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Was AA Really "premier U.S. Airline"?  
User currently offlineLHCVG From United States of America, joined May 2009, 1542 posts, RR: 1
Posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 12094 times:

I was reading an article on major U.S. brands this morning on NBCNews.com, and it had an interesting line: "American Airlines was the premier U.S. airline for over thirty years". It then goes on to cite the successive DL/NW and UA/CO mergers and how that quickly dropped AA from world's largest status to third in the U.S. They didn't provide any more detail on dates, but it sounds to me like they are basically arguing that AA was the "premier U.S. airline" since deregulation until the DL and UA megacarriers came about.

At the risk of starting a flamefest, I thought this was an interesting assertion. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

61 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinejfk777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 8284 posts, RR: 7
Reply 1, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 12081 times:
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From 1990 to 2005 AA was the premier US airline, I base this on its expansion to Latin America and LHR at time. After 9/11 AA went into a pause that caused it to declare Bankruptcy. AA stopped buying 737-800 and got stuck with all the MD-80's.

User currently offlineFlighty From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 8406 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 11994 times:

Some of us have said UA/AA were joint USA flag carriers for many years. They also offered 3-class service internationally. Their true widebody (777+) fleets were by far the largest.

But to single AA out as THE premier one, no, that is not a fair statement. It is a great global airline, but the USA had about five of those.


User currently offlineN62NA From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 4424 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 11981 times:

Well, here in the USA, the media is notoriously inaccurate about most things they write about aviation (and just in general too!).

So, by "premiere" maybe the author(s) meant largest airline. That seems most likely.


User currently offlinejcwr56 From United States of America, joined Jul 2012, 476 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 11967 times:

How did they define "Premier"....based on what? Employee Pay, Management, Profitability, Revenue Passengers Flown, Equipment, Routes, FF Programs?

Set the standards then make the claim in a objective manner. Not what one person "believes" when writing an article.


User currently offlineIrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 2163 posts, RR: 15
Reply 5, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 11926 times:

Quoting LHCVG (Thread starter):
They didn't provide any more detail on dates, but it sounds to me like they are basically arguing that AA was the "premier U.S. airline" since deregulation until the DL and UA megacarriers came about.

AA is not the only example of a once-former shining star of the industry that has fallen off the bandwagon. Plenty of global legacy carriers have gone down the same tube as industry forces have completely re-shaped the competitive landscape.

I also agree with some of the other opinions here in that "premier" is too loosely defined/subjective to draw any sort of conclusive statements.



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User currently offlineLHCVG From United States of America, joined May 2009, 1542 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 11867 times:

Quoting jcwr56 (Reply 4):
How did they define "Premier"....based on what? Employee Pay, Management, Profitability, Revenue Passengers Flown, Equipment, Routes, FF Programs?

Set the standards then make the claim in a objective manner. Not what one person "believes" when writing an article.

That was exactly my response - especially in the general media and not an aviation expert site.


User currently onlineMEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4304 posts, RR: 36
Reply 7, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 11846 times:

In the 1990s United, Delta and American were about as big... Delta had slightly more passengers but on shorter sectors then the others but United and American were very close in RPMs and fleetsize, one year one was bigger, the next the other. Perhaps because American has the most patriotic name and scheme it was being seen as the premier USA airline, with United close behind and Delta having a much lower profile. I know I open up a can of worms here but the 911 hyjackers chose American and United not for nothing as they had a more US proud appeal then any other airline, just like Pan Am unfortunately was relatively much a victim of terrorism in its days.


nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
User currently offlinetommy767 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 6584 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 11720 times:

Quoting MEA-707 (Reply 7):

Also not to open a can of worms but IIRC, some DL planes were also to be hijacked on 9/11 as well but got grounded before anything happened.

AA was very premium up until around 2000. Fares were pretty high but the service in Y was very good. The meals on short to medium sectors were always very good.

