As Delta further invests in the customer experience of smaller jets and United rolls out CRJ550s they have surpassed the American mainline fleet. When will management learn?
Delta Revamps 717s
Delta inherited some Boeing 717s (the DC-9 line continued after Boeing purchased McDonnell Douglas) from their merger with Northwest. Some of the equipment from that merger has been extricated from the fleet, the Northwest 747s notably among the list. They added many of these 717s from an asset purchase from AirTran following its Southwest merger.
A long term question was whether the 717s/DC-9s would also be phased out. Instead, Delta has doubled down by investing $70MM in their fleet, adding setback IFE screens and wifi to keep customers happy as they potentially extend the fleet life until 2030.
American, by contrast, has not only excluded IFE from their short haul mainline fleet like A319s, A320s and their customer favorite Oasis 737-8 and MAX – they have been removing screens from aircraft already equipped with screens.
United Rolls Out CRJ-550s
When was the last time you were excited to fly a commuter jet?
This is the first time I have ever seen route anticipation announcements for a commuter jet.
The new CRJ-550s are just CRJ-700s with a better experience. The CRJ-550s feature ten first class seats, 20 economy plus and just 20all the way in the back. The aircraft also features WiFi (not a given on 50-seat jets), four luggage closets to reduce the amount of customers that have to gate check their bags, and a first ever walk-up self service beverage and snack bar for first class customers.
United is intentionally making a 70-seat jet into a more comfortable 50-seat jet with features flyers want. American mainline by contrast has been using project Oasis to cram more passengers into coach and making what some pilots call a “miserable” lavatory.
American’s Mainline Experience Deteriorating
The Lone Exception
Legacy American Airlines A321s (both the A321B and A321T) are market leaders. The A321T flies from major US east coast cities to west coast cities with lie-flat business class and the country’s only true first class. That aircraft is fantastic and was the way forward for American, as evident in other equipment build outs prior to Doug Parker and US Airways spendthrift management took over.
United is reinventing the wheel, working with Bombardier to convert a less popular product to industry-leading. Delta is also making lemonade out of very old lemons for short haul routes with 717s. American’s mainline fleet is so bad that passengers duck routes with Oasis equipment while others are seeking out CRJ routes for the first time I can remember.
What do you think? Are United and Delta short haul aircraft better than almost all American Airlines domestic mainline equipment? Do you seek out Delta/United over American based on the airplanes?