American Airlines CEO Doug Parker Retiring

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker Retiring

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There’s a leadership change coming to American Airlines, but it seems unlikely that much will change.

Doug Parker will be replaced by Robert Isom

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will be stepping down from his current role as of March 31, 2022, and will be replaced by American Airlines president Robert Isom. Isom will join the board of directors, while Parker will continue to serve as chairman of the company’s board of directors. Parker says that the airline has been preparing for this transition for years, and if it weren’t for the pandemic, it would have probably happened sooner.

Isom has been president of American since 2016, and has been in the airline industry for over 25 years. Much like Parker, he worked at America West and US Airways. Plans for the leadership change were first leaked in early 2021, so it’s not surprising to see this happen, and it’s also not surprising to see Isom be appointed to replace Parker.

Here’s a video message with the announcement of American’s leadership succession plan:

Doug Parker’s legacy at American Airlines

Let’s start with the positives — to Parker’s credit, he has had an absolutely amazing career. He has been CEO of a major US airline for over two decades now, and he was in charge at America West, then remained CEO when the airline merged with US Airways, and then remained CEO when the airline merged with American Airlines. He’s had an incredible run.

Similarly, Parker has always come across to me as a nice guy. He seems like one of the most genuine airline CEOs out there, and like a truly kind, approachable, compassionate human.

That being said, it’s no secret that I haven’t been a fan of the direction he has led the airline. He didn’t seem to have much of a vision for the airline, other than to turn it into a high cost version of Spirit Airlines. American has largely been outperformed by its peers, and while United is now trying to become premium, American continues to try to become lower cost.

I’m not going to go into that in more detail in this post, because I think I’ve sufficiently covered it for the past several years. 😉

American Airlines’ headquarters near DFW

Little will change at American Airlines

Many (including me) have thought that it’s time for a leadership change at American Airlines. Personally I wouldn’t get too excited, as I don’t think a whole lot will change here. American almost exclusively promotes from within. While it’s great to reward people for their loyalty, there’s a limit to that, and it’s sometimes important to get fresh ideas.

I can’t think of another airline that has as many executives that have been with the company for 20+ years. I think that’s one of the reasons that American Airlines is so lackluster — there’s an echo chamber where they convince themselves that people don’t like personal televisions, and that the turkey pastrami sandwiches are delicious.

Personally I’m indifferent about this transition, as Isom has always seemed to be on the same page as Parker, so I don’t expect him to do anything radical. Who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us — after all, Scott Kirby did when he moved to United.

American Airlines’ first class sandwich

Bottom line

A major leadership change is coming to American Airlines — CEO Doug Parker will step down as of March 31, 2022, and will be replaced by president Robert Isom. This transition had apparently been in the works for a long time, and shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Parker had quite a run, having been CEO of an airline for over 20 years, so congratulations to him on that. It’s just kind of sad that we shouldn’t expect a whole lot to change.

What do you make of Doug Parker retiring as CEO of American, and being replaced by Robert Isom?

Conversations (25)
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  1. FlyerDon Guest

    American is just too big. Their DFW hub is too big. Their debt load is too big. No one is going to be able to fix it.

  2. Kiwi Member

    Scott Kirby certainly appears to have lost the battle to win the war in the AA succession debacle

  3. Suzie Alcatrez Guest

    AA HDQ looks completely empty.

  4. barnchat Guest

    The real travesty of Parker's career at American was the approval of billions in stock buybacks at $40-60 per share while American was retrofitting its fleet. This saddled American with billions in additional debt that made it the weakest airline when covid hit.

    At first Parker blamed the debt on the retrofitting (buying new planes, etc). Even this was not done right as American could never settle on Airbus or Boeing for its narrowbody...

    The real travesty of Parker's career at American was the approval of billions in stock buybacks at $40-60 per share while American was retrofitting its fleet. This saddled American with billions in additional debt that made it the weakest airline when covid hit.

    At first Parker blamed the debt on the retrofitting (buying new planes, etc). Even this was not done right as American could never settle on Airbus or Boeing for its narrowbody fleet or other gages as well. This unwillingness to resolve a plane type was the result of pilot pressure from American and Continental pilots who were Boeing flyers, and US Air pilots who preferred Airbus. The lack of fleet commonality cost American billions in extra parts and maintenance, to say nothing of crew scheduling sub optimization. Ask Southwest, who has made commonality an art form, and reaped profits as a result.

    Later Parker blamed the stock buybacks on poor advice from Wall Street investment bankers. Did Parker not know to question the motives behind the people giving him the advice? The Unions complained. Where was American's board of Directors?

    Now American can buy all its stock it wants for less than half what was originally paid.

    Will Bob Islom be any better? Who knows at this stage. What is known is making American into another Spirit, with its crew cost and maintenance structure, is an invitation to liquidation. American will never be the low cost carrier. It needs to add value to the flying experience. Perhaps they were trying to learn as much in hooking up with Jet Blue. While they are not similar airlines, American can learn from them in terms of amenities and customer service.

  5. Another Lump Guest

    Thanks for all the CX/JL F flights, Dougie Poo, but I still want my remaining confiscated miles back. Maybe then I'll fly your garbage airline again.

  6. DrDoom Guest

    These two CEOs look a lot like the First Class sandwich.
    If you lined the three up, it'd be hard to tell them apart! LOL!

    1. Timo Gold

      Exactly. Couldn't these two get a decent fitting jacket for that photo...gawd!? It's long past due that Doug-wiser moved on.

