Comparing the Big Brown Flying Bus to AA

 
Old Aug 25, 03, 1:02 pm
  #1  
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Comparing the Big Brown Flying Bus to AA

I flew last night from BDL to BWI on the only rational choice, WN. Yes, you too can be one of 130 people paying a maximum of $77 for a one way, fully refundable ticket on the big brown (what is that color anyway) flying bus. As I flew on the short flight and thought I might note some interesting comparisons from the view of an AA fan.

1. AAs service within the east coast is severely lacking. Other majors cover their east coast problem with a codeshare, ala UA/US or NW/CO. As PresRDC recently commented in a thread about PIT/NYC flights, many of us would happily backtrack through ORD or STL to stay on AA metal. In almost all cases, allowing reasonable backtracking at competitive fares would result in a net revenue gain for AA.

2. LTRC means LTFM (Less Travel for Me). Im a lawyer in a large law firm and consult with clients all over the country. If they have issues in Nashville, I might need to travel there, or I might ask someone from another office to handle the matter and travel to Nashville instead of me, or I might find some alternative to travel such as teleconference or webex. Traditional coach seating is OK for average size folks so long as they have nothing to do but it is impossible to work in traditional coach seating. I use flight time on AA fairly effectively and appreciate the space and powerport that allows me to power up my laptop even when I am in coach (I dont normally charge for travel time). If I cant do this, I will travel less.

3. Cheap doesnt mean bad. WN has friendly employees and perfectly acceptable gate areas. There was even free WiFi access in the gate area. The free WiFi was not advertised and I dont know if came from WN but it was a good signal and I was not around any other airline gates. AA should really consider free WiFi in their gate areas. It costs next to nothing to provide WiFi in a gate area and keeps business travelers loyal. Im not really suggesting that AA displace T-Mobile in ORD or DFW, but adding WiFi to O&D cities such as BDL would only cost a couple of hundred a month and help build loyalty in those cities where competition is particularly tough.

4. WNs planes are clean. We have all seen dirty AA aircraft lately and attribute to cutbacks at AA. The WN aircraft I was on left from Houston and arrived in BWI at 7:05. It left from BWI at 7:35 and arrived in BDL at 8:40. It turned around at 9:10. There did not appear to be a cleaning crew in BDL but the airplane was still clean. Why? Because the flight attendants reminded everyone to clean up after themselves and to pass all trash to the F/As. People listened. AA should take heed.

5. WN does a good job with a lot fewer people. We had one gate agent to handle 130 people. He did a good job getting everyone loaded in 15 minutes. I have never seen this happen on AA. Why? People line up in A/B/C lines. AAs Group 1/2/3/4 doesnt work anywhere near as smoothly. Im not suggesting AA drop assigned seating or keep us out of Group 1, Im simply suggesting that AA invest in 1/2/3/4 signs for the gate areas and ask people to line up behind those signs. The line is there now it simply isnt organized. Similarly, on board there were only 3 flight attendants for 130 passengers. We still got drinks on a 40 minute flight. Why? The F/A announced the choices, told us that they were out of What Do You Have, and reminded us that all of this helped serve us more quickly. There were no meals but then ....

6. I like MD-80s. 6 abreast LRTC seating makes me feel like I was back on school bus. I occasionally see postings complaining about MD-80s. MD-80s are a very safe reliable aircraft. Even in LTRC airlines, I prefer MD-80s because they feel less crowded with 2/3 seating than 3/3 seating. Of course, FC in AAs 737s is even better.

7. AA could lower its costs without dropping to WNs level. There a lot of things AA could learn from WN without impacting on my main dislikes of WN: (1) no assigned seating, (2) no room in coach, (3) no opportunity to upgrade and (4) a lousy FF program that doesnt have good award destinations and where your credits evaporate every 12 months. I dont think these areas are a significant savings to WN. WN makes money because it uses its employees more effectively than AA. WN also makes money because it uses its aircraft more effectively than AA and thus needs fewer airplanes for a given route structure. AA will never keep to 30 minute turnarounds in hub cities but it should be able to keep aircraft to 30 minute turnarounds in O&D cities.

