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American Lays Off 700, Biz Travelers Get Ice Cream

American made a few announcements this week that, in combination, send the sort of message a struggling business probably wants to avoid. First, the bad news: American will shut down its Kansas City maintenance base, to the tune of nearly 500 lost jobs. Along with several other cuts, the total job losses announced yesterday topped 700. The cuts in Kansas City come as more and more domestic carriers send their aircraft out of the U.S. for maintenance, instead of to facilities like the one American is closing. American is offering incentives for Kansas City employees to relocate elsewhere.

This is pretty depressing news, of course, but fear not: American has your back. With commemorative certificates!

Yes, mere hours after those 700 layoffs were made public, American announced it would be giving commemorative certificates for first-time flyers. That’s right, travelers of any age who choose American for their first flight can receive a free commemorative certificate signed by the aircraft’s pilots and flight attendants!

As if that weren’t enough, on Tuesday, American announced it will add three Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sundaes to its complimentary business-class service. Yay for ice cream! I scream, you scream—oh, wait, did they say business class? Never mind, this doesn’t do most of us any good, and certainly not anyone who was recently laid off.

Reading all this, two words jump to mind: Tone deaf. I certainly don’t begrudge American adding perks to its service. After all, the airline needs better performance from its business-class product, and a little ice cream could go a long way toward luring travelers to the expensive seats. And the certificates—well, they’re silly but fairly benign and kids will like them.

But at the risk of sounding like a raging populist, I can’t help but wonder who decided it would be a good idea to release all this news at once. Did no one think about it? Or worse, did someone at American actually think ice cream and first-time-flyer certificates would somehow overshadow the loss of 700 jobs? And is adding completely frivolous perks a justifiable move as the economy—not to mention American Airlines—contracts and sheds jobs?

Honestly, if American had waited a week or two and released its ice cream and certificate news then, I doubt anyone would have noticed. Instead, the airline chose to throw it all out at once, showing how clueless, shameless, and desperate it is.

Wait a second, American just announced it will be offering free in-flight Wi-Fi from November 1 to 7. Just enter promo code 2010LEXUSLS when logging on to the airline’s Gogo wireless service. That’s right, the offer is sponsored by Lexus.

What were we talking about?

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