UPDATE (May 16th): This article just got linked on Airliners.net, which is a site I enjoy reading… unfortunately it isn’t mutual! In the interest of presenting a fair and balanced website (which longtime readers will know is my main concern), I’d like to present some… er… let’s call them “counter-opinions.” All quotes used without permission because I’m just an overly-dramatic pimply kid who doesn’t understand how that stuff works.
@wjcandee writes: Idiotic snarky response. Makes so many false deductions from the original article. The article authori is likely just an overly-dramatic pimply kid in his parents’ basement who has nothing better to do. It’s the kind of “article” that reflects the worst of the social media world, where people who nobody would bother listening to suddenly have followers, because they say mean stuff. NOBODY at Airbus was “laughing”, nothing was “embarrassing”. This airline makes boatloads of money, and in the business world, folks would STUDY — rather than mock — companies that make this kind of money by doing things differently.
@fraspotter opines: Please tell me that this is satire because the person that wrote that response “article” is an absolute idiot. “Windbag” indeed.
@gatibosgru maintains: The follow-up article, however, was cringy and tough to finish. Allegiant has never claimed to be at the same level as the “big boys”, and they have plenty of opportunities to learn. This was their first time buying a new aircraft, you have to expect that a first time buyer is learning and doesn’t know anything.
Now back to the original post…
This article by Brian Sumers on Skift may be the most bonkers thing I’ve ever read about commercial air travel. I was going to try to write an article responding to it, but it’s so off-the-wall insane that I can’t even string my thoughts into a coherent narrative. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so immediately (although not if you have any air travel scheduled on Allegiant anytime soon).
Since you really owe it to yourself to read the whole article, I’m not going to go into great detail summarizing it. For those of you who just want the top-level overview, Allegiant mostly buys used planes and is so focused on cutting costs that they don’t bother to rebrand the interior, meaning the inside of the plane looks like whichever airline they bought it from. However, due to demand, they now have to buy new planes, and they had no idea how complicated buying a plane is. THEY ARE AN AIRLINE WHO JUST LEARNED THAT PLANES ARE COMPLICATED. I guess the thing that I find so bananas is how willing Allegiant is to admit that they have no idea what the fuck they’re doing. Well, in some ways they straight-up admit they don’t know what they’re doing, and in other ways, they’re clearly just batshit insane.
Let’s take the example of the orange stripe that runs across the bottom of the overhead bins on most of their planes. The orange stripe comes from EasyJet in the UK, which has a specific Pantone color for their orange, because they – like most public-facing companies – try to present a consistent-looking brand to their customers. Since Allegiant is a frequent customer of EasyJet’s sloppy seconds, a lot of Allegiant planes have the orange stripe. So I guess when Allegiant went to Airbus to get brand new planes, they thought that those planes should also have the stripe? This is mind-boggling from a branding perspective: “Our customers are used to seeing another company’s branding in our planes, so we have to make sure we continue to deliver that.” And they got really oddly particular about matching EasyJet’s shade of orange as closely as possible EVEN THOUGH ALLEGIANT HAS ORANGE IN THEIR LOGO. They had a chance to put an orange stripe in the cabin and specifically chose NOT to match their own logo, instead copying another brand’s signature color.
It gets even better: at first, Airbus wouldn’t duplicate the EasyJet color, because they (naturally) didn’t want to use another customer’s signature color. So the Allegiant people called EasyJet and had them send a letter to Airbus authorizing the use of that particular orange. Can you imagine the look on the EasyJet people’s faces when they got this request? And do you think Allegiant knew how incompetent they sounded, or did this seem to them like a normal thing that one commercial airline would ask another?
Or how about the fact that their livery is applied so cheaply on the outside of the planes that Airbus didn’t want to paint the new planes to Allegiant’s specs because they thought it would reflect badly on them!!! As one of the big two airplane manufacturers, Airbus doesn’t really seem all that picky about which airlines they will and won’t sell to, but I have to imagine this is the first time an airline has asked them to make the paint job shittier so that it would match their other shitty planes. (Also, they suddenly care about visual consistency while at the same time saying that their customers don’t care that the interiors of their planes are all different.)
Moving on, check out this quotation: “They kind of walk you through the process and say, ‘Now its time to make these 14 decisions,”‘ Davis [VP of Marketing] said. “That’s when we open the catalogue and say, ‘Oh, shit, there are many, many options.’” OH SHIT? YOU REALLY WALKED INTO TO AIRBUS AND SAID “OH SHIT”??? I can’t get over the image of the Airbus executives looking at each other and then looking around the room for the cameras that are surely hidden somewhere, because the only natural reaction to this level of incompetence from an actual, functioning airline would be to assume you were being punked. This Davis guy may just be my favorite airline executive of all time. Here’s another gem from him: “Or, as Davis put it, “If you said, ‘I want purple elephants on my side walls, they would do that for you.'” Like it’s a fucking trapper keeper!
One of the hilarious things in the article is that, while most airlines send entire teams to Toulouse to spec out new planes, Allegiant figured it would be okay just to send their PR manager. One of the tasks she had was to figure out how long the water would run in the bathroom, about which she provided the following: “I just flew back yesterday from Dallas on American on an A321,” Schaefer said. “Their water seems to run a little longer. It’s so weird. I have the weirdest job.” THE WEIRDEST JOB! Just so we’re clear, this is a PR exec at a commercial airline who thinks she has the weirdest job because airplanes are weird.
I could keep going, but you get the point. What I’m sure about is that I’ll never set foot on Allegiant for as long as I live. I’ve read about their substandard safety record, but this honestly is more concerning than that. I can forgive a loose bolt here and there, but C-suite executives being bewildered by airplanes’ complexity is a deal-breaker. A prerequisite for me to get on a plane is that the company who operates the plane didn’t say “Oh shit, there are so many options” when they bought it.
I’m sure some readers have flown Allegiant before… was it just like any other shitty flight on an ultra-low cost carrier? Were you aware before you took off that a PR exec was the one who made sure the inside of the plane looked like an EasyJet plane so that you wouldn’t get confused? Finally, I want to express my undying gratitude to Brian Sumers for writing this article. He’s already one of my favorite aviation journalists, but he has now ascended to hero status for bringing Allegiant’s insanity into my life. Also, the fact that he was able to conduct the interview without doubling over laughing is pretty impressive.