American has no plans to ‘bank’ its LAX schedule

American Airlines will keep LAX as a"rolling" hub. Photo credit: American.

American Airlines will keep LAX as a”rolling” hub. Photo credit: American.

American Airlines has no plans to ‘bank’ its Los Angeles International Airport hub, an airline spokesman told me today.

I asked in light of my post this morning about American’s plans to switch its schedule in Miami to a ‘bank’ system. Starting in August, most American flights in Miami will arrive at the airport at just about the same time. Then, those planes will leave at right around the same time. The goal of such a schedule is to maximize connections. Each set of arrivals and departures during the day is called a “bank.”

American has said it will unveil banked schedules at many of its hubs. But for now, that does not include Los Angeles, airline spokesman Andrew Christie told me. “We have no plans to bank LAX at this time.”

This means LAX remains a ‘rolling’ hub. As we discussed earlier today, this means that the LAX schedule is more or less random. Flights arrive and depart at all hours of the day. Passengers can still make connections, but the entire schedule is not designed to facilitate them.

I trust you’ll all enjoy telling your cocktail party friends this weekend about the difference between ‘banked’ and ‘rolling hubs.’ #themoreyouknow

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Seeking efficiency, American Airlines will start a ‘banked hub’ in Miami on August 19

American is changing the way it schedules flights at its Miami hub. Photo: American.

American is changing the way it schedules flights at its Miami hub. Photo: American.

American Airlines will begin “banking” its flights at its Miami International Airport hub on August 19, the carrier told employees in a Thursday communique.

American said in December that this change would be coming, a story covered well by the Dallas Morning News. American is now saying the changes will be visible to customers with Miami flights starting this weekend.  Other hubs will eventually switch, too.

First for our novice readers. What is banking? Banking means that most flights arrive and depart at the same time. For example, American might schedule many flights to arrive in Miami at around 1 p.m. Then at 2:30 p.m., American would schedule all those flights to leave, also at nearly the same time. This is efficient for the airline. It also can be helpful for customers, because the entire schedule is built on making sure passengers can make connecting flights with short layovers. (It also means airports with banked hubs can be very crowded during the banks.)

Almost every airline uses banked hubs. But for several years, American has been using what it calls “rolling hubs.” Essentially this means American schedules flights on a seemingly random basis, all day. Customers still make a lot of connections, but the entire system is not built to facilitate short layovers.

Here’s the new plan at Miami, American wrote to employees.

“In the new banked structure, flights are generally grouped to either arrive or depart from geographical locations at certain times of the day. For example, in MIA flights from the south will arrive into the hub within a certain period of time, allowing customers to connect to flights headed north shortly thereafter.”

American thinks customers win here. What do you think?

“For customers, banking increases the number of connecting options available from a given flight. More connections, more opportunities,” American told employees. “For the company, it gives us the ability to make changes to the fleet so that we’re putting the right size aircraft on the right route, better matching customer demand. And more demand typically translates into higher load factors and improved financial results. It’s a win-win for all.”

American included a chart of flights throughout the day in Miami under the current system:

American MIAAnd a chart showing how flights will flow in Miami starting on August 19.

American MIA new

 

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How did the explicit US Airways Tweet get sent out? The airline explains in note to employees

How did US Airways end up sending a lewd Tweet this week? And what happened to the person responsible? Photo: US Airways.

How did US Airways end up sending a lewd Tweet this week? And what happened to the person responsible? Photo: US Airways.

Remember the pornographic Tweet sent earlier this week by US Airways?

Well, news cycles are short these days. And it’s old news. But it is important enough that the airline’s parent, American Airlines Group, did a Q & A on the incident its most recent employee newsletter. US Airways had already said that the picture was an honest mistake and no one would be fired over it.

Here’s what went out to US Airways and American employees on Thursday:

As reported, a customer posted a tweet to the US Airways Twitter feed with a link to a very offensive image that any of our followers could view by clicking the link. Under our previous protocols (“previous” because we’ve improved them following this incident), an employee alerted other members of the social team to not engage with the poster and not respond to the tweet. They also captured the link and used an “explicit warning” notification to warn the rest of the social team not to open the link, and to watch for attempts to post it on other social media channels. They did that by copying and pasting the offensive link. The post was subsequently deleted as part of this process.

Later, when responding to a completely different customer on a completely different matter, the same employee pasted what they thought was a customer service link. But, of course, the link they pasted was the offensive link. …And you know the story from there.

In response, we immediately accepted responsibility for this accidental share of the link and posted an apology on the US Airways Twitter feed. Twitter also disabled the account to prevent others from posting to it. We also shared that apology with a number of media outlets who had seen the social media traffic.

From a process standpoint, we have made improvements to help prevent such accidental occurrences, including deleting offensive posts immediately and not sharing these links internally. The employee involved was attempting to do exactly what they should do – prevent a very offensive post from being shared broadly and to warn co-workers not to open the link. They then made a simple mistake that any of us could do with an errant email or text message. In this case, it was able to be viewed by a broad audience.

We continue to work with the social media team on improving our process, and appreciate their promptness in alerting our company to the problem and accepting direct accountability for the error.

