April 22 - Dear Mr. President, About American Airlines


President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President,

Last week’s shocking mother of all customer service implosions at United Airlines was repeated on American Airlines yesterday. “Hit me, bring it on,” said an aggressive American Airlines flight attendant challenging a customer to a fight for intervening on behalf of a crying mother with twin babies. A witness posted to Facebook: “OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby. Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her. AA591 from SFO to DFW. What’s going on with these American Carriers????”The mother and her children were escorted off the flight. The airline suspended its worker.

Disciplining an employee for not complying with an airline’s “values,” opening an investigation, broadcasting new procedures or announcing additional training is just crisis management public relations spin and does zero to address the root cause of the problem, which is a decades-in-the-making rotten culture. It’s not just United Airlines and American Airlines; it’s all three U.S. network carriers (Big 3). Their arrogance and disdain for the customer knows no bounds. Without question, U.S. consumers are caught up in an increasingly failed market. The arrogant attitude of the Big 3 – what are you going to do about it, you no longer have meaningful competitive alternatives to us – sadly is today’s reality.

Mr. President, can you imagine the following incident at Trump International Hotel in Washington. A young mother having checked in after an exhausting international trip with her twin babies is told by your front desk attendant that she can store her stroller in the baggage storage room or in her guestroom, if there is space. Your guest heads around the front desk toward the elevator and your concierge confronts her and violently rips the stroller from her, and in doing so, hits her in the head, barely misses one of the babies and reduces her to tears. And, when a gallant guest tries to intercede on the crying mother’s behalf, your employee challenges him to a fight to the horror of other guests in your lobby. Would your company culture, ever in a million years, allow that to happen? Of course not!

Those of us who testified in Congress against the recent mega airline mergers predicted the most pernicious effects on communities and consumers from those combinations. However, no one anticipated that their newly bolstered market, economic and political powers would be used to undermine U.S. Department of Transportation consumer protections, ignore their most valued corporate customers’ concerns or demand that the U.S. Government rewrite its Open Skies policy for their exclusive benefit. Since the Big 3 secured their antitrust immunities for their global alliances, and massively consolidated the industry, their near-singular focus has not been on building customer-centric cultures and improving their products and customer service, but rather, on seeking U.S. Government protection from domestic and foreign competition.

In the aftermath of the United Airlines fiasco, I suggested to you and your senior advisors that a reversal of the grave decline in respect for airline customers would require stronger consumer protections, the restoration of the right of consumers to sue airlines for unfair and deceptive practices and increased domestic and foreign airline competition. The Big 3 neither can, want nor will change their bankrupt cultures on their own. Perhaps given that, and Big 3 demands that the U.S. Government protect them from Gulf carrier, and other airline competition, it is time to consider going big with major structural reforms to a failing marketplace. Mr. President, you are not without options.

The first option is to undo some of these airline mergers and restore at least some level of competition. However, these now combined airlines are deeply integrated and any such government policy decision would be tied up for years in court. Consumers need relief sooner rather than later. An alternative is to eliminate a 70-year old obsolete, anti-consumer policy and treat the airlines like the auto industry making them compete with foreign airlines in our domestic markets.

Allowing foreign airlines to carry passengers between U.S. cities would add sorely needed competition and would stimulate regional economies creating jobs. Just as foreign competition forced the automakers to increase efficiency, quality and innovation, so to would the airlines have to reinvent their cultures and up their performance to the benefit of customers. No more broken noses, no more flight attendant challenges to fight customers.

Mr. President, an intervention is needed; you alone can fix this.

Thank you for all that you do in support of American jobs, robust competition and the consumer.

Sincerely,

Kevin Mitchell

Founder

Business Travel Coalition; OpenSkies.travel


COPIES

Vice President Mike Pence

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon

Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway

Special Assistant to the President D.J. Gribbin

Members of the U.S. Congress

 

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