8. AA needs to reduce its costs but offer greater value. AA will always have greater overhead than WN its a lot more expensive to run an international airline flying to dozens of countries with multiple types of aircraft than to run a domestic carrier that deliberately avoids high cost airports such as LGA or BOS. Of course, there are economies of scale that AA should have over WN as well. The key to this is reducing costs while offering value. AA cannot compete in a commodity market where the only differentiation is price because its costs will always be hiring that the low-cost carriers. AA needs to understand that we will fly AA so long as it provides more value than the LCCs. I see great signs in that regard since AA has been leading the last two customer service initiatives among the airlines, i.e., continued use of cellphones on the ground and changing the credit rules on non-refundable tickets. Hopefully, AA will decided to drop the LRTC initiative, at least in 757s.

In closing, I feel sorry for those STL travelers that have been abandoned to the flying bus. Still, we can all hope that AA is on the airway to better cost control so that it can restore STL and other service.
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Old Aug 25, 03, 1:47 pm
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Good post. Some comments:

Rapid Rewards is an award winning program. While awards expire in 12 months, you get a free RT after 4RT flights on any flight (with the exception of about 10 blackout dates) that has a seat if booked on the net. That is equivalant to 8000 AA miles (500miles* 2 * 4trips. In addition for the FF there is the Companion Pass that lets you bring your "other" on a flight for free, even on an award ticket. Lately I have been burning many AA miles using Anytime awards because AA has no regular award inventory. While WN won't take you to Paris, they can take you and the kids to Orlando, Tampa, DC, Corpus, Ft Lauderdale,San Francisco, South Padre, LA, Boston, Vegas, Pacific NW, Salt Lake and even Midland Texas. Finally the awards are fully transferable. They make outstanding Christmas gifts
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Old Aug 25, 03, 2:02 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by MrMan:
Good post. Some comments:

While WN won't take you to Paris, they can take you and the kids to Orlando, Tampa, DC, Corpus, Ft Lauderdale,San Francisco, South Padre, LA, Boston, Vegas, Pacific NW, Salt Lake and even Midland Texas. Finally the awards are fully transferable. They make outstanding Christmas gifts
</font>
True...although WN will probably take a few more stops (and thus more whining from the kids) to get you there.
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Old Aug 25, 03, 4:30 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Wolfman:
True...although WN will probably take a few more stops (and thus more whining from the kids) to get you there.</font>
Not necessarily so anymore. You can get from just about any city on Southwest's system to another Southwest city with only one stop, sometimes two. Southwest flies nonstop PHX-MHT,BWI,MDW / LAS-ALB,MHT,BWI / SEA-MCI,MDW,BNA / BWI-SJC,LAX,SAN / ABQ-MCO,TPA,BWI / LAX-BWI,MDW,BNA,MSY / PVD-PHX,LAS,BNA The days of Southwest stopping four times enroute are over. You can still do that if you want to but, with a little flexibility, you can almost always get a fairly direct flight. Not only that but Southwests stops are almost always MUCH shorter than AA's, especially with their new rolling hubs.

[This message has been edited by AS Flyer (edited 08-25-2003).]
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Old Aug 25, 03, 4:45 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by MrMan:
Lately I have been burning many AA miles using Anytime awards because AA has no regular award inventory.</font>
Try using those same miles on Continental and you'll find that AA has much better availability -- not the same as WN however.

I've found award tickets to California over Labor Day and London over Thanksgiving without much of a problem.

Greg
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Old Aug 25, 03, 4:51 pm
  #6  
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Never had a problem getting Plan AAhead AAwards on AA for CX, Lan Chile, Iberia, BA and AA.

I have no doubt that Southwest offers a valuable award program, but being a single guy who likes to use award travel to fly first class on international flights, Southwest's program is of no value to me.
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Old Aug 25, 03, 5:08 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by MrMan:
they can take you and the kids to San Francisco</font>
WN can get you near SFO but not to SFO...

