The New American Airlines And Their Merger With US Airways

Most of you who keep up with me on twitter know at least two things are certain about me.

I love traveling and I love flying American Airlines.

Something you won’t pick up from me very often at all is my dislike for other airlines or even bad customer experience from products I use. I think the days of complaining on twitter are not as productive as they once were (there are some exceptions to this) and it does make the complainer look like… a complainer.

New_American_Airlines

Before I go any further I need to say this. No matter who you like to fly… ALL AIRLINES HAVE THEIR SHARE OF PROBLEMS and American certainly has their fair share of them. So there is really no perfect airline, but there are airlines who minimize the negatives well and handle customer service well. @AmericanAir has mastered handling customer service through social media better than any I have seen. Bravo!

Now… all that to say, the thought of my favorite airline merging with my least favorite airline scared the mess out of me. But now my view has completely changed for the positive.

It all started when American Airlines rolled out their new branding and their new planes equipped with updated cabins.

Over the past twelve years I’ve racked up almost 2.5 million flown miles with American with a portion of that internationally. One major area they have been way behind in is their cabins in economy, business and first class for international travel where not what they could be. Don’t get me wrong, flying business class to Europe or Asia is pretty amazing, but still behind the competition.

This is in the process of all being updated. I’ve seen the new look of the cabins and I’m impressed. They have finally stepped up to the international plate and firmly made their place at the table. Domestically, this means upgrades as well which is always a good thing.

I’m also impressed with the new look of the American Airlines brand. The new livery on the planes look awesome and the logo is slick. It feels very contemporary and competitive.

So here’s the part I was really concerned with – The merger with US Airways.

The few times I’ve flown US Airways, the experience was less than impressive. From the checking in process all the way through the flight I never felt like this airline was really trying to win friends and influence travelers. However, I’ve always made it to my destination.

The truth is I’ve never been a fan. Ever. So when I heard they are going to merge… I got a little shaky. “What’s going to happen to my American Airlines!!!”

In the past couple of weeks I found out that US Airways has been operating in a profit. WHAT??? Yep… it’s true. That right there told me that no matter what I don’t like about them, they are doing something right.

Then as recently as yesterday when the merger came through, all the reports I heard and read had these things to say. The labor unions at American are extremely happy with the merger which hopefully means no more sabotaged delays by pilots, mechanics and flight attendants for us! YEAH!

Also this new company merger will retain all the brand of the New American Airlines and the Advantage frequent flyer program stay the same. My guess is the US Airways frequent flyer program will get merged into Americans frequent flyer program. Home office will still be in Dallas and here is the great part for employees of both companies. Because there is minimal overlap of routes, there aren’t expected to be any major layoff’s. At least that is what’s being reported in the news so far.

So, it sounds like a win/win for everyone. Us as travelers and them as a company trying to stay alive and in the game giving us all a big and better travel experience.

I have to say the way this all rolled out in the recent weeks did nothing short of increase my loyalty to American Airlines. Rolling out impressive new branding followed by a very promising merger exceeded every expectation I had for this situation.

Why I’m Switching Hotel Brands

For the past 12 years, I’ve been traveling like a mad man. Flying about 25 – 30 round trip flights a year on American Airlines and staying in Hilton brand (Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites) hotels almost every night of those trips. About 40 – 50 nights a year, sometimes more. But it’s time for a change.

I really like what Hilton has done over the years. They are a great brand but I find my personal tastes changing. So I’m switching to Marriott. I’m needing more from a hotel brand that makes travel just a tad easier and honestly… I like seeing big brands who are updating their look to keep up with travel trends.

I saw this when I walked into a Courtyard Marriott. I felt like I found a hotel that looks as cool as Aloft but with a lot more comfort.

I was very impressed.

One of the reasons I’m switching is this. Over the years, I’ve paid close attention to how loyalty and points programs have changed. What seems to be happening is some big brands tend to make it harder and harder to get to a higher level of status and to accumulate points. Thus making it harder to book a free night stay or a free flight.

When I looked into Marriott rewards a little closer I noticed not only is can you accumulate points and status a little faster, Marriott also has a very competitive structure for redeeming rewards for a free night stay.

