A Model for What’s Going On at American Airlines

When a President expresses ‘full confidence’ in a member of their cabinet, the cabinet secretary’s days are numbered. There aren’t even leaks out of the American Airlines Board of Directors right now expressing ‘full confidence’ in CEO Doug Parker.

There’s so much circling around Amon Carter Boulevard Skyview Drive that the new parlor game is getting other airline executives to deny that they’ll be the airline’s next CEO.

To be sure, the American Airlines Board hasn’t taken action even as the business alienated customers, employees and shareholders alike. So what could make this time different?

Losing the LATAM partnership – indeed, being completely blindsided by the loss – seems to have opened the floodgates for criticism. Each past strategic blunder has come back up, management employees are talking more freely about their dissatisfaction than ever with current leadership.

It seems to have been the kind of moment Timur Kuran described in Private Truths, Public Lies. Kuran examines preference falsification, were people disguise their feelings and beliefs out of self-interest or self-preservation. This can sustain social norms or regimes that are actually unpopular, but when it becomes safe or advantageous to reveal real beliefs those institutions collapse quickly.

It was dangerous to criticize Harvey Weinstein until it became safe to do so. Then even those who may have been his friends were suddenly shocked shocked at what had been revealed.

The idea is most often associated with the fall of communism. Speaking out against the regime was dangerous and so there was little sign of dissent. But once there were cracks in the regime, and little consequence for doing so, not only did critics rule the day but those who benefited from the system suddenly became anti-communist because that was in their new interest.

By definition it’s difficult to predict when these moments will happen. Was losing its LATAM partnership such a moment at American Airlines?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have supported AA and their employees since they have almost always taken good care of me and my wife during our business and leisure flying. But I never liked US Scare or their management team. I think it’s time for a fresh face and approach. Is Richard Anderson up for a new challenge? That would be AWESOME!

  2. I bet chopped dick is scratching his head now thinking how to comment here..
    Perhaps he know he will need to het his nose out from drunk Parker’s ass when they fire him

  3. The real question is who you replace him with. It’s only a matter of time. Isom needs to go as well, can’t just be Parker.

  4. Everyone hates Parker the employees the customers and most of their business partners
    Not to wish anything bad on anyone but he really must go
    He has no clue what it is to be a customer and deliver even basic reasonable expectations
    I saw photos of my friends business class Int flight
    3 small lettuce leaves not even a single sliver of a tomato or cucumber etc
    and fragments of shattered pieces of nuts as they only buy seconds pathetic

  5. Anderson? To busy railroading Amtrak – and trying hard to cut their long distance routes. That’s unfinished business.

    Don’t need him at AA. On second thought, since I like Amtrak, go ahead, take him.

  6. The link Gary gave with the “parlor game” was an interview with Kirby where he quashed rumors he’d return to AA.

    And why would he want to? United is doing well under Oscar Munoz and Kirby. And given that UA fixed its labor disputes – thanks to Oscar – and is moving forward, why on earth would Kirby want to go back to an omnishambles of labor strife and have to fix it on his own?

    Kirby must be the shoo in for UA CEO when Oscar steps back. As a 1K I hope it’s not soon because he still has a lot to learn on people/employee management and that’s where Oscar excels. But it’ll happen.

  7. I was happy when Jeff Smisek left United. I was hoping that United would trend back towards customer service. Both Continental and United were better that the combined Smisek airline. However, it did not make any difference. His successors continued down the same unfriendly path.

    Yea, they may re-shuffle the deck of the executive suite, but until there is a dramatic change in management philosophy, I suspect we will be disappointed with changes.

  8. Losing LATAM was not the problem. But losing LATAM just burst the dam that had been riddled with many many cracks.

    The only way AA returns to any semblance of its former self is to bring back people who orchestrated that. Not just those who worked there before but those who had key roles in defining that direction.

  9. As long as whoever they bring I is customer friendly, I’ll be happy. Doug has a platinum umbrella so no benefits will need to be thrown for him. Ridiculous that he gets rewarded for the crappy job he has done other than with mergers and I don’t think he was that great at that.

  10. I wish they would bring back Jon Snook who was run off by Parker and his bunch after the merger. Jon is COO of Hawaiian now and was a well liked and customer friendly Senior VP at AA before the merger. Really smart guy and well liked.

  11. How does Parker keep his job? The guy has 3 DWI’s. If this was a employee or crew member they would have been fired a long time ago!

  12. As an employee who has dealt with Doug Parker and his devious plots I say get rid of him ! NOW ! But make sure you don’t let the exact thing happen with someone else as CEO. He has ruined ,raped and pillaged the multiple airlines and employees he has led. Using the word “led ” very loosely. We.took multiple paycuts ,eliminated important work rules . So many gray areas in our contract nobody knew what was real. He is the epitome of corporate greed. Think about myself and husband . Combined we lost 60% of our household income and lost our pension in 1 day. He and others received bonuses because that happened.
    I played

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