American Airlines is ready to compete.
Over the weekend, through leaks in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, American announced it will spend about $2 billion on improvements over the coming years, many of which will positively impact the customer experience.
It appears American got to the $2 billion number by including improvements announced months ago, like new business class seats on the fleet of 777s and 767s. But let's take a look at what's new, or relatively new, according to the weekend reports:
1. New seats for US Airways A319s
The news: All 93 A319 in the US Airways fleet will receive new seats. In the new configuration, 24 of those seats will be premium economy, or 'MCE' in American terms. The A319s will also get power ports.
Is it news? I believe so. I have not seen this announced previously.
The takeaway: When airlines put in new seats, they almost always use the slimline models, which are skinnier than the old version and usually have less padding. Some travelers say they're less comfortable than those they replace. But, hey, at least they'll be new.
2. New business class seats for trans-Atlantic 757s
The news: American will be adding flat-bed seats to the 757s flying across the Atlantic and on longer range Latin American routes. Generally, these seats will replace American's "next generation" business class seat, which have been obsolete essentially since they were installed.
Is it new? Yes.
The takeaway: This doesn't affect that many travelers. But if you regularly travel from, say, New York to Manchester on an American Airlines 757 in business class, this will make your journey much more comfortable.
3. Fleet renewal
The news: American is taking delivery of almost 100 new aircraft this year, as well as 112 next year and 84 in 2016. You'll be seeing new 777s, 787s 737s, A350s and A320 family aircraft.
Is it new?: Not really. We've known for a while that American has been in buying mode. But it's always nice to see exact numbers.
The takeaway: In general, these aircraft should be quieter and more fuel efficient than those they replace. They should also be more passenger friendly, though they'll likely have more dense seating configurations than aircraft leaving the fleet. And for a little while, these planes will have that new aircraft smell. (Yes, it exists.)
4. Power ports
The news: American is making a concerted effort to add power outlets where possible. That includes on all new 737s, 777s and 787s.
Is it new? I am not sure. I believe American has been trying to add power outlets, especially on new deliveries, for some time now.
The takeaway: This can't come soon enough for laptop and tablet toting passengers.
5. Admirals Clubs
The news: American will begin redesigning Admirals Clubs in 2015. You'll also get healthier and better food.
Is it new? I don't know the answer. But I believe this is new.
The takeaway: This is good news for Admirals Club members and those on business and first class international tickets who get in for free. But my guess is that membership fees will rise to cover the cost of a better product.
6. Airport Experience
The news: You'll start seeing worktables and power outlets near gates at major airports. You'll also see new and better kiosks at airports.
Is it new? I believe this is new.
The takeaway: This seems like a move that benefits customers, especially business travelers.