The rapid metamorphosis of american airlines

Ten years ago, who would have believed that it would be possible to travel in a lie-flat seat from New York to Los Angeles on an american airline?
And yet, all the majors now offer it almost systematically in their respective Premium classes.
This change characterizes the profound transformation of american airlines.

Competing with low-cost airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue, they have had to gradually move upmarket to differentiate themselves from their low-cost competitors, to the benefit of passengers.

Modernized cabins, with equipment worthy of long-haul routes

All the so-called major U.S. airlines (Delta, United and American) have been making a special effort in terms of products and services since mid-2013. And this move upmarket is concentrated on the most profitable routes: international long-haul routes and domestic transcontinental routes.

United, the first U.S. major to offer premium service

For example, United was the first airline to offer a comparable product to its international flights with United p.s, starting in 2003. Even if the product was not at the level of international routes, it improved year after year, and offered a three-class cabin, something unheard of on domestic flights.

Delta now deploys its Delta Oneproduct on transcontinental flights

Delta has followed United’s lead and now offers Delta Oneon all transcontinental flights (between JFK and LAX/SFO) with full lounge access and amenities.

On most of its aircraft, a sleeper seat is offered to maximize passengers’ rest, which is fundamental on the so-called Red Eye flights, i.e. departing late from the West Coast and arriving early the next morning on the East Coast because of the time difference.

American, the metamorphosis

Finally, American is the airline that has made the most effort on its product in the last few years. Its ageing fleet consisting mainly of MD-80s is being replaced by brand new A320s, including the famous A321T, deployed on transcontinental routes.
More than 40% of the cabin is dedicated to Premium seats, and this new offer is a hit.

A loyalty program that rewards more fairly

All U.S. airline loyalty programs are changing. Previously, all U.S. loyalty programs were based on distance traveled.
Also, regardless of the fare paid in economy class, the cheapest or the most expensive, all members of a loyalty program of the same status earned the same number of miles, i.e. 100% of the distance flown.
Now, the frequent flyer programs of these airlines have changed their earning charts, making the amount paid the primary driver of the amount of miles awarded to a passenger.
Similarly, advancement to the next level requires earning a set number of Qualifying Dollars, such as at Delta:
Medallion Qualifying Dollars

If this is a novelty in the loyalty programs of American airlines, this concept has existed for a very long time in Europe, with mileage gains in economy class ranging from 25 to 200% depending on the fare paid (which induces a given booking class)
FB AF scheme

This introduces fairness into the allocation of points and status: it seems illusory that someone who spends more than another has as many advantages, and therefore puts the price back at the heart of the issue. It’s about retaining high-contribution customers, not bargain hunters.

What do you think of these changes to the offerings and loyalty programs of U.S. airlines? Do you see these changes as positive?

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.

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