United CEO Throws Epic Shade At American CEO

United CEO Throws Epic Shade At American CEO

29

Did he really just say that?!?

What Scott Kirby said about Doug Parker

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby have quite a history:

  • For most of Kirby’s career he was Parker’s right-hand man, at America West, US Airways, and eventually American Airlines
  • Kirby ended up being forced out as President of American, and apparently the two didn’t end on good terms
  • According to Kirby, in the spring of 2016, Parker said he was planning to retire and wanted Kirby to take his place, and then three months later Parker walked into Kirby’s office and read off a piece of paper that Kirby needed to leave the company
  • Kirby then became President of United in 2016, and then finally became CEO of United as of May 2020

In an interview with Kirby, David Slotnick asked a couple of questions that got especially noteworthy answers.

First of all, Kirby and Parker apparently weren’t on talking terms for a while. How’s that going?

“I do still talk to Doug. I would say first the pandemic caused Doug and I to repair and restore our relationship. We talk pretty frequently, and we’re back to bantering, and perhaps being juvenile towards each other. But in a playful way.”

Kirby was then asked what advice he’d give Parker, and his answer was quite something:

“And I’ll keep any advice to myself. Plus I’m afraid he would follow it. I’d rather [he] keep doing what he’s doing.”

Kirby is definitely winning…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When it was first announced that Kirby was going from American to United, I thought to myself “great, now we’ll have the America West mentality at two airlines.”

But Kirby has really proven himself, and has impressed me way more than I was expecting. United is far from perfect, but the airline is moving in the right direction, and Kirby is making changes that I would have never expected from him in the old days.

Meanwhile at American, Parker has largely maintained the status quo, and has run the airline reactively rather than proactively. There’s no real innovation, and American only makes changes when it’s forced to by competitors. Now, in fairness, the new partnerships with Alaska and JetBlue are interesting, though I’m not sure the strategy is all that cohesive at the end of the day.

Bottom line

United CEO Kirby seems to have repaired his relationship with American CEO Doug Parker. While they’re back to talking, that didn’t stop Kirby from shading the performance of his former boss. And can we really blame him? He speaks the truth…

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  1. Corrado

    At least doug parker isn’t involved in Gavin Newsom’s airline bribery scheme…

  2. DesertGhost

    As someone who flew America West quite often back in the day, I'd take it any day over the Deltas, Americans, or Uniteds of that era. One could count on decent on-time service and helpful crews, which wasn't always the norm at its competitors, including Southwest. America West really doesn't deserve all the viciousness and derision it gets here.

  3. Leigh

    It said he was chuckling while giving his response. It’s all about having a sense of humor.

    They worked together for so long that they must have been friends, and glad to hear that they repaired the relationship, just for personal sake. No one wants to lose a friendship, even if they are corporate competitors.

  4. Douglas Frost DeNunzio

    The way to entertain the American and United happen for a variety of reasons.

    1. fooblah

      this is not a complete sentence. LOL!

  5. Andy

    As a low tier elite on both AA and UA I find myself torn between both. AA miles are worth more to me than United - they still have an award chart, their web special dynamic pricing is often great value where United’s is often a joke, and AA’s partners are superior (JAL, CX, QA superior to any of UAs partners except NH, and you can’t count SQ because they don’t open awards to other...

    As a low tier elite on both AA and UA I find myself torn between both. AA miles are worth more to me than United - they still have an award chart, their web special dynamic pricing is often great value where United’s is often a joke, and AA’s partners are superior (JAL, CX, QA superior to any of UAs partners except NH, and you can’t count SQ because they don’t open awards to other airlines).

    Meanwhile United has a better inflight experience. Polaris is on par with AA F, domestic upgrades without spending coupons, United Clubs aren’t great but sure are better than Admirals clubs where you can’t even get free sparking wine.

    I’d love to commit to one and become mid tier, I just can’t decide what I’m willing to lose: miles value, or experience.

    1. mowogo

      AA Miles are more valuable because they haven't done the final devaluation, but there are starting to be rumblings about that coming very soon.

