Look! Up In the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! Nah, It’s Just the American Airlines Brand Plummeting to Earth


Share on LinkedIn

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the most-important customer engagement driver in the airline category is “Safety.” The plane goes up, the plane comes down, safely, as planned. That’s what passengers expect. And, because we have regulations, planes get grounded when they aren’t considered safe enough to go up.

Last week American Airlines, which has been bombarded with bankruptcy problems and breakdowns in talks with the pilot’s union, grounded dozens of airlines for another week for breakdowns of another sort – loose passenger seats. When we say “another week” we’re referring to the fact that this has happened before, with American making two emergency landings after seats came loose on a number of flights.

The re-grounded airlines made up nearly half of American’s fleet, which caused a high number of cancellations and delays over the past few months (which are value components in another of the category’s engagement and loyalty drivers) to surge, so kind of a double-whammy for the beleaguered airline and the brand.

American used to be #1 on the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, but that was quite a few years ago, and in the interest of full-disclosure, their slide down the list had nothing to do with safety. Current airline brand rankings look like this, so we can’t be precisely sure how the newest disclosure about the brand has eroded equity further:

1. Delta

2. JetBlue

3. Southwest

4. United

5. US Airways

6. American

Anyway, American acknowledged the problem and were – as legally-required – looking into it, although they didn’t provide details as to what caused the loose seat problem, then citing “a lot of contributing factors.”

But last week, came the revelation. American told CBS that “a combination of wear, poor design, and even soda spilled into the seat tracks caused the pins to pop out of the grooves.” No, seriously. According to American the seal lock plunger mechanism can “get gunked up over time from people spilling sodas, popcorn, coffee, or whatever, and that can affect the mechanism that locks the seats to the floor.” ‘Gunked up” is apparently the technical term, but don’t worry because it’s just a condition that’s been identified on American’s planes.

Anyway, for those of you with nonrefundable tickets on American, American is currently in the process of installing an FAA-approved locking mechanism, so you ought to be A-OK.

Oh, and there is no truth to the rumors that American is going to ask you to be neater or is going to charge passengers extra for a sippy cup!

Robert Passikoff
Robert Passikoff, Founder and President of Brand Keys, Inc., pioneered research in loyalty and engagement, creating the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® ,the Sports Fan Loyalty Index® , and the Women's Wear Daily Fashion Brand Engagement Index® . His first best-selling book, Predicting Market Success provides marketers a 21st century perspective on predictive loyalty metrics. His newest book is The Certainty Principle: How to Guarantee Brand Profits in the Consumer Engagement Marketplace.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here