|Top shelf US Airways execs answer reporters' questions.|
|CEO Parker, casual and relaxed with reporters|
"It is a more rational industry now. We don't need to merge. Our results prove that we're doing quite well. We have a model that works in a consolidated industry," he said.
US Airways secret for profitability is not such a secret. I've heard it from a number of airline bosses and it is virtually the same plan I heard United's Jeff Smisek talking about at the Star Alliance gig in December. It must raise fares, sell more things beyond airline tickets, fill more seats and take more care in selecting routes. Sounds like tough talk, the kind of plan air travelers may not want to hear. Nevertheless, Parker's report is that the airline is doing all of these things.
I'm a champion of frank talk to air travelers. The near-toxic atmosphere between airlines and their customers is due to the disconnect between expectations and reality. And when passengers get perturbed, better watch out or the politicians will step in.
My three flights last week were in keeping with Parker's claim that the airline is running a lean operation; no inflight entertainment, a buy-it-or-go-hungry meal plan, fees for just about any seat but the one in the middle. And yet every departure and arrival was on-time. The flight attendants were courteous and energetic. The plane was immaculate. Every aspect of my travel on the airline went off without a hitch.
This is the company Parker and his crew are bragging about, and rightfully so.
In light of this, why would these seemingly sensible businessmen spend any time at all researching acquisition of the can of worms that is American Airlines with its high per-seat mile costs and its famously unhappy employees? Unlike American, US Airways is flying high.
Really, what is there to think about?
Reality can be annoying even if you expect it, and any airline that stuffs you in a middle seat unless you ransom your way out automatically earns a place on my "only if there is absolutely no alternative" list. Nickel-and-diming the hoi polloi for even basic accommodations is never going to be a popular customer service approach.
Peel the skin of US and underneath it is still Allegheny in its approach to customers. Last year I used miles to book a trip to BCN. To get back, I had to pay extra for a "quality" seat. At the airport my "quality" seat had been given away and I was assigned a middle seat way back in the rear of the A330. Only becoming loud and obnoxious did I get my seat back. And "quality" seats can be anyhing from an aisle to a middle seat. It's all arbitrary. But the approach is simply disdain for the passenger.
I haven't flown in years, but right now I wouldn't get on an American Airlines plane even if you paid me! And I live within 10 miles of DFW Airport.
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