Example: I booked our family a free night with Courtyard Marriott for our Thanksgiving trip. It cost 10,000 points. The Hampton Inn down the street costs 25,000 points. Both hotels are in the same area.

Here was something of a surprise for me as well. I went to re-activate my Marriott rewards number, which I haven’t used in YEARS! I was shocked to see I still had 17,000 unused points with Marriott. Yep… so I used them:)

Marriott also has a very intuitive app. I just booked a weekend of hotels for a run in Texas using the app and it was just as fast, if not faster than going online to book the rooms.

Now… let’s say most things in the travel world are equal. Many large hotel brands are close in comparison. Nice rooms, good prices etc.

But here was the one deciding factor that put me over the edge. I decided to tweet out that I was thinking of switching from @HiltonHHonors to @Marriott.

I immediately got a response from @Marriott and @CourtyardHotels. I had a short conversation with both of them. Brought @AmericanAir into the conversation… they responded as well… and made my decision.

Any brand willing to engage the conversation people are having about them is worth taking my business there. It’s one of the main reasons I fly American Airlines and rent cars from National.

As a side note… @HiltonHHonors was silent the whole time.

Am I mad at Hilton? Not at all. Do I feel like I deserve something from them? Not at all. I’ve given them 12 years of loyal business and they have served me well. But times are changing and becoming more updated with the needs of this new travel world.

Big travel brands need to remember. There are a lot of business travelers like me wanting to engage with them online to better the experience all the way around from talking favorably about their brand online to getting some faster customer service.

Marriott gets it. So does American Airlines.

If you are loyal to certain brands… Why? What is it that makes you proud to be their customer?

Google Is No Longer A Search Engine…

google_reputation_management_system… It’s a reputation management system.

A slightly strange concept for some of you, especially if you aren’t familiar with the words, Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Meaning… if you do a search in google for Spence Smith then you will see my name on several pages. Most people never make it past the first page when search for something on Google. OR… if you were to search for just my first name, Spence, then you will find my blog about half way down the first page. It may not seem like a big deal to you but when my blog comes up 5th out of 9,060,000 searches for ‘spence’ then this will tell you… I am optimizing the Google search engine in the best way possible.

So what about the reputation management part? Well… think about it this way. You can find ANYTHING or ANYONE on the internet. If someone doesn’t like you or the services of your company and they post something about you, then people will find it on the internet.

Let’s pick on the airline industry for a minute. One of the things you can do to see how a company handles themselves is put the word ‘sucks’ after the company name in the google search bar. I fly American Airlines… of all the airlines I have flown, they give me the best service for my travel needs especially overseas, but they suck when it comes to managing their reputation online. You can google just American Airlines and things seem fine for a bit… but put the words American Airlines Sucks in and everything changes.

Now one of the best low budget airlines is Southwest. I fly them a couple of times a year and they are great at what they do. When you do the same with Southwest and put the words Southwest Airlines Sucks after their name, well… you get a few complaints on the fisrt page of google, but there is also a list for American Airlines Sucks on the same page!!!! What!!! But I wasn’t looking for American this time… So, go a few more pages into google and you will find a few complaints about southwest, but you will also find more about American, Delta and United.

Southwest is winning in this department. Why is That? Because they have a blog called Nuts About Southwest. On this blog they have several posts about what they do and who they are, but because they are in tune with what people are saying about them online, they are willing to go directly to the source and get to the bottom of the problem and become a better company for it. You can leave a comment on the southwest blog and you will get a response. Heck, they are even on twitter. American Airlines on the other hand tried to start a blog last year through blogger and only posted 3 times.

If American wanted to work on their reputation, then they would engage people online. Join the rest of us in the conversation and be open to hearing complaints and resolving issues. Again… I am a loyal American Airline customer, but it makes me sad to see such a huge company show the rest of us they don’t really want to listen.

Want to see another example of those that listen? If you travel you won’t believe this one, but the TSA is GREAT at listening to us travelers and coming up with solutions. TSA- Evolution of Security

So… I will leave you with this.

Someone is having a conversation about you online right now. Are you apart of the conversation? Do you know it’s happening? If not… why not?

If you want to know how to know how to manage your reputation online, then come to LifeWork 2.0. We’ll show you and you will Love It!!!!