Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

American Airlines CEO trashes Zoom, says it'll make more people fly

Is Zoom the future of business relationships? Not according to American's Doug Parker.

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Soar, don't Zoom.

Screenshot by ZDNet

We're balancing on a psychological precipice.

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We look into the future and wonder if we'll ever again have a clean house, a foreign vacation,  or even encounter adorable TSA operatives at an airport.

We don't merely live on Zoom, but seemingly in it, twitching avatars in a virtual prison.

Yes, Microsoft Teams tries to make us more, well, part of a team. At heart, however, we're forlorn, marooned, and coming to believe there's no way out.

Please have no fear. This is merely temporary. Your future will be garlanded with more flying high than you could ever imagine.

I know this because American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says so.

In a meeting with the airline's pilots, reported by View From The Wing, Parker explained that Zoom will make humans crave the glories of an American Airlines flight.

From the report: "CEO Doug Parker chimed in that he doesn't see fundamental changes to demand, and business travel drying up long-term -- he even sees Zoom meetings, which he thinks are awful, adding to business travel demand rather than detracting from it."

It's a tantalizing thought.

Many technologies have made themselves essential -- and then permanent -- in our lives. As Zoom's profits soar in a way the company could never have envisaged six months ago, the brand has become the default word for "Oh, hell. Another fake face-to-face work meeting from my bedroom."

Will such technology so sicken people that they'll be driven to fly?

I asked American to expand on Parker's optimism and will update, should I hear.

I still worry. (And not just because he once said American would never make a loss again.)

If there's one thing many of his fellow CEOs have discovered, it's that curtailing business travel and trying to do everything via Zoom saves a lot of money.

Even if there's a vaccine and the world begins to vaguely resemble something we used to call normal, how will the expense of business travel be justified?

Naturally, I can offer some clues. One way of justifying it will be purely psychological. Please, you've suffered enough. Go, fly, and be with other humans again. It'll do your spirit so much good. What's left of your spirit, that is.

Another is that Zoom definitely doesn't substitute for a personal business experience.

There's something about being with another human and seeing how they react when they're in a bar -- I mean, in a live meeting -- rather than on camera.

The nuances that you (think you) see via Zoom may be entirely different without the medium of a screen. The very word screen suggests there's still something hidden.

I tried my best, but I still worry.

Will airlines, after taking enormous amounts of money from the government and still laying off tens of thousands of people, manage to make their wares attractive again? Rather than just utilitarian.

Will the experience of flying be somehow improved, which most airlines don't seem to have done for at least twenty years or more?

Will businesspeople simply be so desperate they won't care how rudimentary flying has become?

Or, in some future time, will companies encourage their employees to get on a plane, only to have the employees themselves mutter, "You know what? I'll just do an early morning Zoom call. That should do it."?

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