American Airlines is laying out serious money on new planes and in-flight upgrades to attract customers who will pay a premium.
With hundreds of corporate travel managers gathered a short drive away from its corporate headquarters Monday, American Airlines was not throwing away its shot to make a good impression.
“Everything we’re doing right now is largely based around the desire to attract more than our fair share of the premium traveler,” chairman and CEO Doug Parker told a group at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives Global Corporate Travel Conference in Dallas.
Parker said American is keeping business travelers at top of mind with decisions to put lie-flat seats on all international aircraft, offer Wi-Fi on all international flights, upgrade Admirals Club lounges, invest in better reliability, and order new aircraft.
“It’s intensely competitive business and there are all sorts of different airlines out there,” he said. “But what will distinguish those of us from others is those who can attract the premium traveler. We are intensely aware of that.”
He also took a shot at the existing structure for booking air travel, returning to a topic he has complained about in the past.
“What you see is better efforts by many to move old stodgy archaic [global distribution systems] into the new world where we can do it faster,” he said. “That’s hard because they have some advantages that they use, many of which are the fact that buyers like to use them because they’re used to it.”
About 700 people — those who buy travel for corporations, travel management companies, and suppliers — are attending the event, which wraps up Tuesday.
The Fort Worth-based airline held a reception Monday night at an American Airlines hangar at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, promising the chance to tour a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. American also placed a help desk at the conference hotel to offer assistance with any travel plans, gave travel buyers free passes to the DFW Admirals Club and wrapped elevators in its logo and the message “Behind every business flyer is a travel executive like you.”
Photo credit: Doug Parker told corporate travel executives on April 18, 2016 how much he wants their business. Pictured is Parker in a file photo. Mike Stone / Reuters