Sunday, December 27, 2009

American Airlines to Europe, 1999

This advert, inside an American timetable, embodies just the sort of timid, dated aesthetic that gives American Airlines its insipid, apprehensive reputation. Aimed squarely at its American customers (for who beyond US shores refers to "England"), the map wilts the page with its drippy, watercolor motif, perhaps meant to suggest the museum-hopping of a European vacation. American could not compete in Stockholm, and has since left. Several years ago it did dawn on American's executives, along with the rest of the corporate suites of the US legacy carriers, that high-margin international passengers were being handed off to foreign carriers at major hubs, while they concentrated on regional jets to Des Moines. It also helps that Southwest hasn't gone international, yet. Hence, American tried Moscow and Delhi, United is off to Bahrain, Lagos, and Accra, and Delta is touching down in every city that any other carrier in the world flies to, from Malabo to Melbourne to Montevideo to Malaga. Whether this is a new era of American aviation, in which hyperglobalization shifts the giants from 737s to Las Vegas and into 787s to Lahore, with less Nashville and more Nairobi, remains to be seen. Its an open question if US Carriers can compete on comfort and service with the Europeans, much less the Asian spas-in-the-sky. Delta seems to have had success on its Africa network, which has cut travel times from the East Coast, bypassing a connection in Paris or Amsterdam.

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