    2. Watson

      Which partners are most valuable tend to depend on where you fly. I go to Europe a lot and value UA's partnership with LH/LX. OW coverage to Europe is basically just BA, and for ST DL/AF/KL award prices are absurd.

      Also I'm perfectly happy to always fly NH to Asia.

    3. Leigh

      Agree completely.

      I’m tied to oneworld, happily, but I would love to fly NH someday.

      I like all the oneworld airlines (well maybe not Iberia), and especially the amazing Qatar that we can enjoy (Qantas a close second, not based on seat product, but because of their always stunning service).

  6. Steve

    Did they ever find that United executive that went missing?

  7. George

    A glass cup is much better…

  8. EC2

    Silly article. Unless I’m invested in one of these airlines who the hell cares. Not even av geeks care - for the most part. Outside of investing in one of these airlines the only reason to care about the CEOs is if you preflight first class drink is in a plastic cup and not glass or they serve a disgusting sandwich.

    1. Never In Doubt

      You read the article. Cared enough to comment.

      Increased your engagement on OMAAT. Perhaps saw some ads.

      Success for Ben.

      Not at all silly for Ben.

    2. EC2

      And my next credit card link referral is thru TPG. Win for both I guess if that’s his goal. Still a silly article regardless, but he does have limited articles he can write so I get it to an extent.

    3. fooblah

      Lots of AV geeks care. Its all part of the story. It also lets you know the likely near future of these respective airlines.

  9. Jan

    epic shade lol epic win sooo epic

  10. Tim Dunn

    Scott Kirby is and always will be a childish underperformer that has a deep-seated need to elevate himself at the expense of others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being competitive as the leader of one of the world's largest airlines but but Scott Kirby - unlike any other CEO - makes far too much about him and not about United.
    American and United have long had a ying and yang relationship - when...

    Scott Kirby is and always will be a childish underperformer that has a deep-seated need to elevate himself at the expense of others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being competitive as the leader of one of the world's largest airlines but but Scott Kirby - unlike any other CEO - makes far too much about him and not about United.
    American and United have long had a ying and yang relationship - when one is up, the other is down. United looks good relative to where it has been but it is far from industry leading. Other carriers are performing far better than United in any number of metrics. It is also worth noting that United has by far the highest complaint ratio with the DOT of the big 4 while United vies with Southwest for the worst on-time of the big 4. Delta continues to be the industry leader for reliability and American outperforms United in on-time.
    United is doing better than it has in the past but it is far from industry-leading in anything. Further, it faces enormous strategic challenges with the oldest, least fuel efficient international fleet even as United is poised to overtake American as the most indebted US airline just to get its fleet in the same ballpark of efficiency - but not to exceed anyone - as other airlines.

    Scott Kirby will be well-advised to focus less on others including being jilted by Doug Parker and more on having United becoming industry leading.

    United is expected to report a loss in the 4th quarter in a few days

    1. Never In Doubt

      Doug Parker thanks you for your service.

    2. Tim Dunn

      I am no fan of Doug Parker but the notion that a CEO of a competitor cares about what his former wanna be thinks is devoid of any critical thinking - as has been noted by others.

      Kirby AND Parker would do well to figure out how to get their respective companies out of the gutter of the industry instead of trading barbs while carving out categories in which their companies underperform.

    3. Greg

      AA/UA stories were written by the CAB in the 60s and 70s giving them the flagship trunk routes between money center cities which led to building up large union orgs off cash cows in the high cost pre dereg era.

      Still unwinding those labor disadvantages - at a much larger scale than Northwest ever had - and with more competitive hubs than Northwest.

      Delta / NW cemented those legacy issues further. Great noncompetitive connecting...

      AA/UA stories were written by the CAB in the 60s and 70s giving them the flagship trunk routes between money center cities which led to building up large union orgs off cash cows in the high cost pre dereg era.

      Still unwinding those labor disadvantages - at a much larger scale than Northwest ever had - and with more competitive hubs than Northwest.

