American Airlines Bought A New 777-300ER & Took EscapeHatch to Pick It Up
That New Car smell in the air? It’s not a new car. It’s a new plane – hundreds of them. And American Airlines is adding an average of one a day this year with hopes that a new fleet and renewed focus on the customer experience will help transform its stodgy image and propel the airline to success.
When American Airlines took delivery of their newest Boeing 777-300ER plane in Seattle last month, I tagged along for the ride (and the factory tour).
These days, the DFW-based carrier is strutting more than just a freshly painted livery stamped with the new AA logo. The significance of the plane we were picking up — a 777-300ER, the long-range version of the wide-body workhorse 777 and the sixth in the AA fleet– goes beyond a few coats of lacquer. It’s one of the more visible examples of how American is busily reinventing itself. I joined a team of American execs and VIPs (and AA super
modelspokesperson Andrea Huguely) to unlock the doors, kick the tires and take the 310-seat 777 back to DFW HQ drive before the plane joins AA’s scheduled passenger fleet this month.
Each day, American Airlines flies a quarter of a million passengers from one place to another. Ask a frequent AA flyer, though, and most of us would agree that the AA had lost its way in recent years. Labor disputes, old planes, uncomfortable cabins and surly flight attendants have often made the millions of miles I’ve flown on AA planes an unpleasant experience. But in the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing a renewed spirit among AA’s front line employees and a noticeably better level of service. Turns out, that’s by design.
“The success of the new American Airlines hinges on our ability to deliver and excellent product and excellent service to our customers,” Denise Lynn, the Senior Vice President of People for the airline, told me during our four hour flight from Seattle to DFW.
The new 777-300ER embodies the airline’s tangible commitment to a “excellent customer experience,” says Huguely. Even as AA finalizes its reorganization from bankruptcy and completes its merger with US Airways, American is rebuilding its fleet. The DFW-based carrier is adding hundreds of brand new planes and retiring old warhorses like its aging MD80s and 757s. The 737s, 777s and new Dreamliner 787s soon rolling into AA hangers are emblematic of its restructuring.
From the new livery and logo to the high tech interior, from more comfortable seats to international WiFi service, everything about this plane made travel more pleasant. What’s new? Each seatback has its own inflight entertainment system (touch screen LEDs with hundreds of movies). Each seat has a dedicated AC electric outlet. More overhead bin space, updated lavatories with an upscale hotel décor, high ceilings, LED lighting, an arched entry that morphs into a sleek walk-up snack bar, lie-flat seats in first class—it’s refreshing to see an old guard airline completely refresh itself.
American is the first US carrier to fly the 777ER-300. If you can book a seat on one, you should. I think even the most jaded airline customer will find the flying experience as good or better than every one of American’s competitors.
Oh, and where did I find Lynn and a few other senior AMR and Boeing officers? Not tucked up in a First Class seat (I did that). Not riding shotgun in the cockpit (I did that, too). I found Lynn belted into seat 37A, in the rear cabin, the same economy section that you and I sit in all the time.
Huguely and Lynn say that this is the new American Airlines. So far, I like what I see.