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…
> Read More: Upgraded Meals in United Airlines International Economy Class
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
“Personal greetings in the gate area and while boarding”… Wow. How magnanimous of them. And they’re not charging extra?
There is no question that Delta has the superior product of the 3. However, unless they can keep the prices the same as the other two, they will lose. The average shmuck won’t know the difference between the airlines, and will go with the cheapest option regardless of whether that extra $50 gets more value.
“The ongoing joke is that if you want to see what American and United will do next, look to Delta.”
if both AA and UA wants to be major losers who don’t know how to fly to HKG, one of the Top 3 investment banking centers on the planet, look to Delta.
The joke is on them.
Shocked that you are posting here and not on Lucky’s DL A330 article! You are losing your troll game. LOL.
Delta reported $3.9 billion in net income last year to United’s $2.1 billion and American’s $1.4 billion.
Notwithstanding their non-presence in HKG, they are doing far better than the other two.
And talking of investment banking centers, that market is essentially served by Cathay’s 4 JFK-HKG and 1 EWR-HKG flights. Yes, I’m aware United competes with its daily EWR-HKG service. Yipee.
The real question is whether or not this moves the needle at all in terms of sales and ticket prices. Aside from JetBlue (who’s ability to leverage a better product into bigger profits is questionable at times) every attempt to do this with the majors has met with failure. Because your average economy customer is booking on price and price alone most times.
The other question is how this ultimately affects their bottom line. I suspect the food will be about a wash though some elements like placemats may add cost. Given that drinks are generally free on theses flights anyway the cocktails may end up again being a bit of a wash. So if they think they can offer something that feels more premium at a marginal increase in their costs why not do so?
For those who collect points to travel abroad in economy with their family this might just be something that moves the needle on who becomes their preferred carrier and thus drive incremental revenue.
Off topic but in that vein of thought I really think their is money to be made by offerings dramatically better loyalty product for one of the big 3. Right now as many have found it’s just as well to be a free agent. A truly good loyalty program would change that and attract a lot of marginal revenue that otherwise gets lost.
United and AA might seriously consider trying to copy Delta. Delta had blowout earnings, raised the divy and the stock is trading near a 52 week high. United is doing Ok but AS and especially AA(most of the Street has a target beneath the current one for AA) are languishing.
Whatever Delta is doing seems to be working including price increases(which none of us like unless we’re shareholders).
It seems that Delta’s premium seating and markets are adding huge $$ to their bottom line. The Kettles might book solely on price but higher spending, likely more knowledgeable travelers, seem to be leaning DAL.
You can’t charge a premium for an inferior product (the on-board experience at UA). But as long as the flights are pretty full, I can’t see UA making any changes to improve it.
If you want a laugh, go back and look at the Polaris marketing materials.
“The ongoing joke is that if you want to see what American and United will do next, look to Delta”
Only if it’s a race to the bottom, apparently.
Do they truly worry about passenger loyalty? Based on revenue it would suggest that credit card companies are their largest customer (Apply aside), further demonstrated by UA’s issue with Chase.
In addition, the average business passenger who is supporting the passenger profit center is traveling on a corporate contract where this type of minute change is not a factor at all. What matters in the corporate contract is the % of discount.
Makes me very happy to be an ORD-based flyer with lots of TATL options. How revolutionary – DL wants to offer a welcome drink. AF and LH have always offered a pre-meal cocktail service. I’ll gladly take an actual champagne or gin and tonic over what I’m sure is a disgusting and overly sweet bellini. Likewise with the food – LH or AF or IB all offer solid (for economy meals) and the optional a la carte choices on TATL flights from European hubs are often better than business class food. I’m happy that Delta is making an effort that will largely bring them to the same service standards as most European carriers. I’m disappointed but not surprised that AA and UA are dragging their feet. I recently flew AA to Munich from Charlotte as was amazed by the horrid food – an astonishing amount of plastic waste wrapping some miserable shelf-stable carbs. Not even premium economy passengers received a pre-meal cocktail service. I’ve long preferred any European carrier across the ocean and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Ehhhh, who cares? Delta is also generally more expensive than the other two — and, in addition, flying Delta generally means connecting through its appalling ATL hub with its appalling and filthy Priority Pass lounge.
Oh please. ATL is a vastly superior hub to ORD, EWR, IAD, etc.
I’d still fly AA/UA solely to avoid connecting 15 times on what would be a nonstop on anyone else.