DeFeo, who said he is not a big consumer of podcasts, grew up listening to talk and news radio, including New York’s 1010 WINS. He said collects questions from employees for the show and has a full pipeline for more than two more months.
Podcasting isn’t new for corporations, but the format of American’s and its release to the public is “very uncommon,” said Rohit Deshpande, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School.
The company is effectively saying: “We don’t want to employees say things that are different than we are telling our customers,” he said, adding that internal and external communications are often siloed groups and that “Tell Me Why” is “blurring the lines.”
“Most corporations in aviation I think are pretty conservative and like to control the message,” said the host of Airline Geeks podcast, who goes by the nom de pod Max Flight. “Podcasting and even social media in general … they’re kind of wary of it.”
Still, there are many issues that “Tell Me Why,” which features whose guests include executives from human resources to route planning, doesn’t touch, usually of the more sensitive variety, such as from negotiations with pilots, to disputes over new uniforms, which flight attendants said made them sick.
The airline has town hall-type meetings with its employees, audio from which it doesn’t make public. In a recent meeting, CEO Doug Parker received a complaint from a flight attendant that the airline’s new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was too cramped for flight attendants.
“If you gain an ounce you’re not coming down the aisle,” said the flight attendant, according to audio heard by CNBC. Another executive said the airline has slowed down the water flow from the lavatory to avoid splashing from the small sink.
DeFeo said that “I don’t think we’ll ever” get into some of those debates. “I think right now it’s seen as a straight forward, educational platform from leaders to hear about news and events at the airline and learn a thing or two and hear from leaders they don’t see on a regular basis.”
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said the “Tell me Why” episodes are played on average, about 12,000 times, 2,000 times externally.