Interview: Alice Liu Reveals American Airlines’ New Planes and Products

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THE BUSINESS CASE, AMERICAN’S GOALS, APPLE, AND IN-FLIGHT SERVICE

First class cabin in a new Airbus A321 Transcon

First Class on the A321 Transcon

JS:       What’s the business case for the new design?

AL:       The new Transcon fleet breaks the traditional barrier of what [domestic] first class looks like.  Our first-class passengers want privacy, exclusivity.  We looked at the business case, profitability on these routes, revenue, customer research – and we came back to the fact that this is the right decision.

JS:       What are your goals here?

AL:       What we hope to achieve within this premium travel space is that not only do we retain high-value customers, but also  gain new ones.  To do so, you have to differentiate your product and service.  It’s the small touches, for example in our international first-class cabins, the turn down service and pajamas, that set us apart.  In the new 777-300s, we have a refreshment bar where passengers can help themselves, and that’s something you don’t see any more.  Now we’re adding a new first-class cabin design, and there are no other airlines that have contemplated or are offering anything similar.

JS:       Tell me about the philosophy behind the design. Were you thinking of any models in particular?

AL:       When you design a product that’s functional, you can make it beautiful, too,  Apple is one company that does this very well, and that’s what we are trying to do, provide a beautiful environment for the passenger.  Just because you are flying does not mean your life has to be interrupted.  Our job is to provide a seamless experience. When you’re flying, the aircraft is your dining room, office, and bedroom.  We want to provide all of that in a very modern space.

JS:       What will be the impact of the new aircraft on in-flight service?

AL:       We work very closely with the Flight Service department [in developing our plans for the aircraft].  Over the years, I’ve learned that our flight attendants are eager to do a great job.  Part of my responsibility is to give them the right tools and the right product to give so.  I think that’s what we’re doing today and have been moving toward in the past couple of years.  I think our product is something our Flight Attendants will be very proud to offer to our customers, especially since we’ll have the youngest fleet among the five legacy carriers at the end of our fleet renewal.

JS:       What would you like to tell our readers as we sign off?

AL:       I’d like to tell them that we want to provide a seamless travel experience, and we’re evolving into a more modern airline.  We’re making a lot of investments and enhancements to our products, and we want to elevate our customers’ flying and travel experience.  We’ve spent endless hours working on this, and that will go on until we get this right.

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