In September American Airlines unveiled their new business class suites that would go into Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A321XLR aircraft. These won’t be flying until 2024. But at the same time they bring an elevated business class seat into the market, the airline also plans to introduce new inflight meal service, amenity kits, and bedding as well.
I had heard this project was underway, but a little more detail was shared in an internal employee question and answer session earlier this month, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing.
Brady Byrnes, the American Airlines Vice President of Inflight who was also given oversight of Premium Services, noted two of the changes they’re looking at.
- How flight attendant service flow works consider “zonal” service versus forward/aft service, similar how to British Airways with its large premium cabins deploys its crew.
- Changing meal service where they expect to “lean more into the club space [in the airport], going club to cabin.” He didn’t expand on what he meant here, though there’s a few possibilities.
United Airlines, with its Polaris lounges, ‘leaned into their club space’ by cutting back on inflight dining. With better food on the ground they seem to think customers don’t need to eat much in the air (“they’ll have already eaten” though of course United destination cities don’t have Polaris lounges). Indeed, United ran out of food on my flight this summer from Sydney to San Francisco – not a single bag of chips even with five hours left in the trp.
In the ideal it would mean ‘dine anytime,’ recognizing that passengers may have eaten on the ground. On Air Canada this summer I ate in the Signature Suite before my flight. Why eat dinner on a delayed 11 p.m. departure? Nonetheless a flight over 15 hours needs more than a meal upon departure and a pre-arrival meal, so I asked the crew to hold dinner until mid-flight.
In addition to changing meal service and service flow, American is planning new soft goods, specifically amenity kits and bedding. They’re also introducing better inflight wifi. Currently American’s domestic fleet offers excellent connectivity, but widebodies feature Panasonic connections that work poorly.
Vice President of Customer Experience Kimberly Cisek offered that for amenity kits,
[W]e’re really thinking about our amenity kits differently and trying to reimagine this with a few things in mind: one, sustainability. two, diversity, how can we bring in more diverse suppliers for the amenity kits, and three what can we do from a local aspect and bring that into the amenity kit as well.
Diversity of suppliers and a “local aspect” seem like the least important things they could emphasize as they consider new amenity kits. Key elements of an amenity kit are:
- Useful inflight items. A good kit ought to include toothpaste and toothbrush; comb; tissues; hand sanitizer; perhaps cologne; a pen (too many countries still require paper forms); mouth wash; moisturizer; chap stick; body lotion.
- Premium brand partnership. Singapore Airlines always stood out to me for large-sized amenities, not just small sample sizes. For years they offered Ferragamo, hard to pick a more premium name. I really liked Ferragamo Tuscan Soul. Full-sized premium items are great for my home guestroom bath.
- A useful premium bag as a takeaway. Not only is it a reminder of the flight, but it’s a cool giveaway that leads to telling stories about the flight and airline to loved ones at all, both spreading the word about the product and reinforcing positive emotions about the airline.
American’s This Is Ground international bags introduced nearly four years ago were quite good.
2019 American Airlines International First Class Amenity Kit
2019 American Airlines International Business Class Amenity Kit
At the end of 2017 American Airlines rolled out new Casper bedding which I think were fine. United’s Saks bedding is outstanding, highly competitive with the best of the world. American is rethinking their bedding, not just their amenity kits, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they settle on.