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Old Aug 25, 03, 6:04 pm
  #8  
 
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by C17PSGR:
I feel sorry for those STL travelers that have been abandoned to the flying bus. </font>
Good analysis and interesting post. There are other good alternatives for us STL FT'ers though...happily giving &gt;90% of my biz to UA since 2000. E+ and 100% success on international upgrades, plus the ability to redeem award/upgrade travel anywhere I want to go more than offsets the fact one must connect through ORD/DEN. Plus, UA operates from the relatively uncrowded Concourse A in the main Lambert terminal; don't have to worry about the peak-hour madness that can sometimes occur at AA's or WN's much busier check-in and security points.
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Old Aug 25, 03, 6:12 pm
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One comment...WN = Cattle Car

If you enjoy being hearded into a tube, then WN is for you. If you like perks when traveling such as, award travel to almost any destination in the world, the AA and the oneworld alliance is for you.

You all have choices. Some may enjoy what WN has to offer, and some detest it.
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Old Aug 25, 03, 8:04 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by G- five:
One comment...WN = Cattle Car </font>
Gimme a MOO! MOO Bessie, MOO!

Ok, now that I have that out of my system...

I still say the biggest reason I don't fly WN on short hops isn't the people, the gates, the planes, the fares, or the FF program. It's the system. Unassigned seating turns that friendly herd of cattle into a raging stampede. Do not get in their path while they scour the plane for the seat they desire! God forbid you end up between two of them - sheesh!

I haven't flown them in a few years, and never saw the seperate lines for boarding groups before in SJC, LAX, PDX, or SNA. This DOES sound like a great idea for AA if they can spare the space at the gate. I would love to see some way of making those boarding groups orderly. I've seen herds like those before...
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Old Aug 25, 03, 8:59 pm
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Speaking of farm animals, I'm starting to feel like a donkey hauling my GF onto WN instead of AA when I have her fly down here. One thing I haven't heard about was the carry-on capacity. I routinely wheel my rollaboard under the seat in front of me or overhead in the event I happen to sit behind a power-port enabled seat on AA no problem. But my GF has the same size rollaboard I do and she tells me she can't fit it in either spot and has to check it in.

------------------
Best regards,
Dairenn Lombard
Los Angeles, CA
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Old Aug 25, 03, 11:48 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by dlombard:
Speaking of farm animals, I'm starting to feel like a donkey hauling my GF onto WN instead of AA when I have her fly down here. One thing I haven't heard about was the carry-on capacity. I routinely wheel my rollaboard under the seat in front of me or overhead in the event I happen to sit behind a power-port enabled seat on AA no problem. But my GF has the same size rollaboard I do and she tells me she can't fit it in either spot and has to check it in.

</font>
Can't speak for the under-seat storage (that's odd), but those overhead storage extensions AA installed really do seem to make for more room. And it is much appreciated.
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Old Aug 25, 03, 11:54 pm
  #13  
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I fly WN SEA - SJC/OAK/SLC because AA doesnt fly those routes and I dont like flying AS. AA fly those routes and get my business back.

Christian
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Old Aug 26, 03, 2:32 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by cxn:
I fly WN SEA - SJC/OAK/SLC because AA doesnt fly those routes and I dont like flying AS. AA fly those routes and get my business back.

Christian
</font>
You'll earn elite qualifying AAdvantage miles on AS, why won't you fly AS?
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Old Aug 26, 03, 9:19 am
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As both an AA Ex Plat (mainly domestic) and WN FF is that more and more flights on AA that compete(and not compete) with WN are Eagle. So on most flights today we should be comparing WN and Eagle. This include long haul flights as WN is expanding long haul (trans cons too) and Eagle is expanding long haul (remember when we were told RJ's would just be replacing props!). So more and more what should be compared is WN overhead, legroom, free booze, free ticket after 4 trips, with Eagle no overhead, no booze to even buy, and the Eagle hassle (buses, remote terminals etc).

Remember WN now is the largest US carrier based on passengars boarded.

Fly both weekly, and if you are in coach WN has a better product at a maximum walk up fare of $299. This is what AA has got to improve on to compete.

[This message has been edited by MrMan (edited 08-26-2003).]
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