UA was premium in a different way. They invested more $ into their fleet and in the 1990s they were taking deliveries of 777, 767, 757, and A32S. AA had an older fleet than UA in the 90s, but the service was always remarked to be better.

DL I don't think was every regarded as very premium. They did have some staple route out of JFK in the late 1990s, but they also had their fair share of low fare pax (Delta Express.)

CO wasn't even on the radar compared to AA and UA back in the 1990s. Many still had a bad taste in their mouths because of Lorenzo.

For the record, I always though US was more classy in the 1990s but never on the same scale as DL, AA, UA etc.

Now the roles are all different. DL and UA are now the leading global carriers in America. AA has taken a back seat due to BK.



"Folks that's the news and I'm outta here!" -- Dennis Miller
User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16820 posts, RR: 51
Reply 9, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 11682 times:

The author probably was refering to AA's size and dominance, both of which have waned dramatically in the past 12 years.

[Edited 2012-08-20 08:12:00]


Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineLHCVG From United States of America, joined May 2009, 1542 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 11478 times:

Quoting tommy767 (Reply 8):
Now the roles are all different. DL and UA are now the leading global carriers in America. AA has taken a back seat due to BK.

To be fair, I don't think bk ALONE relegates a carrier to "the back seat". Don't get me wrong - I've been known to bash AA for various sins, particularly their poor relations with pilots and unwillingness to enter bk out of pride instead of pragmatism, but on this one I don't ding them. In other words, I take issue with what I perceive to be certain failings of their product and strategy, but for me at least, bk is an economic situation at the corporate level rather than a product issue involving line personnel and the customer-facing experience per se, provided that poor employee morale during bk proceedings doesn't sink any perceived "premier" service they offer.


User currently offlineckfred From United States of America, joined Apr 2001, 5180 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 11421 times:

AA was among the innovative airlines. It created the frequent flyer program. UA used to hand out plaques and baggage ID tags, when a passegner accumulated 100,000 miles (My father was a member of the 100,000 Miler Club). Bob Crandall thought a plaque and tags was a poor way to reward loyalty and thought free trips was a better reward.

Hence, the AAdvantage program.

While UA was trying Economy Plus (reserving seats with more legroom in the front of the cabin for elites and full-fare passengers) AA introduced More Room Throughout Coach, giving everyone in coach more legroom. The program didn't work (AA wasn't able to charge more for the reduced number of seats), but it was innovative.

Generally, AA has had the best choice of wines of any of the domestic carriers. For years, AA's wines were selected by a professor of agriculture at Purdue University who had a background in the growing of grapes.

And besides Latin America, AA used to be the dominant carrier in the Caribbean, pretty much serving any island through SJU, MIA, JFK, or BOS.


User currently offlinetommy767 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 6584 posts, RR: 11
Reply 12, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 11330 times:

Quoting ckfred (Reply 11):
And besides Latin America, AA used to be the dominant carrier in the Caribbean, pretty much serving any island through SJU, MIA, JFK, or BOS.

Those days have sailed away. AA is no longer the dominant carrier to the caribbean out of BOS, JFK, or SJU. Only MIA.



"Folks that's the news and I'm outta here!" -- Dennis Miller
User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16820 posts, RR: 51
Reply 13, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 11290 times:

Quoting ckfred (Reply 11):
The program didn't work (AA wasn't able to charge more for the reduced number of seats), but it was innovative.

TWA was the first carrier to do that in 1993, they recinded it but then it was implemented again when they were taken over by AA. AA was just copying what TWA did expecting a different outcome.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/denon/3625317788/

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/TWA+AN...SUBSTANTIAL+INCREASE...-a013101409

[Edited 2012-08-20 09:31:41]


Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineseatback From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 756 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 10908 times:

Quoting tommy767 (Reply 8):
Also not to open a can of worms but IIRC, some DL planes were also to be hijacked on 9/11 as well but got grounded before anything happened.

