The Second Toughest Job at American Airlines

Management focus at American Airlines has been on working to convince its employees that they’re cared for and so it’s de rigueur to say that the hardest job at the airline belongs to front line team members. And it’s probably even true if you’re talking about the people working the ramp in Phoenix during the height of summer time.

But what about the second toughest job at the airline? That’s most certainly in corporate communications, telling the airline’s story, but one person there has had a heavier lift than anyone else. Sunny Rodriguez leaves the airline today, after spending three years with the world’s largest carrier. Her portfolio included AAdvantage… and dealing with me.

The most notable takeaways,

  • I always knew I was being told the truth. She didn’t always have authorization to tell me what I was asking after, but the answers I got were always true which isn’t always the case dealing with travel industry communications shops, with some companies you need to parse the answers you get to figure out what might be technically true but misleading. I never felt that way, which was a testament both to Sunny’s character and the tone of the airline’s communications shop.
  • I was never unfairly criticized. As long as coverage was accurate and fair I didn’t get yelled at. That may seem pretty baseline but one travel company rings me on my cell phone to complain whenever I write anything negative. Sunny and the team were always professional.
  • She tried hard to get information and the questions I ask tend to be very specific and sometimes obscure. I’m not often interested in press release talking points, and she generally worked to chase down information to provide greater context to a story. That also meant sometimes revealing that what might have seemed like a story that would be critical of American turned out not to be, not to be a story at all even, once the facts came out. Most people (far beyond travel) don’t work very hard at their jobs and fail to create value as a result. Sunny always made great efforts to get information, and to share what she could.

Sunny leaves for a job in the pharmaceutical industry, where after three years of enduring my questions and barbs she’ll have easier access to medication albeit more limited access to flight benefits. She’ll be missed (and her colleagues tell me they’ll miss her, too).

They haven’t shared yet who takes her role either representing AAdvantage although there’s a job posting to backfill her role. Anyone want the job?

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. It is refreshing to find a person working for more than one year in airline corporate communications who doesn’t lie to the press. After reading customer complaints, that task seems to be reserved for their gate agents. However, I think the first toughest job at American Airlines is the person responsible for cleaning out the aircraft blue juice.

  2. How much PR do airlines actually even need if they’re making their money from selling miles to CC companies and largely ‘catering’ to the once or twice a year, infrequent family/vacation flyer ?

  3. The toughest job at American Airlines is finding more ways NOT to release international business class awards.

  4. Sounds like dealing with Gary was the easiest part of her job, but think about all of the a$$holes, morons and jerks she had to put with. I’d probably leave after 3 years too.

  5. Pretty desperate when you leave an airline job for a Pharma position. She went from devaluations and deteriorating service to trying to sell the public the criminal practices of drug companies preying on the sick. Sunny must like a good challenge.

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