Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
These are difficult times for American Airlines.
The unpleasant dispute with its mechanics is beginning to wear on the airline's ability to maintain good service.
Worse, the airline's financial performance has been wearing at Wall Street's worry beads.
Adding to this turbulent atmosphere, passengers haven't exactly been ululating with glee at the airline's new, so-called Oasis configuration.
That's the one that shoves more seats into planes, reduces legroom for all passengers, and, as a cherry on top, inserts tiny bathrooms. Some passengers are apparently avoiding these bathrooms entirely, preferring to hold their bodily functions in until they land.
Oh, and the seatback screens are no more, though the overhead bins are bigger.
Some might wonder whether all these woes are related.
Last week, one financial big-brain finally plucked up the courage to air that thought to American's CEO, Doug Parker.
At the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Industrials Conference, Jamie Baker -- who works for JP Morgan -- wondered whether there was some relationship between the airline's poor financial performance and "the Oasis experience."
As View From the Wing's Gary Leff reported, Baker added: "Maybe it's the configuration of the aircraft that's holding you back, from a revenue perspective?"
Could it be this idea hadn't quite entered the minds of American's management?
It's surely well known that if you treat your customers poorly, they may not continue using your service.
It's also true that American has become the poster infant for domestic customer mistreatment.
Then again, for the longest time Parker didn't even bother trying the new Oasis product. He didn't even understand why anyone would care that he hadn't.
When he finally tried it, he offered a lukewarm review.
Perhaps that's why Parker, according to Leff, took this brutally direct question and offered a painfully evasive response. As Leff writes:
He did not talk about retrofitting the domestic fleet. He did not talk about the domestic ("Oasis") product. Instead he acknowledged the revenue gap against Delta and United, suggested "we were making enormous progress 2015, 2016, 2017" -- notably right before they began rolling out this new inferior product -- and then [in] " '18 we trailed those two..."
Yes, but why did American suddenly begin trailing the other two?
Parker performed a pivot. He began to talk about other issues, including American's uncompetitive sub-cattle class (a.k.a. basic economy) product.
Finally, there was an explanation that may affect some customers' breathing.
Parker said American was "behind Delta on merchandising."
Ah, so the product is wonderful. It's just that American is marketing it poorly.
Can't you see this, American customers? Why can't you see this?
All airlines have their issues. But to blame the performance of something that's manifestly not a good idea -- how can reducing legroom in first class ever be a way to attract more business travelers? -- on how you're selling it borders on the risible.
In previous pronouncements, Parker suggested the larger overhead bins and improved Wi-Fi are the most important elements of the new configuration.
Fly American. The symbiosis of Wi-Fi and thrombosis!
Parker has also declared that what passengers care about most is whether their flight arrives on time.
Perhaps, though, it's worth Parker's considering whether degrading the essential comfort of a plane might make customers feel uncomfortable about his brand.
Customers have power and sometimes they wield it.
They'd wield it even more if they had more choice as to which airlines they can fly.