I've never heard this. Can anyone confirm?


User currently offlineflyguy89 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 1900 posts, RR: 9
Reply 15, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 10797 times:

Quoting LHCVG (Thread starter):
At the risk of starting a flamefest, I thought this was an interesting assertion. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Well on a.net, we could argue semantics about such an assertion, but from the perspective of the average joe who doesn't pay much attention to the airline industry I think it's probably a fair enough assessment. In the late 80's and all of the 90's AA was going gang-busters. Their in-flight service truly was top-notch in all classes, they had gained that coveted access to LHR, were expanding in Europe and Latin America, and as stated were jockeying with UA as the world's largest airline. So to the average person it probably makes sense to call them the premier US airline.

Of course since 9/11 they've stagnated unfortunately and they now have a lot of hurdles to overcome to get back on top. I will say this though, AA's domestic first class is still very top-notch when compared to their peers. I can't speak for the international premium cabins, but as far as domestic flights, AA is still very solid and invests heavily in the in-flight service, food, etc. UA is probably a close second, but on DL you'll often only receive a cold sandwich or other underwhelming option, on US first class passengers don't even get anything unless the flight is longer than 3 hours (unless they've changed this recently), but on AA pretty much any flight over two hours will get you a hot meal, even on the S80's


User currently offlineYYZAMS From Canada, joined Feb 2011, 218 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 10760 times:

Quoting jcwr56 (Reply 4):

Totally agree! My premier is at the bottom of the rating scale. So maybe they are using a rubric that looks like this:

Bestest of the Best
Foremost
Headmost
Premier


User currently offlineAADC10 From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2071 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 10545 times:

Difficult to define "premier" but not long ago AA led in business contracts and Consumers Reports once rated it highest among the legacies with the best legacy frequent flyer redemption rates. It is also by far the largest USA carrier on the premier international business route, JFK-LHR. An argument could be made for any of the legacies but I would figure that the label was assigned by virtue of AA being a favorite of corporate travel departments.

User currently offlineMax Q From United States of America, joined May 2001, 4375 posts, RR: 19
Reply 18, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 10172 times:

The most relevant standard attached to 'Premier' must be customer service.


In that respect AA has never deserved that title.



The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
User currently offlinebobnwa From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 6449 posts, RR: 9
Reply 19, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 9891 times:

Quoting Max Q (Reply 18):
In that respect AA has never deserved that title.

Going back to the sixties seventies and eighties, AA was most definitly the " premier airline" not quite never.


User currently offlineMaverick623 From United States of America, joined Nov 2006, 5566 posts, RR: 6
Reply 20, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 9711 times:

Quoting tommy767 (Reply 8):
Also not to open a can of worms but IIRC, some DL planes were also to be hijacked on 9/11 as well but got grounded before anything happened.

Nope. There was a DL plane (flight 1989 I believe) that had radio issues during the attack, but no hijack or attempt was made.

There's a very specific reason the hijackings were timed the way they were (i.e, almost simultaneously): they knew that there was a limited window for success.



"PHX is Phoenix, PDX is the other city" -777Way
User currently onlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16820 posts, RR: 51
Reply 21, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 9645 times:

Quoting seatback (Reply 14):

I've never heard this. Can anyone confirm?

There were no other flights planned, check the 9/11 commission report.



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineAA94 From United States of America, joined Aug 2011, 576 posts, RR: 2
Reply 22, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 9519 times:

Quoting ckfred (Reply 11):
AA was among the innovative airlines. It created the frequent flyer program. UA used to hand out plaques and baggage ID tags, when a passegner accumulated 100,000 miles (My father was a member of the 100,000 Miler Club). Bob Crandall thought a plaque and tags was a poor way to reward loyalty and thought free trips was a better reward.

  
AA was an innovator in many fields back in the day. They were the first airline to introduce transcon jet service (using the 707), first to use computerized reservations (with SABRE), as well as the introduction of AAdvantage. I believe they were also the first (or one of the first) to hire females as captains/FOs.

