American Airlines just doesn't seem to "get it." They don't understand that the AA brand is their promise to their loyal frequent travelers. Or, if they do understand the "promise," someone left the accountants "home alone."
food critic and I certainly don't fly because of the great cuisine, but I do know that over the years, I've grown attached to several of the small promises AA makes as part of their branding statement.
I noticed the bland and jaw-breaking soy nuts in an instant and asked the flight attendant if this was temporary due to a worldwide pistachio shortage or whether some not-so-bright MBA decided I should increase my soy intake. She said AA had changed the nut mixture about 3 days ago and she had heard complaints about it on every flight.
By the way, the soy nuts only lasted about a month and the pistachios have returned. The AA brand was whole again.
Well, not quite. Early Wednesday morning I flew from Chicago to Boston. I noticed the first class meal was listed as a, "breakfast snack." I take that flight at least once every month and usually, breakfast is a choice between an omelet and Special K cereal with a banana. I always chose the Special K and banana to make-up for my soy nut deficiency.
This flight was different. A "breakfast snack" is the choice between a bagel and a biscuit. From my perspective, that's like a choice between lard and Crisco. The flight attendant hadn't noticed the Special K was missing and her body language said she didn't care. She had more pressing matters on her mind, like rushing through the bagel and biscuit service so she could return to her jump seat and complete her next month's schedule bid.
Here comes, the interesting part -- you knew there had to be a point to this. On the return flight to Chicago on Friday morning, the choice between the omelet and cereal was back. I asked the flight attendant, who had obviously completed her bid from next months schedule, and she said it had to do with competition. When AA has competition within a predefined time slot between two city pairs, they upgrade the first class meal. When they have the time slot all to themselves, they downgrade the meal.
If you're a cost accountant, that probably makes sense. If you are a frequent traveler who expects pistachios and Special K as part of AA brand's promise, you probably think the company doesn't care much about you and certainly doesn't care much about the integrity of their brand.
Remember, your brand is your promise and breaking your promise to your customer, will erode the magic of your brand and eventually destroy customer loyalty.