American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, speaking to a group of employees last week in a recording reviewed b View From The Wing, described the pandemic and crisis in travel as having a “silving lining” which is the ability to re-imagine the world’s largest airline from scratch.
There are three areas he mentions doing things differently going forward: more efficient management structures, cutting routes that aren’t going to be profitable, and using technology more for customer interactions.
What we definitely are starting to think about, is what do we do now to make sure when we come back it doesn’t just come back the same?
As horrific as this is there’s one single lining. We get the chance now to pretty much start the biggest airline in the world from scratch. We’ve taken it down to where we were only flying 10% of our schedule a couple of months ago. So now we get to add back and we get to add back only those things that make sense, and as we do that you can make sure you’re learning.
That’s kind of a schedule piece, but that’s true of everything in the airline. We’re going through and taking out 30% of the management team. We’re not just taking 30% of every group, we’re going through and thinking about which of these groups can we consolidate, where do we find ways to make sure we’re working smarter and faster?
And that type of attitude rings through to everything, technology in particular. A good thing about so little traffic is we can do more things for the traffic that’s there, and we can use these as tests for technology and figure out ways to have a more personal customer experience for example. Anyway, all those things. …That’s the next level we need to get to, I know we will.
We need to use this to where when we are back to 100% of flying we’re not doing the exact same stuff. We’re doing it smarter. We’re doing it better, providing better customer service. We’re flying even to more, the flying is more generated around profitable flying instead of just flying that has always been in the system.
A crisis is an opportunity to rethink the business. In normal times there are plenty of good reasons not to take chances, and too many entrenched interests standing in the way. Those are largely swept away. And the old arguments favoring the status quo hold little weight when the status quo is no longer an option.
Parker is right that the pandemic and rebuilding the airline’s routes and traffic from almost zero is an opportunity to re-think the business. Unfortunately he does not articulate here a creative new vision for how American Airlines might do that.