Quoting seatback (Reply 14):
I've never heard this. Can anyone confirm?

I do know that DL1989 was a suspected hijack due to the routing and equipment. It was operating BOS-LAX with a 763, which generally fit the profile of large aircraft operating transcon flights being hijacked. Further, Boston center attempted to make contact with the flight and received no response (because the aircraft was actually in Cleveland airspace and communicating with Cleveland center at the time). Between the profile and the miscommunication, that is why the flight was a suspected hijack, but there was never actually a threat to DL1989.



Choose a challenge over competence / Eleanor Roosevelt
User currently offlineZaphodB From United States of America, joined Jan 2012, 77 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 9419 times:

Years before MRTC AA had the best Y seat pitch of any scheduled airline operating UKUS routes. Although I preferred DLs 1011s there was no mistaking that AAs 762s and M11s were more comfortable (the M11 had 35" seat pitch ... that is not a typo!) and the Y service and food on AA were at least as good as the competition. The exception was the A306s which were very cramped in coach ... but maybe not by modern standards. The seat count on AA's 3-class TATL 762s must have been very low. They were great. I remember being completely stumped the first time I boarded a DL 763 at LGW - the interiors looked tatty and clapped out right from day one and were nowhere near as comfortable as AA's 76s had been.

I guess that's a long way of saying that IMHO, yes, AA was once the premier carrier on UKUS routes at least, regardless of nationality if you flew in coach. UA was nowhere near as good and nor were BA. VS were awful.


User currently offlineordjoe From United States of America, joined Aug 2010, 691 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 9365 times:

Quoting AA94 (Reply 22):
AA was an innovator in many fields back in the day.

I believe they invented the airline lounge, granted up until the 80's one had to get invited in, how that could be done if you are not a celebrity I am not sure.

They were much better than today, were they as good as a foreign carrier, probably not. Among the US carriers I would say they were premium.
I have read on flyertalk that they served caviar in international and transcon F. When I flew Y to LHR a few months before 9-11 alcohol (even champaign) was free, there were snack baskets with good stuff in the galleys like Toblerone bars and other nice candies. They were definitely a good airline. Also in the 90's they were probably the most respected. UA had a lot of labor issues (sickouts and a other intentional delays) AA kept their nose fairly clean in the 90s.


