Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
After all, when four airline groups own more than 80 percent of all the airline seats in America, they tend to have an incentive to preserve the status quo.
On Friday, however, American Airlines Executive Vice President for People and Communications, Elise Eberwein found herself sitting in a First Class seat.
On United Airlines.
In her position, what might you have done?
Observed closely, perhaps. Taken notes -- mental or physical -- surely. Perhaps, if you're the mischievous sort, you might even have played the difficult passenger, just to see how the Flight Attendants reacted.
Less likely, perhaps, is that you'd go on Twitter and tell your 357 followers what you thought.
Eberwein, though, took that option. She tweeted:
Fun to fly the competition as a paying Cust (tho I hate giving them the rev). @united trip report. Thus far 1 hr late, no pre takeoff bev (flying 1st class) and no blankets. Super friendly Flt Attn in front.
Why wasn't Eberwein flying American, I hear you cry. Was this a spying mission? It can't have been a good one, if she's tweeting about it.
Could it be that she couldn't get a seat on an American flight?
(I asked American and will update, should I hear.)
What's clear is that she was flying from Chicago to Salt Lake City.
More importantly, it's fascinating how an airline professional judges another airline.
American is known -- like United -- for its obsession with leaving on time. The so-called D0.
Eberwein doesn't mention why the flight was delayed. There might, of course, have been a very good reason, such as the weather.
This is something of which she'd be very aware, as American had a torrid summer on the on-time front.
As my colleague Bill Murphy Jr. reported, American struggled to maintain a lot of its old planes. This, together with inclement weather meant it fell badly down the on-time departure league table.
And then Eberwein wasn't impressed with the lack of a pre-fight beverage.
Those who regularly fly up front can get conniptions on this subject. Indeed, it's one of American's two principles of great customer service.
Sadly, when I flew American First Class last year, I didn't even get a hullo from the Flight Attendant. Yes, I got a pre-flight drink, but I also got such a harassed tone of service that the Flight Attendant seemed entirely overwhelmed and unenthusiastic.
Personally, I'm not terribly moved by the idea of a pre-flight drink. I find the mere idea of champagne before a flight deeply pointless.
Yet some people believe it reflects on their status, as does seeing a blanket on the seat.
When a Twitterer suggested that they didn't get a pre-flight drink on, oh, American Airlines, Eberwein insisted she wasn't trying to compare.
She added, though:
Their pre lunch hot towels were plush compared 2 AA.
Now there's another little touch that I'm not sure moves me to paroxysms.
There was, though, one touchingly humorous complaint offered by Eberwein:
We had no screens today. And couldn't get their app to download so couldn't watch their movies. But that's ok, I had Homeland season 6 downloaded.
Yes, it's terrible having no seatback screens. This is a policy being pioneered by, oh, American Airlines, as it removes them all.
Interestingly, though, Eberwein did notice the friendly attitude of a Flight Attendant.
I noticed the same when I flew United a few weeks ago. This is an area United has been emphasizing and clearly has taken effect in at least two instances.
In a subsequent tweet, Eberwein also said she (emoji-)loved the "2 lady aviators who flew us here."
In essence, then, United offered a patchy service.
One can conclude, then, that it's not so different from American.
Just a little more human.