Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When I offer my occasionally skeptical thoughts about American Airlines, its customers cascade abuse upon my ignorance, my being and even my Twitter feed.

No, that's a joke.

What actually happens is that I get messages from yet more American Airlines employees and customers telling me that things at the airline aren't too perfect.

Of course, it's often the whiners who choose to make most noise. 

For some time, though, American has made decision after decision that seems unhelpful to its customers.

The epitome of this is the new, cramped Boeing 737 MAX plane, with the extra-tiny bathrooms described by one of the airline's own pilots as "the most miserable experience in the world."

Why, some passengers are said to be exercising deep personal restraint rather than attempt to use these bathrooms at all.

The airline, though, has always insisted that its customer satisfaction scores were holding steadier than you would be doing, should you be standing in one of those bathrooms.

It's a source, then, of considerable discomfort that the airline admitted it has a big problem. 

During its latest earnings call it admitted that customer satisfaction scores for the airline as a whole have now gone down.

Yes, passengers appear to be bothering to express a little displeasure even on the airline's survey forms.

You might think that -- as well as the tiny bathrooms -- reducing legroom in First Class as well as Economy Class wouldn't necessarily endear American to its customers.

You might even think that executives at American realize this.

However, as Skift reports, American's president Robert Isom believes passengers are unhappy for a different reason.

He said no, no, they're entirely happy with the actual product American offers: 

People are very pleased with what they're getting in terms of service and in terms of the amenities and fleet and airports.

For Isom, though, passengers have just one itty-bitty issue:

They want a reliable airline. They want to be certain they get what they pay for.

You mean like with baggage fees?

Isom's view rhymes perfectly with the opinions of the airline's CEO, Doug Parker.

He recently insisted that by far the most important thing to customers is to get to their destination on time.

I fear he and Isom may not, for once, be correct.

American did have a seemingly greater share of delays last year. It also doesn't appear to manage airplane maintenance as well as, say, Delta. This despite the fact that Delta's planes are older.

But as it forced more and more of its planes into its so-called Project Oasis (seriously) cramped configuration and it flies more and more narrowbody planes stuffed with more and more seats over longer distances -- yes, a narrowbody nightmare to Brazil! -- passengers are going to notice.

Not so long ago, I flew First Class on the airline and witnessed hapless, strained service.

American's Flight Attendants regularly tell me they don't feel the sort of motivation they'd like to, given what they see as management's indifference to anything other than the lure of lucre.

Why, Isom himself declared last year that the airline won't make anything better for passengers unless it can make a profit out of it.

At some point, your customers can see what you're doing and decide they really don't like it.

At some further point, they're going to tell you.

A couple of months ago, I flew on an American Airlines plane that hadn't received the new seat-stuffing, people-squeezing "upgrades."

It was a hauntingly pleasant experience, one that the airline is phasing out.

Is it really any wonder that its customers are now less satisfied?

Published on: Feb 3, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.