  7. Steve Diamond

    If the top complaint you lot have is the catered food i think that shows he did a good job. I find it funny how much people in the points communties cared about first class food. The people who pay cash for these tickets (airline's real customers) arent flying for the food and generally dont even eat it even if it was good. Imagine flying international business and getting an angle flat seat or being...

    If the top complaint you lot have is the catered food i think that shows he did a good job. I find it funny how much people in the points communties cared about first class food. The people who pay cash for these tickets (airline's real customers) arent flying for the food and generally dont even eat it even if it was good. Imagine flying international business and getting an angle flat seat or being stuck in the middle with no aisle access. You cant say that about American Airlines but fly emriates and youre stuck in the middle on an angle flat haha.

    1. David Diamond

      Look at American’s stock price and tell me he did a good job again.

    2. Steve Diamond

      I didnt say he did a good job i find it funny people complain about something that can easily be mitigated. You cant fix a seat, you can visit a lounge before hand. You cant turn a 2-3-2 layout into a 1-2-1 but you can buy a nice $10 sandwich in the terminal before your flight. Just eat before or after or bring your own snacks plus why would i care about catering if im getting a full meal in the lounge before anyways?

    3. Super Member

      The airline's real customers are business travelers, and I would hazard a guess that some of us do eat on airplanes. It's not a fun experience to be starving on a 5h transcon flight and served a rock hard "sandwich" with slop in the middle. I need to arrive at my destination ready to work, not starving or nauseous. It was bad enough to make me switch from AA. Why put up with bad food and, all too often, flight attendants with bad attitudes when you don't have to?

    4. Steve Diamond

      Yes in an ideal world every flight attendant is perfect and the food is good but its not an ideal world. Business travelers pick the best times and generally dont have multiple choices for routes. When im traveling for business i can just eat in the terminal since im expensing the meal anyways. If i dont have time then oh well i might not eat, not the worst thing especially if you have a protein...

      Yes in an ideal world every flight attendant is perfect and the food is good but its not an ideal world. Business travelers pick the best times and generally dont have multiple choices for routes. When im traveling for business i can just eat in the terminal since im expensing the meal anyways. If i dont have time then oh well i might not eat, not the worst thing especially if you have a protein bar or something in your bag, American's obsession with eating and eating again and again is the real problem, just because they put food in front of you doesnt mean you have to eat it. Imagine if the US didnt have an obesity problem, covid deaths would be a fraction of what they are.

    5. DrDoom Guest

      COVID deaths are mostly related to age and other comorbidities, and vaccination status. Obesity doesn't help, but it's not a major driver.

      Otherwise, concur with your assessment, Mr Business Man! ;)

  8. RF Guest

    Retiring? He should have been fired long ago. No golden parachute for this loser.

    1. tda1986 Guest

      “Golden parachutes” exist specifically for people being fired, not people who voluntarily end their employment…

  9. D3kingg Guest

    International First class is ending soon. A business class seat assignment in row 1 or 2 on a long haul flight will be a nice pull.

  10. AEKDB67 Guest

    Can't be soon enough.

  11. shoeguy Guest

    Glad to see him leave. His early successes in transforming HP and then merging it with US were outdone by his terrible stewardship of the merged AA/US. What worked for US (and HP) did not and does not work for AA. Hopefully, Isom will work to improve American's marketing, service, and network.

    1. SEM Guest

      Interesting way to look @ it...That puts it more in line with the Smisek situation @ CAL/UAL ...What worked for an airline with 2 Hubs/limited wide body fleet[s]/smaller everything most certainly did NOT work once he was in charge of UA...Not an excuse, just a possible explanation...

  12. George Romey Guest

    I agree that Parker simply wanted to make a glorified version of Spirit Airlines. Operationally the airline is a mess. And also agreed the guy coming in doesn't seem to be any different.

    The thing is when AA gets it right it really gets it right. Flagship lounges, great Business seats on it's widebody aircraft, the only domestic airline that continued food and beverage service in First/Business during the depths of the COVID hysteria. Too...

    I agree that Parker simply wanted to make a glorified version of Spirit Airlines. Operationally the airline is a mess. And also agreed the guy coming in doesn't seem to be any different.

    The thing is when AA gets it right it really gets it right. Flagship lounges, great Business seats on it's widebody aircraft, the only domestic airline that continued food and beverage service in First/Business during the depths of the COVID hysteria. Too bad AA just can't be constitent.

  13. Peter Volny Guest

    Good Riddance! Don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out.

  14. David Guest

    Here’s to hoping they cater his retirement party with meals from domestic “first.”

  15. SQ51 Guest

    Nothing out of left field, when will you share what took you to the AA IOC? Seemed like a cool experience to be able to see it, would also love to work there one day

  16. ChuckMO New Member

    AA really needs some fresh blood and new perspectives. Ison isn't it.

    1. ChuckMO New Member

      Isom, that is. Need and edit function.

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Super Member

The airline's real customers are business travelers, and I would hazard a guess that some of us do eat on airplanes. It's not a fun experience to be starving on a 5h transcon flight and served a rock hard "sandwich" with slop in the middle. I need to arrive at my destination ready to work, not starving or nauseous. It was bad enough to make me switch from AA. Why put up with bad food and, all too often, flight attendants with bad attitudes when you don't have to?

2
David Diamond

Look at American’s stock price and tell me he did a good job again.

2
George Romey Guest

I agree that Parker simply wanted to make a glorified version of Spirit Airlines. Operationally the airline is a mess. And also agreed the guy coming in doesn't seem to be any different. The thing is when AA gets it right it really gets it right. Flagship lounges, great Business seats on it's widebody aircraft, the only domestic airline that continued food and beverage service in First/Business during the depths of the COVID hysteria. Too bad AA just can't be constitent.

2
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