By now, you’ve probably read the news about American’s plans for new planes and upgraded aircraft, and while those announcements got most of the attention, there were some other interesting items that I thought you might find interesting.
I had hoped to provide live coverage, but alas, for safety reasons, Gogo Inflight Wifi doesn’t work below 10,000 feet, so lacking a decent connection, a few Tweets from my iPhone were the best I could do (note to self, buy a 4G LTE Verizon iPad which includes mobile hotspot service).
The press conference was held at DFW on board an American Airlines 777-200 parked at Terminal D: gate 23. When I got the airport (I live in Dallas, so I didn’t have far to travel) I was met at the central lobby by a couple of people from AA’s communications team and they gave me boarding pass to get through security.
Interestingly, the boarding pass/press pass was issued with an actual flight number: AA 9499. AA flight numbers in the 9000 range are usually used for positioning or maintenance flights, so when I saw that we had been assigned a flight number, I looked it up on FlightAware to see if a flight plan had been filed. Other than a DC to Las Vegas flight back in November, FlightAware didn’t have anything listed for flight 9499.
When I got the aircraft, I was greeted by American Airlines Flight Attendant Kazumi Chapa, who I instantly recognized from the in-flight safety video. I chatted with her for a bit about the video and asked if she was often recognized by passengers. She said that frequent fliers will usually recognize her, especially after they hear her voice.
Kazumi told me that she’s been an AA fight attendant for 23 years and that she loves her job. She said that if anything, she was born 20 years too late, and that she would have loved to have been a “stewardess” back in glamorous early days of jet travel, when the cabin crew changed outfits at various stages during a flight. She was wonderful, and it was a great treat to meet her.
Someone else I recognized and was able to meet: Maya Leibman. The popular and well known past President of the AAdvantage program is now the Chief Information Officer at American. Before she led the AAdvantage team, she had served as AA’s VP of IT Services, so I asked her if she enjoyed being back over on the technology side of AA. She said that she was enjoying the challenge.
She also said that she had a lot of fun while she was over at AAdvantage, and particularly enjoyed being able to meet so many of American’s customers. She felt that she had benefited from the experience by gaining a deeper understanding of how customers use technology, what was most important to them, and how technology could be used to enhance the customer experience.
Anyway, she and Phillip Easter, Director of Mobile Apps at American, were on hand to demonstrate how they are using mobile technology behind the scenes to improve the customer experience.
Heres’ a look at an app that they’re testing with flight attendants that replaces the passenger information print out that accompanies every flight. Some of the info that it displays: a passenger’s elite status, ConciergeKey status, seating assignment, Admirals Club membership, any special assistance requirements, destination, origin, and connection details. It updates dynamically, so that it’s always up to date and reflect changes in a passengers flight times, seating assignments, and connection information.
I was also given a demo of the app that ConciergeKey and 5-Star agents use to assist passengers with their connections. Rather than carrying a cipboard, they use Samsung tablets so that the always have the latest arrival and departure times, seating assignments, connection information, etc. It’s even used as a display card with an arriving passenger’s name.
American introduced Samsung Galaxy Tab entertainment devices last year and has been offering them to premium class passengers on international and trans-continental flights. I’ve encountered them before, and I like them. Bobby, a purser who I think I recognize from a few trans-continental flights) was demonstrating and answering questions about the tablets. He said that passengers feedback has been very positive and that the tablets are so easy to use, few passengers ever have any tech support questions.
Here’s a look at the interface in action.
Last year American upgraded their international First Class service with new menu items, expanded wine selections, and upgraded amenity kits. They became the first U.S. carrier to offer turn-down service in First Class and introduced new pillow, duvets, slippers and pajamas (speaking of which, they gave me some PJs and an amenity kit, so now I’m trying to think an idea for a fun reader giveaway this summer).
It didn’t occur to me until I was taking the tour, but that was my first visit to the fist class cabin on an AA 777. I’ve been in Business Class often enough on their 777s, but I’ve never been to the front of the plane. I knew what it looked like, and I’ve read plenty of trip reports over the years, so I was familiar with the layout, but I was surprised by the size and it felt much more spacious than I expected.
Rob Friedman, American Airlines Vice President – Marketing, showing the upgrades to some journalist.
After the tour of the cabin, everyone settled into their assigned seats for the press conference. Breakfast was served. Here’s a look at the Scrambled Eggs and Chorizo, over Biscuit from the Premium Class menu that was created for American by Chef Richard Sandoval.
The big announcements were about new planes and upgraded cabins.
The new Boeing 777-300 are still on schedule to be delivered and put into service during the 4th quarter of this year. As announced earlier, the new planes will feature a new generation of seats and interiors.
First Class and Business Class will have the fully lie-flat seating and aisle access from every seat.
Main Cabin Extra, their premium economy seating, will be offered on the new planes.
Regular economy will also get new seats, new in-flight entertainment systems, power ports at ever seat.
Satellite based wifi will be offered on the international routes served by the new planes.
Something that had been rumored, became official. American will refurbish and update their current fleet of 777-200 by removing First Class and upgrading the Business Class cabin. The 772’s will feature the same, fully lie-flat seats that are being installed in the new 777-300s, and the rest of the plane will be upgraded with new seats, entertainment systems, Main Cabin Extra, and satellite based wifi.
The new Business Class seats are very close to the current First Class seating that they offer, and by switching to the two cabin configuration, American will more closely match the product offered by their partners and their competitors.
American will retire about half their fleet of 767-300s and refurbish the remaining with the new Business Class seats and Main Cabin Extra. Because the 767s will be facing retirement not too far into the future, they won’t be configured with wifi.
Because I’m frequently an AA passenger, and because of the blog, I was familiar with the upgraded premium amenities, the new menus, the Galaxy Tabs, AA’s mobile technology efforts, and most of the other improvements they’ve made to their product, but this was the first time they presented all of these efforts at once, so it was good to get a wider perspective of things.
What they didn’t say, but would also seem to have been part of their message, was that they continue to be focused on running a business, investing in their product, and planning for the future. And that’s a very good thing too.
Win 1,000 AAdvantage Miles and a Gourmet Cookie!
So that brings us to a reader giveaway: I’ve got 1,000 AAdvantage Miles and a Triple Shot Cookie by Chef Marcus Samuelsson to give away.
To enter, all you have to do is leave a reader comment answering this question: Pixel or Paper? Do you prefer to print out your boarding pass or do you use the mobile boarding pass?
I’ll have a random drawing Monday morning. The deadline to enter is Sunday night, 11:59 Pacific. One entry per person.
Good luck and have a great weekend!!