Monday, August 2, 2010

Is the Coach Seat Greener on the Other Airline?

I'm just home from another long week in California, clothes still infused with the smell of stale coffee from the cabin and kerosene from the airport. As usual American Airlines was the chariot of choice to get there and back but this time something was just not quite right. The flight was on time and the personal service at the counter, check-in and on board were all at least according to the usual standards expected from this proud company. Where the cupboard was bare and the furnishings themselves equally threadbare was the physical product, the seat.

This particular 767-300, Ship #383/MSN 26995, has been with the company for a good number of years and has undergone countless refits as seat trends have come and gone in the premium cabins. Now running around with International Business Class and standard economy only - International First Class is no longer available on anything other than the 777 fleet - it is standard economy that appears to have been the original set of seats from the day this aircraft first entered commercial service in July of 1993.

The seats still featured the spin-dial controls for both channel and volume control which was all I needed to see regarding anything in the way of the in flight entertainment options. My seat was a window in one of the exit rows from which I was able to view a main screen mounted on the center bulkhead and smaller versions of the same on the two bulkheads at the side. That was it. No personal monitors to be seen or found anywhere. And with centralized entertainment, when the Flight Attendants pushed "Play" that was the age old signal for everyone to sit down and tune in or miss out. At least the Air Map was displayed between featured shows and films.

This is the most prevalent in flight entertainment American apparently has to offer and I have to say I cannot imagine ten hours to Europe or South America with such ancient "IFE" on board. All airlines are hurting, few as badly as American who lost half a billion dollars in the first three months of this year. Somehow, though, competitors and alliance partners alike seem to have a few coins left over to improve things in the back of the bus, including video-on-demand. The seat is and will perhaps always be what it is but seat controls right out of the 1970 film "Airport?"

My family and I are planning a vacation to Europe next year. My choices out of Dallas if I want to stay on the oneworld alliance are American Airlines or British Airways. Right now "BA" does not allow you to earn miles on their overseas flights but I hear that is coming. If miles did not matter I would probably go with Lufthansa hands down out of Dallas to Frankfurt but being a mild mileage junkie I would much rather fly British Airways coach product for ten hours after only 2.5 hours of American's.

Is the grass onboard BA greener? With American running third in my choice behind Lufthansa and BA could it be any worse? Only one way to find out.

Gotta go.

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