American Airlines CEO won’t admit whether he has flown in AA’s new economy class

Close quarters.
Close quarters.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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Nobody wants to fly economy, but if you’re the CEO of an airline, you should probably do it at least once. Yet American Airlines CEO Doug Parker seems unwilling to admit whether or not he’s flown his airline’s newest economy product.

In January, prominent airline blogger Gary Leff reported that Parker revealed to American employees that he had yet to fly on the airline’s new configuration for coach, which launched in November. The cabin is AA’s most dense, with 156 seats in the main cabin and 16 in first class.

Five months later, Leff decided to check again. In a post published yesterday, he said the airline had declined to comment on whether Parker had flown coach in the new configuration. Quartz reached out for clarification and was told by a rep that the airline was not willing to discuss the CEO’s travel “at that level of detail.”

American Airlines’ new economy product has already proved divisive. The interior of American’s Boeing 737 Max 8 offers seats with 30-inch pitch (the distance from seat-back to seat-back), which is less than prior configurations; no seat-back entertainment (there is satellite-based wifi, but you have to pay for it); and lavatories so small that passengers have been known to get physically stuck in them. There are just two lavatories in the aft of the aircraft—that’s two toilets for all 156 economy passengers—and the doors are known to trap flight attendants in the galley if they’re opened at the same time. (American Airlines flight attendants have complained).

The configuration is not just being used on the new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts, but being retrofitted onto some older American Airlines planes, as well. As Leff wrote: “Since this is the product American Airlines intends to be offering customers on domestic flights for years to come, you would think that the Chairman and CEO of the airline would want to know what the product even is“ (emphasis is Leff’s).