EDITORIAL: Focus on standard-seating return flies in the face of a recent American Airlines campaign

CEO Gerald Arpey told shareholders recently that American Airlines is cutting $4 billion in expenses as a result of its "turnaround plan." But that wasn't what made the headlines. Reports focused instead on the airline's decision to bring back standard seating to 23% of its fleet, in order to offer more competitive fares in certain markets.

CEO Gerald Arpey told shareholders recently that American Airlines is cutting $4 billion in expenses as a result of its "turnaround plan." But that wasn't what made the headlines. Reports focused instead on the airline's decision to bring back standard seating to 23% of its fleet, in order to offer more competitive fares in certain markets.

That's significant coming from an airline that has made much of its "More Room Throughout Coach" campaign, launched in 2000. It's also risky, as the legroom story plays well when most airlines are only taking things away from their beleaguered passengers. As the big carriers' prospects soured, in-flight meals turned into snacks, and in-flight movies no one had ever heard of became the featured entertainment. But legroom does not fall into the same category as food or flicks. No one ever chose an airline on the basis of its fine cuisine. Virgin Atlantic won some fans with fancy entertainment centers in coach back in the 1990s, but I doubt that family vacations were planned around them. And now that many people will carry their own distraction devices on board with them, in the form of portable DVD players and GameBoys, those trappings are far less significant. No doubt there are many who would rather sit with their knees under their chin than pay $100 more than they have to for a ticket, and those are the travelers that American is targeting. More than 75% of the fleet will remain roomy. But in its zeal to sell its tough business decisions, the company must be careful not to underestimate the success of its own campaign. Public relations pro shows personal side I never doubted that Dan Klores could one day make me cry, but I never guessed why. The founder of Dan Klores Communications, who recently helped Tim Robbins craft his response to the Baseball Hall of Fame's cancellation of the Bull Durham anniversary, has created a project that's far more personal. Together with childhood friend and advertising executive Ron Berger, Klores co-directed a documentary film about the guys he grew up with in Brighton Beach, NY. The Boys of 2nd Street Park, which will air on Showtime this autumn, is an unvarnished look at the lives of some of Klores' contemporaries - the offspring of immigrant parents, boys who did much of their growing up on the park's basketball courts in the 1950s. While their attachment to hoops never waned, their lives took divergent paths as the counterculture of the 1960s - and its attendant drugs, war protests, and "free love" distractions - took hold. Klores interviewed 25 "boys" for the piece, though most of that footage ended up on the cutting-room floor (an editing process that Klores clearly found difficult). Some of the guys suffered unbearable pain over the years, while others took unexpected routes off the boardwalk. None of it is particularly shocking or new. But what ultimately makes it so moving, and real, is the room he and Berger give these men to tell their own story, without narration or explanation. It is storytelling at its most powerful because the directors trusted these basically ordinary guys to tell it on their own.

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