I really do think many travelers suffer from the “grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome when comparing U.S. airlines to those carriers outside the U.S. Sure, the Southeast Asian carriers like Singapore and Cathay Pacific offer a superior product, but the assumption that non-U.S. carriers are inherently better than U.S. carriers is just plain wrong–and I speak from personal experience. Nevertheless, the soft product on U.S. legacy carriers in international first class does often lag behind the competition. With the introduction of pajamas, duvets, mattress pads, an enhanced amenity kit, and slippers, American Airlines has taken a notable step forward in trying to level the playing the field.
Beginning Sept. 1, first-class customers flying on Boeing 777s between the U.S. and Heathrow will receive a quilted bed topper custom-designed to fit American’s popular Flagship Suite, pajamas and slippers as part of the airline’s new turndown service. They will also receive a lightweight day blanket, new premium duvet and pillow, and an amenity kit featuring a bag with an authentic Eames Office® design pattern containing Dermalogica® skincare products and other travel necessities.
Also, beginning Sept. 1, customers traveling in American’s business class cabin between the U.S. and London onboard Boeing 777s, 767-300s and international 757s will receive a duvet and pillow, slippers, and an amenity kit.
These new perks will be available to all international first-class passengers traveling on Boeing 777s starting October 1. American’s business class cabins on all international flights operated by Boeing 777s and 767-300s, and select flights to and from Europe operated by Boeing 757s, will also benefit from the new amenities.
U.S. legacy carriers tend to follow each other (which sadly has been a race to the bottom the last few years) so I am optimistic that at least United Airlines (Delta does not offer a true first class product, opting instead for a hybrid business-first cabin) will also make the investment to improve their first and business class products.
Premium airfare is not cheap and while I and most of you (if I am doing my job correctly) are not spending an arm and a leg to fly in first or business class, many are paying thousands and even tens of thousands for a first class class ticket. As my review of United First from Washington to Frankfurt demonstrated, paying full price for a first class seat is difficult to justify.
But combine a great hard product (which United has and American arguably has) with great service, good food, and the amenities like AA will soon be offering, and you have a product that is both competitive and makes the customer feel like s/he did not simply purchase a means of transport but a memorable experience.
There still is a market for international first class seats and AA has wisely taken a step in the right direction in adding amenities that will make the airline more competitive and differentiate it (at least for now) from its U.S. competitors.