Flunky See, Flunky Do: The New AAdvantage Program

American Amerlines yesterday dropped its long-hinted new AAdvantage program on the public. You can read the press release, but you’ve already read it when Delta made the same announcement and United quickly copied.

For American Airlines loyalists there is a new, 75,000 mile elite tier and shifts in complimentary upgrades that bear some study. As usual go to View from the Wing for the rundown and comments from an AAdvantage representative and what it may mean for you.

AAdvantage Whats Ahead

Yesterday I was busy flying Nairobi – Addis Ababa – Rome, spent the morning touring the Vatican, then continued Lisbon and finally to Terceira in the Azores, so I was not at the printing press when news broke.

When knew what was coming so this only holds interests to me as a marketing decision. AA, like United, sees the best way to compete is to copy, to be no worse, and definitely not better, than its competitors. Quoting Mr Leff’s interview, when asked what remains of AAdvantage, the answer had little to do with the program other than retaining (not destroying) systemwide upgrades:

That said, I asked Bridget [Blaise-Shamai of AAdvantage] what distinguishes the program going forward. She pointed to “the great things we’re doing as an airline, building out the network with ever more services out of LA, massive capital investment with aircraft (one coming every week), inflight product and lounges..” She also pointed to “Executive Platinum status as a point of distinction, with [Systemwide upgrades] still on any booking code, transferable, with the opportunity for customers to earn additional [Systemwide upgrades].”

In college the bitter fight between Chinese food trucks Le Ahn and Real Le Ahn showed me that sometimes the best way to compete is to mercilessly copy your competitor and set up shop next door. Later, living in China for 8 years, this was the rule and I see it further in my world travels as Chinese entrepreneurs take over market after market in a blend of collaboration and competition.

AA could have stood pat if it wanted. It saw no advantage to doing so, while saw money to be made by not innovating. A good business lesson for us all when we hear so much about relying on innovation and disruption as the keys to business success. That sounds noble but is uncertain and costly. If you can not innovate you may do better.

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  • Shannon

    Another very bad day of frequent flyer of American Airline

  • dale m

    To take issue with but one point in the marketing reps answer about what (now) distinguishes them from the rest of the miserable legacy pack: “investment in aircraft.” Well, I flew the A321 yesterday out of LA returning home after a trip to Sydney (on 777). The A319 and 321 interiors are so cramped you have to be a contortionist to get into a window (really, any) seat. It took a patience testing half hour to load and unload passengers in a nasty, pushy scene to get a smidgen of overhead. It’s a claustrophobic misery trip, which they’ve dialed in carefully to obscenely maximize seating just just short of inciting rage and mutiny on those aircraft. Never thought I’d say I prefer regionals – but in fact I do. AND the airbuses (darn good name for them) have very very few seats up front which, so even if you’re willing to pay in the new $cheme for $tatus, they’re manipulating that too.

    A race to the bottom indeed.

  • @dale m – my limited experience with AA has mostly been planes so crusty I am not sure the original color of the surfaces.