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February 9, 2005

DeadCompanyFlying: American Airlines


Hey, I'm not exactly telling you something you haven't heard here before — probably often enough to last you a lifetime.

Nevertheless, it's always interesting to chart the progress of an industry circling the drain.

The vortex picked up a bit more speed with today's USA Today story by Marilyn Adams about American Airlines' decision, annnounced yesterday, to eliminate pillows from most of its domestic flights.

First punctuality, than attitude, then food, then leg room, now pillows: what's next, one wonders?

Perhaps the seats?

They could reconfigure their planes to carry passengers like the giant troop transports used by the military: that'd save a bundle.

What I especially like is the amount American's going to save annually by dumping the pillows: $375,000.

I suspect that's about what the soon-to-be departing CEO's "golden parachute" lists as his annual "consulting fee," payable — with allowance for inflation — for the rest of his life.


DeadIndustryFlying is more like it.

Here's the story.

    American Tosses Pillows Off Most Domestic Flights

    Flying is about to get a bit harder. Literally.

    Airline pillows are soon coming off most of American Airlines' domestic flights to cut costs.

    Estimated savings: $375,000 a year.

    The world's largest airline, American said Tuesday that pillows will be removed from first-class and coach cabins on all domestic flights except transcontinental trips and flights to Hawaii starting Feb. 15.

    Pillows will disappear from all Boeing 737s and 757s and Airbus A300s, spokesman Tim Wagner says.

    International flights will not be affected.

    American, which averted a bankruptcy-reorganization filing in 2003, lost $761 million last year.

    The new pillow policy was first reported by the Dallas Morning News.

    American pulled pillows from its MD-80 fleet in November to save $300,000 a year, then decided to widen the action.

    It costs money to replace pillows when they get soiled.

    "We had some resistance from customers initially, but complaints dropped off," Wagner says.

    Blankets will remain on all flights to keep passengers warm when cabins get cold. They can serve as pillows if necessary, he said.

    American is hoping most passengers won't care that pillows are gone.

    "I have never used pillows on American or any other carrier," says James Espy, president of a Christopher, Ill.-based company that makes Christmas decorations.

    "Have you looked at these specimens? How often are they cleaned?"

    But not all passengers will bid farewell to pillows lightly.

    Dallas-based flier Kathy Anthon has back trouble and already misses pillows on her American MD80 flights.

    "I hate to have to bring one with me, but a rolled-up blanket just doesn't work as well," says Anthon, who works for Iwatsu, the phone system maker.

    Business flier Tom Taylor of Lansing, Mich., uses pillows to add cushion to rock-hard airplane seats.

    "Two of them on the seat makes it a bit more comfortable," Taylor says.

    Washington-based frequent flier David Blanchard says he'll never substitute a blanket for a pillow because airplane blankets collect germs, too.

    "I can't tell you how many times I've seen people wrap their feet in them," he says.

    American isn't the only big airline making pillows scarce.

    Starting last week, Delta Air Lines moved pillows to the back of all planes on flights from its Atlanta home base to speed up boarding and improve on-time performance.

    Pillows take up valuable space in overhead compartments, where carry-on bags need to go, Delta says.

    Delta passengers will have to ask a flight attendant for a pillow.

February 9, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink


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I just would like to say that American Airlines is low qualitity. Yesterday my flight home was canceled and I am now stuck in Chicago for another night.Also, I'm without any of my luggage, because it got sent off on an earlier flight to New York. At American Airlines, nobody wishes to help you, and they can cancel flights on a second.

Posted by: Lissy | Aug 15, 2005 10:33:57 AM

The last time I flew, which was a couple of years ago, it occured to me that the airlines could simultaneously cut costs and deal with security concerns if they would just eliminate conventional seats and replace them with benches along the bulkheads, exactly like a military C-130. Passengers would be required to board naked and would then be secured to their seats with an ankle manacle, from which they could briefly be released by the flight attendant for trips to the "bathroom", which would be a bucket in the corner. Not only would on-board security cease to be a problem, but it would help passengers get to know each other better.

Posted by: chris | Feb 10, 2005 11:26:08 AM

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