Posts tagged MD-80
After the debacle of the MD-80 groundings, American Airlines had to respond to the all the negative news stories and complaints from the hundreds of thousands of people that were inconvenienced by the decision to ground all 300 MD-80 aircraft at one time for maintenance.
The first thing it did was apologize. The airline sent an apology letter on April 11 to people who have AAdvantage accounts. I received the letter and would love to post it, but for some reason, American included a message at the bottom of the apology stating that it was copyrighted and any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Dumb move. The ideal solution was to state, in very bold print, “Please send our apology to everyone you know.” Instead, they put a copyright on it, prohibit reproduction of it, and don’t even post it on their website! Is there something secret in the apology that they don’t want anyone other than their customers to know? Perhaps American hired some people from the Communications department at Enron…
In the future, business schools may cite this as a way to NOT handle crisis communications. In fact, the Harvard Business School has already posted an article called Crisis Communications and American Airlines. In the article they point out some of the things American could have done better. For example, the apology came from Dan Garton, Executive Vice President of Marketing, rather than from CEO Gerard Arpey. A reasonable person would conclude that Arpey, as CEO, had a lot more to do with the decisions, right or wrong, of the previous week than Garton did. It should have been Arpey’s signature on the apology.
On the same day they sent the apology, American launched a new blog, American Airlines, AA Conversation. They must have been in quite a rush to get it online, it is not even on the AA.com domain. Instead, it is on blogger.com at http://aaconversation.blogspot.com/. They also used a standard blogger.com template, they don’t even have the AA logo on the site. Dumb. A multi-billion dollar corporation should have a blog that looks better than one created by a junior high school student. In the first week online there have been three messages, all from someone named Billy S.
Who is Billy S.? In what department does he work? What is his position? Is he a senior person in a position of authority or an intern from Southern Methodist University working 15 hours a week while getting class credit in communications? There is no way to tell. The only information he provides is that he has written some AA press releases. Dumb. Readers need to know if those messages originated in the board room or the mail room.
Again, a bad move by AA.
Finally, American came up with an offer for its AAdvantage members. They will give double-elite status qualifying miles on travel between April 16, 2008 and June 15, 2008. Note the dates: the offer is not retroactive to the week of the groundings. In other words, if you still believed in American Airlines and flew them during that crisis situation, they will not give you anything additional. But if you fly with them for the next two months, you will get a bonus.
What does double-elite status qualifying miles mean? Members of the AAdvantage program either have no status or have elite status (Gold, Platinum, Executive Platinum). Travelers earn elite status by building up Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) each year. Earn Gold status with 25K EQMs, Platinum status with 50K EQMs, or Executive Platinum with 100k EQMs. These are the miles we use to pay for our trips.
Under this bonus, people will get double miles, but the extra miles will not count for travel, they will only count towards earning elite status for the year.
Is this a good deal? Yes for some, no for others.
In my case, it’s not a great help. I have three trips scheduled during the award period: two mileage runs (MRs) to Seattle, and a vacation in Florida. I expected to be at 43K points for the year once those trips were over, leaving me in easy reach of the 50K I need to remain Platinum.
With the bonus, I will earn an additional 14K miles toward status, putting me at 57K miles for the year. So, I will reach Platinum status by the end of May. While that is good, there is no long term benefit. Whether I earn it in May or December, I will still be Platinum for the following year.
However, maybe this bonus will put Executive Platinum within reach. Perhaps I will find some good deals later in the year and do several MRs and be able to earn Exec Plat for next year, instead of Platinum. That would be excellent!
Will it happen? I don’t know, 43K miles is a lot, particularly for someone like me who does very little business travel. But I’ll be giving it a lot of thought as I plan my trips for the rest of the year.
After canceling 500 flights on Tuesday and 1,000 flights on Wednesday, American Airlines announced it was canceling 900 flights scheduled for today. All the cancellations involve the MD-80 aircraft and inspecting/repairing bundles of wires in the aircraft. American has now canceled more than one third of all its flights in the past three days.
As of Wednesday evening only 60 aircraft had been cleared for service, leaving almost 240 yet to be cleared to fly. At that rate, AA will not be able to complete the process until Saturday at the earliest.
AA is doing the right thing by providing passengers with travel vouchers of up to $500 to cover food and lodging expenses caused by canceled flights. But there are still some unanswered questions:
- Why did 90% of the aircraft that were grounded and repaired a few weeks ago fail a new inspection?
- How large a financial hit is American taking with all of these cancellations and the cost of helping the passengers. Can it afford this huge hit?
- How many passengers, after dealing with so much inconvenience, will decide to take their future air travel business elsewhere? How much will this damage American’s business in the months to come?
This is a bad week for American.
American Airlines canceled 325 flights on Wednesday to conduct maintenance inspections on its MD-80 aircraft.
The Kansas City Star reported that “The grounding of the planes occurred following a joint audit conducted by American and Federal Aviation Administration officials, according to the airline.”
Maintenance teams examined the aircraft at the gates to check the distance between two insulated wire bundles. Fortunately, it was not necessary for the aircraft to go to American’s maintenance facility for the inspection. Virtually all of the 298 aircraft are expected to be back in service today.
American has an outstanding safety record on the MD-80, an aircraft that entered service in 1980. Every four years, each MD-80 goes to American’s maintenance facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma where it is torn apart and rebuilt with the latest equipment. (See the CNBC video below to watch them tear apart an aircraft.)
The MD-80 has been the workhorse of the American fleet. My home airport is Austin, Texas, and the MD-80 is American’s most widely used aircraft at this location, offering non-stop service to cities as distant as Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Seattle. However, it is also one of the least fuel efficient aircraft in the fleet, a definite liability in this time of surging fuel costs. American will eventually replace its 298 MD-80s with more fuel efficient aircraft, but until then, they will continue to be the most widely used aircraft in its fleet.