Image: Vance Walstra

“It’s not surprising to me”: This was the reaction of American Airlines (AA) CEO Doug Parker on learning during his keynote session that AA has become one of only 25 global airlines with a five-star Official Airline Rating.

AA continues to make improvements to the passenger experience. Parker announced that from December 1, 2018, passengers on domestic flights over three hours will be able to purchase food from a menu created in collaboration with Zoës Kitchen. He also revealed that with Bose exiting the aviation market, AA has now partnered with Bang & Olufsen, whose H9i headset will be introduced in first and business class during Q2 of 2019.

Since merging with US Airways in 2013, Parker said AA has invested $26 billion in the business, $19 billion of which was spent on replacing 500 of its aircraft. He described AA’s current product offering as a “day-to-night difference” from that of just a few years ago.

For example, AA’s new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft no longer have seatback entertainment, instead offering a combination of free access to 12 channels of live TV and paid-for in-flight Wi-Fi – a setup Parker referred to as “the future of flight.”

Looking to the future, Parker seems positive about premium economy, which, he said, is seeing “real high demand at nice fares” and will soon be in place on all of AA’s international aircraft. “It’s a product we’re very fond of and one I expect you’ll see us expanding as we move forward,” he continued.

In terms of what could be improved, Parker acknowledged that AA is now heavily focused on its operational reliability, citing both ongoing merger-related and aircraft-related issues.