Southwest CEO Gary Kelly’s Amazing Tribute Video To Retiring American CEO Doug Parker

On October 22nd American Airlines CEO Doug Parker received the Wings Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I shared the video American prepared for the event, and Parker’s acceptance speech, earlier today in my coverage of his retirement announcement. Parker will stay as CEO through March 31 when he becomes Chairman and current airline President Robert Isom becomes CEO.

The real star of the Wings Club event, enjoyed by around 1300 guests at the New York Hilton, was Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly’s music video tribute. It’s been held close to the vest since that night.

I tried to get a copy of the video. My several requests to Southwest were all ignored. It looks like they were saving it for Parker’s retirement day.

Outgoing CEO Gary Kelly (like Parker, he will become his airline’s non-executive Chairman on February 1) dropped the musical parody tribute on twitter this afternoon.

Blame it all on his routes,
We showed up in boots.
To toast his black tie affair.

We were excited to know,
the big Wings Club show,
is for Doug
and you all will be there.

And I see his surprise,
and the fear in his eyes.
As he wonders
what happens now

Yes Doug it’s true
we’re gonna give it to you
Cause it’s so clear

That Doug has friends
in high places
take a look at all
these friendly faces,
all our best to you.
So tried and true.

Hey, who knew you had
such social graces.
Cause some of these guys
are just basket cases.

You know Doug’s got friends
in high places.

Now, he had to be strong,
To make it so long.
Since most of the names
are long gone

Yet in hindsight.
he provide to be right
merging all those airlines into one.

American, Northwest, Then America West.
US Airways but he couldn’t stop.
Then for all we knew,
He tried to buy you all, too.
But American came out on top.

Oh, Doug has friends in high places.
Where the Jet A burns and the jet stream chases
His blue away
Doug’s AA-okay

The Admirals Club, one of his favorite places
Put his office there, that’s his oasis!
Oh Doug’s got friends in high places.

When it’s all done and said,
we’re crazed in the head,
to love this gig like we do.

We all have our fleets,
to fly and compete,
Chasing skies that we want to be blue.

Hey, Doug didn’t mean,
to cause this big scene.
But we wanted to make this first class.

So we give him this toast
since he’s better than most.
Next we should just kiss his ….

So, Doug has friends in high places,
take a look at all these friendly faces.
all our best to you,
so tried and true.

Where’d you get such social graces?
Cause some of these guys
are just basket cases.

You know Doug’s got friends in high places.

By the way when legendary Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher retired, then-American CEO Bob Crandall offered a musical tribute to Herb at the Wings Club. So this is something of a tradition.

I do think Southwest had a missed opportunity with that Oasis line, though.

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. Doug had an amazing career as a mob man. Never did he do much good for AA… he destroys brands and never ran a business that was considered a great place to work. Not saying he hasn’t achieved great things , he was just a bad CEO of AA

  2. Are we just going to overlook the bottle of beer next to this photo at the beginning of the video….?

  3. @SMR +1

    Parker was fine running a small regional airline but was completely inept at anything bigger. It’s incredibly unfortunate that the BOD showed their own monumental ineptitude by keeping him in place well after he’d shown that he wasn’t up to the job. That said, he seems a genuinely nice guy to sit back and have a few drinks with in a social setting.

  4. Not to be a party pooper or anything, but this is over the top. Doug, his team and the BoD have ruined American Airlines. Emerging from bankruptcy with a slate wiped clean, in less than 10 years, the US Airways team managed to rack up $50B in debt for AA, while lining their deep pockets with millions. That is Doug’s legacy. It is blasphemous that he is staying on as Chairman of the BoD. Let the white men pat each other on the back though, but they have created nothing and, instead, destroyed once great companies. These are not companies that they themselves built but were handed to them to manage ethically and fiscally. No one deserves any reward here.

  5. @Gary. I don’t get it. In your past article you stated American has unhappy investors, unhappy employees, and unhappy customers . Who is left? Yet Parker gets an award?

  6. This “award” is nothing more than the “good ole boys” club way to patting eachother on the back annually with a lot of hoopla. It gets passes around to the one whose turn it is this year. It has nothing to do with actual performace and/or achievment. A self serving dog and pony show.

  7. Doug F’d up AA, retired and took a new position at Nordstrom to improve customer service

  8. Here at the end of 2022, with the SWA complete meltdown still in progress, it is a shame that Gary Kelly spent time on stuff like this as the SWA operations were ignored during his tenure, and he refused to listen to employees. Amazing that it took this long for the neglect to become readily apparent. Herb Kelleher is rolling in his grave – though as chairman emeritus he had watched much of this unfold.

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