American Airlines and United Airlines expressed no urgency in matching recent improvements to the international economy class product by Delta. Perhaps that is a wise move.
I wrote about the upcoming changes to the Delta economy class product here. They include:
- Personal greetings in the gate area and while boarding
- “Welcome aboard” Bellini cocktails (one of my favorite drinks)
- Hot towels
- Placemats for meals
- Mix-and-match appetizers and entrees
- Larger entrees
- New cutlery
- Separate dessert course
- Pre-arrival chocolates
And while the new two-course bistro meal service is appealing, I would not necessarily call it a huge upgrade if it comes at the expense of a meal tray that already includes an appetizer, salad, bread, main course, and cheese. That remains to be seen.
But little touches like menus, amenity kits, hot towels, pre-flight cocktails, and chocolate prior to landing are undoubtedly upgrades to the economy class product, reminding me of how civilized the Singapore Airlines economy class product is.
American and United Airlines Shrug
Lewis Lazare of the Chicago Business Journal asked American and United if they would be matching Delta’s new service anytime soon.
An American Airlines spokesperson told him:
We’re always looking at ways to elevate our in-flight experience, including by listening to customer and flight attendant feedback when developing our food and beverage service and oufitting all of our wide- body aircraft with premium economy. We don’t have any new developments to announce at this time.
The mention of premium economy seems something of a non-sequitur, as Delta also has a premium economy product which has an even more upgraded product totally unrelated to the recent changes to economy class.
Meanwhile, a United spokesperson also indicated there are no immediate plans for changes to the economy class service and even used the dreaded e-word:
We remain committed to enhancing the customer experience for all our passengers.
A Historical Parallel
United last “upgraded” its longhaul economy class product in 2015. Then, it announced crackers and cheese to start, a gourmet appetizer salad and main course, artisan bread, and finally ice cream with individual bottles of water. But over the last few years, the crackers and cheese have disappeared, the appetizer has generally gone back to a green salad, and the bread went from genuinely tasty to the grotesque unlimited shelf-life Wonder bread rolls. Mid-flight snacks have returned on longer flights, which were cut at the time of the “enhanced” service.
My point is that United tried an upgrade but ended up mostly returning to the status quo it has employed for decades. Perhaps it will be different for Delta, perhaps not…
The ongoing joke is that if you want to see what American and United will do next, look to Delta. But here, we see American and United are not jumping on the bandwagon. They’ll watch Delta and see if better food does make for more loyal customers…and more profit.
Such loyalty is difficult to directly quantify, but for the average traveler who lacks knowledge of the intricacy of airline loyalty programs, Delta certainly appears to offer a better overall product. Fad or not, flying Delta is going to seem like a big upgrade over flying American or United for the average traveler in international economy class. Delta’s already winning the PR game and that is often half the battle.
> Read More: Delta Invests In Itself By Investing In Customer