The group, which included workers from all of American's labor groups, brainstormed for several hours at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Dan Garton, American's executive vice president of marketing, said he hoped to glean at least 20 new initiatives from the group.
"We need to find a way to slap the customer in the face and say, 'This airline gets it,' " he said.
Garton hopes that employees will convey the message of American's current ad campaign directly to customers before and during flights. The campaign, launched last year, uses the humorous ads and the slogan "We know why you fly" to illustrate the carrier's long history and veteran employees.
In discussing the state of the industry with employees, Garton also said he was dismayed by recent fare sales launched by United Airlines and U.S. Airways, which are both in bankruptcy.
"When fuel is at $55 a barrel, the last thing we need is a fare sale," he said. "But they're doing it because they have to raise cash."
American matched the sale fares, although Garton said it would have kept prices higher otherwise. Demand for travel is high, he said, and American's planes are flying with record passenger loads.
"That tells us that they would pay more to fly -- it's basic economics," he said. But when competitors lower fares, American has to match them, he said.
Roger Frizzell, American's director of corporate communications, said the airline is planning a huge outdoor advertising campaign in New York City to counter JetBlue Airways, which is headquartered there.
"We're going to flood New York," Frizzell said, promising billboards and ads on taxis. "We're going to let them know we're the hometown airline for New Yorkers."
The brainstorming session was the latest event in American's ongoing drive to include employees in developing its strategy. Last year, a similar meeting resulted in 37 initiatives to improve customer service, Garton said.