. carriers go through their mergers, and hopefully learn from it.
And sure, American is delivering profitability for their shareholders.
But to suggest that American has never been in a better position to delivery more to all their stakeholders, including customers? Hmmm…
Last year American ranked last among the big three U.S. carriers when it came to their on-time record. American’s fleet is more inconsistent than ever before, and they don’t even have power ports on much of their mainline domestic fleet, and don’t have plans to install them. They’ve devalued their frequent flyer program to no end. They’re about to roll out basic economy. Apparently this award goes to an airline that shows “innovation,” and I’m not sure in what way American has done that?
What part of this reflects an airline that should globally be awarded as the “airline of the year?”
On the plus side, I’m happy to see that American’s CEO is using this award to try and boost morale. Per the Star-Telegram, every American employee is getting two confirmed tickets that can be upgraded to first class on a space available basis (I suspect after all other upgrades have been cleared):
“I hope you enjoy a special trip, and the memories you’ll create with someone close to you, as appreciation for all you’ve done to set American on its path to greatness,” Parker said.
The two tickets will be upgradeable to First Class, depending on available space, and employees can begin using the tickets this summer through December 2018. These tickets are for confirmed seats unlike the ticket benefits that employees currently receive which can be used for stand-by.
That’s a very nice gesture after all that American employees have been through during the merger.
If only he’d make a similar gesture for frequent flyers, for what they’ve been through over the past few years. 😉
I don’t want to discount the hard work of American’s employees, or how well the integration was executed on the back-end. However, the sentiment I’ve heard across the board from American customers doesn’t reflect the feeling that American is the “airline of the year.” I really can’t rationalize this.
On the other hand, I am happy to see that they’re using the opportunity to reward employees.