Why American Airlines doesn't tout its maintenance work

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by tom911, Apr 13, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Interesting article that points out that AA does 89% of its maintenance in-house while Southwest only does 38%. Also that there's an unwritten code not to talk about airline safety, so AA won't talk about Southwest outsourcing to El Salvador.
     
  2. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    Yep. The ABC special that ran a few years back showed the maintenance group stripping down planes and replacing seats etc.. Very good documentary!
     
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  3. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Without discussing the outsourcing issues, not only AA but LH and EK do most of their own work and also do work on other airlines aircraft outsourced to them. LH has made it a fairly big business. AA also has done flight traing for otehr airlines for many years, anotehr commonly outsourced function.

    OTOH, several engine categories, RR Trent, for example, are msotly maintained by the manufacturer of the engines.

    There is nothing inherent in outsourcing that makes quality or pricing better or worse, IMO. There are good and bad examples with both approaches. Both have major safety implications if done improperly and both require enormous quality control discipline.

    AA has been very very good with heavy maintenance for many years. The AA aficianados may recall that CR Smith decided to eliminate paint on most parts of teh fleet in order to save painting cost, maintenence and weight as well as make corrosion inspections easier. There is a fairly long series of AA maintenence innovations that have served them well.

    Good post, thanks.
     
  4. Travel2Food
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    It was a good article, but there's more to the silence than a "gentleman's agreement". I see it as "people who live in glass houses...."

    AA has not been immune to maintenance issues even while maintaining their own fleet. If they were to promote the in-house maintenance, one of the first things that a competitor would do is bring up AA 191. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Airlines_Flight_191 The recent episode with the 762 power ports revealed that some planes wiere miswired, irrespective of the overheating issue. Or the grounding of the MD-80 fleet a couple of years back with the wheel-well issue.

    While we don't yet have a final analysis from the NTSB, it looks like the WN issue was more related to number of cycles and Boeing recommendations than to maintenance.

    Personally, if I were in Arpey's shoes, I'd also be keeping my mouth shut....
     
  5. MSPeconomist
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    DL also does maintenance work for other airlines, although at the same time they send some maintenance work overseas. For example, PMNW rotated A330s through Singapore for major work, which I assume continues.
     
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  6. jbcarioca
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    That was a major omission for me, especially considering the Delta TechOps latest deal.

    All the airlines I know about in MRO concentrate on specifc models/configurations/engines in which they have economy of scale and specific expertise. Thus they both outsource some of their own and also insource some from other carriers. EK, naturally is the A380, but LH does A380 work too. DL is a leader in 737NG, and just won a major deal for engine maintenance:
    http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/delta-techops-wins-another-major-engine-maintenance-deal.8634/
     
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  7. DestinationDavid
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    Unless there's a rash of incidents that are clearly tied back to problems with outsourced maintenence, I think the "home grown" aspect of AA's operation might be a bit too nuanced to advertise effectively with the general public.

    Since the public is looking mostly at price and not the specific details of who installed their door seals I don't see how AA can market this kind of information without looking like it's trying to scare people and, as Travel2Food mentioned, opening itself up to criticism of its own history of safety issues. Whether those safety issues are valid or overblown by the media is another story all together.
     
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  8. Wurm
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    Wurm Silver Member

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    It could be done, but it would need to be a campaign that turned ONLY on AA and its maintenance standards, leaving out any mention of competitors. One example would be to focus on a single senior mechanical employee, and to demonstrate how his/her experience and training keeps American's passengers in good stead.
     
  9. DestinationDavid
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    That still opens the door for other entities to point out AA's own maintenence issues. I still feel it might be better to focus on something else.
     
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  10. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    If you read the LH inflight magazine, they seem to usually have a story about such an employee.
     
  11. MinimumConnectingTime
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    AA's safety record doesn't show its in-house maintenance provides any safety or dependability advantage. AA planes have had holes ripped in the roof, panels fall off the bottom during TATL flights (DFW-CDG), engine failures on aging MD80s.