We understand the embarrassment this has caused our co-workers, and we’re working hard to mitigate the damage from this incident. We have a superb social media team that is highly professional, very responsive and navigating in a world where seven billion people are potentially their audience in real time. That’s a big responsibility and one they take very seriously. No one feels worse about this than the team, and they should not be judged by one moment in time and one mistake.
To this last point, the conversation has now gone from the scintillating photo and mistake tweet to how our company has handled the incident (see what Mashable had to say). The silver lining is we were upfront, transparent, swift in admitting our mistake and protective of our social media team, who has been recognized both in and outside of the industry as one of the best out there. This unfortunate mistake does not change that, and only gives us the opportunity to get better.

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American Airlines compares an airline seat to a hotel room. But are the two similar?

Is it just a seat? Or is it part of a luxury brand. Photo: American.

Is this American Airlines seat just a seat? Or is it part of a luxury brand. Photo: American.

Is a premium cabin airline seat a commodity? Or is it a luxury item similar to a five-star hotel or fancy car.

US Airways A330 business class seat.

US Airways A330 business class seat.

This is a question U.S. airlines have been confronting. On one side is US Airways. I’m told US Airways has a comfortable business class seat on its A330 airplanes. They’re flat, private and have plenty of room. But you never hear US Airways bragging about its seat. The airline doesn’t blog about its in-flight menus. And you don’t see the product advertised in high-end magazines or on the internet.

American is introducing walk-up bars to its 777 fleet.

American is introducing walk-up bars to its 777 fleet.

Contrast that with merger partner American Airlines, which makes luxury branding a priority. American is in the process of adding industry-leading seats to many of its airplanes, but it has actually just started the project. Many of its planes have an out-dated business class product. No matter. The carrier has been advertising its new seats — and its onboard bar — just about everywhere. And American is not just selling a seat. It is selling an experience.

It appears the new, combined American Airlines will being going with the American approach of luxury branding. But is this a good idea? Skift has an interesting story this week called “American Airlines Has Designs on Becoming Your Hotel in Sky,” detailing American’s approach.

American believes its airplanes can be a like a luxury hotel,  Steven Moo-Young, American’s director of onboard product planning and design, told Skift.

“We’re in the hospitality industry and these are our guests. We want to make them feel as though they’re at home,” Moo-Young said. “Our DNA is hospitality.”

Skift’s Marisa Garcia noted that American’s executives used hotel-like words to describe their product. The seats, for example, were not seats. They were “suites” that could turn into “beds.” Those seats — err, beds — even have  “do not disturb” buttons.

Garcia writes of American’s approach.

They’ve carefully studied the preferences of their guest, their life-style choices, their technology needs, their food preferences, even what they like best about their cars. Then they’ve blended all of it into a unique brand experience.

I’m intrigued by American’s approach. But I think it’s possible that American will over-promise and under deliver. I also think the airline might be overestimating what the customer wants. Are we sure the business class customer wants a hotel-like experience? Or does the premium customer simply want the US Airways experience — a comfortable seat that goes flat, in a clean quiet cabin. Maybe with some decent food thrown in. It’s just a plane ride, after all.

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American is evaluating LAX as possible hub for Asia flights, the airline’s president said

Will American build an Asian gateway at LAX? Photo: American.

Will American build an Asian gateway at LAX? Photo: American.

American Airlines is evaluating ways to make Los Angeles a primary gateway to Asia, but that does not mean it will happen, Flight Global’s Edward Russell reported this week.

“Figuring out how to make Los Angeles successful and a gateway to Asia is a strategic issue for us,” American Airlines Group president Scott Kirby said on April 4 at the Phoenix International Aviation Symposium. The Flight Global story is behind the site’s paywall but Russell gave me permission to cite it. Kirby said LAX is “very important,” to American.

In terms of Trans-Pacific flights, Los Angeles has been a difficult market for U.S-based carriers. American (Shanghai and Tokyo), Delta (both Tokyo airports) and United (Tokyo and Shanghai) have relatively few flights from L.A. across the Pacific. United and Delta have both had Hong Kong flights in the past, but no longer. LAX is still well covered in terms of international lift, but most of it comes from major international carriers ANA, Cathay Pacific, JAL, Korean, Asiana, Eva Airways, etc.

It’s possible American will change the dynamic. Los Angeles is not the ideal place for a Pacific gateway because it has not historically been as strong of a connecting hub as other airports. Flights tend to work best when there’s a good mix of local traffic (Angelenos in this case) along with connecting traffic. (Passengers from places like Phoenix and Salt Lake and Sacramento, etc. who come to the hub only long enough to change planes.) These gateways tend to be more lucrative when there’s relatively little competition from international carriers.

Los Angeles has the local traffic. The connecting traffic issue is more complicated. Yes, American has flights from throughout country to Los Angeles. But compared to say, Dallas and Chicago, Los Angeles is a small hub. So there are far fewer connecting passengers to feed the international flights. And it’s hard for American to add more domestic flights to feed the international ones, because the airline is gate constrained in L.A. Russell says American has access to 24 gates at LAX, though 10 of them are in a remote terminal and can only handle regional jets. It is to receive access to a few more gates in the airport’s new international terminal, but that’s no panacea.

Still, American is now the world’s largest airline. And as the world’s largest airline, American may need a West Coast gateway. San Francisco is taken — United owns it. And Delta is building a global hub from scratch in Seattle. So that leaves L.A. (I’m assuming that Phoenix is not a viable option.)

Here’s another thing people don’t think about with L.A. It’s actually quite a bit farther from Asia than San Francisco and Seattle. Russell says L.A. is 327 miles farther from Asia than San Francisco. L.A is about 432 miles father from Asia than Seattle.

What do you think? Will American try to build an Asian gateway in L.A.?

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