25 flyfree727 : This was common in Transcon F cabins up until mid to late 90's. Cant remember exactly when it ended, but certainly remember setting up the caviar car
26 Max Q : No, if you really want to name the Premier Carrier of that era it has to be Continental. Under the strict management of Bob Six, the Airlines founder
27 Post contains images ImperialEagle : I think it would be fair to say that under the tutelage of C.R.Smith AA consistantly led the way for many years as far as the "Big Four" were concern
28 usafret : I am loyal to AA due to FF status, but they let the aircraft product slip, the MD-88s so when I get on a new 737 in First, I'm pretty happy with the n
29 flyguy89 : I agree, but to be fair, neither does UA on EWR or ORD to Hawaii, I believe DL still offers complimentary meals in Y though on ATL-HNL.
30 ordjoe : I might be alone on this, but I kind of like those old brown seats. The tourists that go to HNL voted with their wallets they would rather save a few
31 incitatus : When I moved to NY in 1996 my VP advised me that travel "would likely end up with American Airlines". AA and UA were the premier carriers for business
32 Acey559 : I'm a fan of them, myself. They're pretty comfortable too, in my opinion.
33 Post contains images maxpower1954 : Don't forget the Convair 990 Well said. American was easily the best managed of the "Big Four" as AA, UA, EA and TWA were known then. It was the larg
34 AirAfreak : Here is a little credit to where credit is due: I thoroughly enjoyed flying American Airlines Flagship DC-10 Transcontinental Flagship Service in Busi
35 Post contains images SASDC8 : Very interesting discussion so far Sorry to go of topic, but your discussion made me wonder: Which is the premier airline in the US, in terms of servi
36 ImperialEagle : Ah, yes. However the 240/340/440 types might not have happened without AA's large (launch) order for 240's and that really put Convair on the map at
37 usdcaguy : I do believe AA used to be the premier carrier. I remember SABRE being lauded as one of the best GDSs, its agents being among the most professional, c
38 tonymctigue : I have to say from my own experiences that I have never found AA to be premier in any make, shape or form. I think AA account for 100% of my worst eve
39 delta2ual : People have very short memories. Until 1990, when things changed considerably, DL had won practically every airline customer service award for someth
40 tommy767 : Well you are right about DL always having amazing customer service. However their international presence skyrocketed with the PA shutdown. They basic
41 us330 : I'm going to agree with the general consensus here and say that AA was indeed a premier carrier up until 2001--I'd argue that the brief span of time b
42 ckfred : I think AA was the first carrier to use electronic scanners to read boarding passes (initially magnetic stripes on the back of boarding passes). This
43 questions : Really?? I thought AA started the hub and spoke strategy. I totally agree. Didn't a lot of people complain about airline food? Wasn't it the topic of
44 tommy767 : They did. DFW and ORD were the first with BNA and RDU following. DL wasn't nearly as strong in ATL in the 80s because EA was a threat for most of the
45 timz : In the 1960s AA didn't have any hub that could compare with Delta at ATL. (Probably nobody else did either?)
46 jetblast : Premier product today? I would have to say none of them.
47 Beardown91737 : A good way to look at who was hubbing and when is go to departedflights.com and look at the old route maps. The hubs will be obvious. Delta was known
48 JONC777 : When I was younger I was AA plat. . . and used the status to get CO gold (I think it was little known, but at the time it just took a phone call and a
49 FI642 : AA was a premier carrier, but times have changed. I remember the days of wonderful meals in F on DL, Riding NW from LGW and having a monster spread wi
50 flyfree727 : Exactly right!! The FF program, in my opinion, sorta downgraded the "premiere" experience on any airline. What used to be a true f/c ambiance, wtih p
51 Post contains links delta2ual : Wrong! Like I said, DL was the first-by a LONG shot: "Way back in 1955, Delta devised the world’s first hub & spoke airline model." Unlike some
52 bobnwa : I believe you are right. I remember the hub and spoke with the hub being Dallas. AAalso was the creator of,yield managment
53 Post contains links maxpower1954 : No, Delta originated the hub and spoke model in 1955 at ATL. It's on the Delta history website and a Google search links to many other sources. Link b
54 Beardown91737 : Ch 9 Also Jet Blue with Direct TV and I don't know who was the first with XM radio, maybe Express Jet.
55 Viscount724 : AA was also the first to operate coast-to-coast nonstops in both directions with the DC-7 in 1953. TWA's early model L-1049 Super Constellations coul
56 Post contains images AA94 : I'd love to have Crandall back in the saddle at this point. Some of my mom's (an ex-AA employee) closest friends still work at AA, and do their jobs
57 timz : Maybe so, but TWA's timetables did claim westward nonstops starting in 1954 (or sometime after AA started theirs, anyway). Think at the beginning the
58 Viscount724 : I thought TWA had to wait for the L-1049G in early 1955 before beginning westbound nonstops. I can't find any 1954 timetables but their September 195
59 timz : In 4/54, no TWA westward nonstops IDL-LAX; in 8/54, one; in 1/55, two. Both were scheduled in the same 7-55 that AA used when it started westward nons
60 maxpower1954 : The eight hour rule was changed for flights with three cockpit crew members. In the DC-7/Connie days this would have been the flight engineer. I used
61 ImperialEagle : The problem was that the powerplants on these aircraft were so so unreliable----especially in the first couple of years-------that it was a rare flig
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