    I would guess that the real reason airlines don't like to brag about safety is that there is no real difference to brag about. We all remember PA trying to promote their safety advantage even adding a surcharge.
     
  12. DenverBrian
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    DenverBrian Silver Member

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    Good lord, man, if you're going to throw up accidents from 32 years ago in a debate about maintenance work in 2011, you're definitely reaching.
     
  13. DestinationDavid
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    The MD-80 grounding in 2008 is pretty recent and involved many questioning AA's in-house maintenance work. Sure - going back 30 years is odd, but it still illustrates that AA (or any airline) can't market its safety record without opening itself up to its competitors and the public looking at safety issues, recent or decades old.
     
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  14. DenverBrian
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    But the original question was why AA doesn't tout its use of in-house maintenance vs. outsourced maintenance.

    Certainly, I consider other airlines (UA in particular) generally safer than AA given the record. But almost all of AA's safety problems in the last 20 years are traceable to pilot error, not maintenance issues.
     
  15. Travel2Food
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    This is about whether to advertise or tout one's maintenance as an "advantage". The issue is one of optics (or perceptions if you prefer). The minute that AA tried to tout in-house maintenance as "safer" is the minute that a competitor would bring up the issues I mentioned. Even if it's 20 years ago (and the MD-80 issues are more recent than that) an effective advertising campaign by an opponent would destroy anything AA tried to achieve. The MD-80 issues were widely discussed as an AA maintenance failure, and the fact that the FAA fined the airline reinforced that.

    191 only serves to make folks think that the issues are long standing. We should be glad that 191 and the other incidents haven't resulted in the scrutiny or press coverage that destroyed Critter (aka ValuJet).

    And touting that "in-house is better" against WN's "hole in fuselage" issue would simply cause the competitor to raise the fuselage hole in AA 1640 from last October.

    I stand by my statement that I'd keep my mouth shut if I were Arpey. Touting in-house maintenance as an advantage is a losing proposition.
     
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  16. Wurm
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    Wurm Silver Member

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    I understand the point you're making. I do think, however, a carefully-nuanced campaign that did not in any way state superiority over other carriers could be effective and worthwhile.

    More specifically, I mean that the reader/listener should be allowed to draw their own conclusions concerning the advantages (AAdvantages?) of in-house maintenance. Also, IMO, any carrier that would try to negatively spin a positive, not-touching-the-competition AA campaign would be (rightly) perceived as churlish as best, and as a base, mud-slinging negative company at worst (both by industry insiders and by the general public).

    Again, such a campaign would need to be carefully considered and executed. But I do think that a campaign that lays out the fact that AA is keeping jobs in the United States, and that gets across that AA tries to maintain greater control over maintenance work and issues, could be a "plus",
     
  17. DestinationDavid
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    I'm not sure how my response doesn't directly related to that issue though?
     
  18. DestinationDavid
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    I see what you mean. AA has at least some history with using the "home" airline appeal and it's branding to draw on flyers.

    AA ran this ad after 9/11 touting the fact that it was proud to be the "American" airline, tying itself to a patriotic, home-grown feeling. Or this one about honoring the US military.

    Does anyone know how well these ads were received?
     
  19. DenverBrian
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    DenverBrian Silver Member

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    It would have to be a competitor that doesn't have its own safety issues or incidents that AA could throw right back, no? Who would that be?

    I think that presupposes way too much power in this hypothetical opponent. This wouldn't be a political campaign, just a subtle ad campaign.

    Um, half the flying public wasn't born when 191 happened. You're putting waaaaay too much weight on an accident from decades ago. That's like saying UA 811 could have resulted in press coverage that destroyed UA.
     
  20. Travel2Food
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    Fine. Have it your way and leave 191 out.

    There's still plenty of recent MX issues that were problems for AA.
     
  21. anabolism
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    anabolism Gold Member

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    I like the idea of ads focusing on specific employees. I think it would be better to not explicitly mention AA maintenance standards, since that implies superiority and comparison; rather, your idea of focusing on specific employees would make the home-grown in-house nature implicit. Such ads could create a warm fuzzy for AA.
     

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