      Delta / NW cemented those legacy issues further. Great noncompetitive connecting hubs and less union issues = margin to reinvest.

      Good news for UA, Delta has reached diminishing returns on that now being forced into more competitive markets to grow.

      UNITED rising

    4. Douglas Frost DeNunzio

      The airlines vary as to what they do with their own marketing shares!

    5. Tim Dunn

      feel free to provide stats to back up your statements - but Delta just posted a profit for the 3rd quarter which no other big 4 airline, including United, is expected to do.
      United underperforms everyone in one or more DOT measurable statistics.

      American and Delta are the two remaining of the original 4 US airlines from the Spoils conference which carved up the best routes in the regulated industry between the four. Delta...

      feel free to provide stats to back up your statements - but Delta just posted a profit for the 3rd quarter which no other big 4 airline, including United, is expected to do.
      United underperforms everyone in one or more DOT measurable statistics.

      American and Delta are the two remaining of the original 4 US airlines from the Spoils conference which carved up the best routes in the regulated industry between the four. Delta wasn't a part of that group and Delta is the only one of the big 3 that is larger relative to its industry size at deregulation while American and United are both smaller.

      Not sure what this has to do with this little interpersonal spat between Kirby and Parker but industry verifiable facts paint a different picture than you.

    6. Greg

      I think you meant American and United only two remaining from the CAB spoils.

      And indeed this is the root of the differences - especially the labor side, and fleet decisions - which are made to defend cash cows and attempt growth in other areas - and have 20-50 year impacts from the day of the decision. No single CEO can overcome that in one term.

    7. Tim Dunn

      what you wrote here is correct.
      I disagreed w/ your statement that Delta is at a point of diminishing returns - and I asked you to provide data to support that.

      Delta has managed to start new hubs in Seattle and Boston and, as of now, might overtake JetBlue as the largest airline at Boston by next summer. Since Delta briefly became the largest airline by local market revenue at BOS pre-pandemic, their growth...

      what you wrote here is correct.
      I disagreed w/ your statement that Delta is at a point of diminishing returns - and I asked you to provide data to support that.

      Delta has managed to start new hubs in Seattle and Boston and, as of now, might overtake JetBlue as the largest airline at Boston by next summer. Since Delta briefly became the largest airline by local market revenue at BOS pre-pandemic, their growth will most certainly put them in the position of cementing its position as the largest airline by local market revenue at BOS.

      Delta has also overtaken American as the largest airline by revenue at LAX and is, at best, on par with AA in terms of forward capacity.

      Please let me know what hubs AA or UA have grown in other airline hubs/focus cities.

      AA and UA are smaller post deregulation relative to the industry than they were while DL is larger, having grown from sixth largest airline in 1978.

  11. Sean M.

    His comments are almost as noteworthy as OMAAT featuring a TPG article!

    1. SEM

      LOL, these two are defintely more scholarly then me when it comes to commercial aviation history...#UA here through great, good, bad, really bad, worse, better, a lot better and better then that now...All I can say about my decision making as a business traveller for over 25 years is, when I started I didn't fly DL because I would have had to connect in ATL for just about everything I did...25+ years later, I would...

      LOL, these two are defintely more scholarly then me when it comes to commercial aviation history...#UA here through great, good, bad, really bad, worse, better, a lot better and better then that now...All I can say about my decision making as a business traveller for over 25 years is, when I started I didn't fly DL because I would have had to connect in ATL for just about everything I did...25+ years later, I would have to connect through ATL for EVERYTHING I do...Yes, there are exceptions, but as some of my old school road warrior co-workers like to say, on DL, even if you are going to go to hell, you will still have to connect through ATL...

Featured Comments Load all 29 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Never In Doubt

You read the article. Cared enough to comment. Increased your engagement on OMAAT. Perhaps saw some ads. Success for Ben. Not at all silly for Ben.

Never In Doubt

Doug Parker thanks you for your service.

fooblah

Lots of AV geeks care. Its all part of the story. It also lets you know the likely near future of these respective airlines.

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