American Airlines C-Suite Tweetstorms About Doug Parker’s Retirement Rumors

Elise Eberwein, American Airlines Executive Vice President in charge of HR and Corporate Communications, had her impending retirement, along with that of CEO Doug Parker, announced by an employment search firm. One of the six top leaders of the airline, she took to twitter to offer her take on what happened.

She explained – as I shared in my post – that succession planning at American Airlines has been “multi-year” (I pointed out that it dates at least to Scott Kirby leaving American for United in 2016) and that eventually Parker will retire.

When he does, Robert Isom is the assumed successor. Experts among my readers can speak better to this than I can, but this declaration by a corporate officer might require an SEC 8-K filing?

The leak happened because she didn’t want the potential head of human resources they were looking for to think the job was too junior, that it would report to her. So she allowed the search firm to share that the role would eventually report to the CEO. One imagines this information wasn’t supposed to be posted on the internet in a public announcement, however.

Ms. Eberwein says, as I suspected, that Parker’s departure as Chairman and CEO isn’t imminent and that his mostly replacement is President Robert Isom. This would represent continuity rather than a break from status quo American. Isom dates to US Airways (and worked at Northwest). Eberwein joined Parker & Co at America West in 2003.

It was widely speculated that Parker might be asked to leave by the Board in fall 2019, as a result of diminished confidence of employees, customers, and shareholders. The proximate cause of this speculation was the loss of expected joint venture partner LATAM to Delta, on top of the airline’s financial undeperformance relative to the industry. Those calls died down (at least publicly) before the pandemic, which in many ways becomes a catch-all excuse.

There’s little question that Parker, having gone from impending liquidation at America West before being saved by a government bailout, to acquiring US Airways out of bankruptcy and then American Airlines, has had successes. And in the process he’s sold over $100 million worth of stock and still owns over 2 million shares in American Airlines. When he does leave American, he’ll be just fine.

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, 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. @Gary – Any idea if the board is so happy with where American is now that they would intentionally avoid bringing in new blood to improve things?

  2. So, don’t expect American to get any better after Doug leaves. Only way to make things better is to bring in someone from the outside.

  3. Could Gary or someone please explain to me why airlines’ CEOs earn millions? Innovation – No. Invention – No. Benefits to consumers – “H*** No”. Those are the qualifications to earn millions?

    BY the way, Free flights to them and immediate family members – Yes. Using Scott Kirby for example, he has 6 children (yes, 6 kids), a family of 8. No first class upgrade for any Global Services, 1K, Platinum.. should one fly on the same day his family goes on vacation.

  4. Both Parker and Eberwein should have been fired years ago. They brought a once great airline to the industries worst.

  5. Too bad for American Airlines customers that the successors will also be from US Air. The only way to restore American to its previous level of quality is to purge the company of the influence of the US Air management personnel.

  6. The sooner the better Parker can do his “cut and run” with his mega million dollar “package” leaving nothing but a legacy for overseeing the total disintegration of what was once one of the finest airlines in the world. If they go ahead as indicated it will insure just one thing…..AA will continue on the downward spiral that steepened ever since the losers from USAir took over. The prize in the end will be to be dubbed the reincarnation of Peoples Express – on steroids.

  7. @T – I think that all airline executives and their families should be required to fly in regular economy seats. No bulkhead, E+, or exit row. It is critical that they have a firsthand understanding what the vast majority of people who are flying on their airline experience. Sitting in 1A on a widebody just won’t do that. And yes, that would also free up seats for the customer-types who pay for the executives’ wages.

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