American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker thinks the only thing wrong with the airline is their operational performance, that’s the fault of the mechanics, but getting a new contract between the airline and its separate US Airways and American mechanics is the job of the federal government.
Here are some of the points he made in a recent Dallas Morning News interview:
- The only thing wrong with American Airlines is flight delays and cancellations and when mechanics behave themselves that’s not an issue. It’s the same message as airline President Robert Isom promising ‘no excuses’ while blaming the airline’s poor performance on their mechanics and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.
- A contract with mechanics is no longer his responsibility. (“The facts are these: The National Mediation Board is in charge of the negotiations. Until last month, the NMB hadn’t called us into negotiations since April. …We are highly hopeful that the NMB will help us come to a proposal in the near future. “) He’s the Chairman and CEO of the airline.
- Losing LATAM wasn’t a surprise (“To say we were surprised that LATAM went somewhere else, it was not a surprise”) more downplaying here, though Parker also admits he didn’t know the deal was coming, and that he didn’t think it would happen. More muddled messaging.
- Their new billion dollar head office is cool cost overruns aside because it “makes people feel important.” And like Buckaroo Bonzai, “But most important, it’s where we are.” No question the old company headquarters was drab.
The problem with American Airlines is lack of a clear vision of who they are and what customers they serve. There’s no mission statement to unify and order their priorities. Front line employees don’t know what kind of product they’re supposed to try to deliver, whether they’re matching Spirit or offering a premium product.
When the airline cancels 4% of its flights, that overwhelms everything else to be sure but it is not the case that fixing on-time departures and avoiding cancellations solves the airline’s problems. It simply brings the underlying issues into starker relief.
Recall of course that the airline believed they had a premium revenue problem even before mechanics started slowing down the airline (and American’s operational problems have been about much more than just the mechanics).