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New American Airlines CEO vows to make merger work

First Published      Last Updated Dec 09 2013 05:34 pm
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They're a real threat. This is a global business and one where we have to compete globally. We can't ignore any global threat and we can't be asked to compete on different terms.

Do you mean the U.S. subsidies for foreign airlines that buy Boeing planes?

That's one thing. There are a number of areas — their (lower) taxation versus the taxation the U.S. government puts on U.S. carriers; the access they're getting (to closed markets).

Can U.S. airlines ever provide the same level of service as the best Asian and Middle Eastern airlines?

Of course we can. On the ability to get people to more places, to do so safely and efficiently and with seats that are as good or better than anyone else's in the world — the things customers really care about — we can. They do have some advantages, but we can compete against those carriers, certainly on like routes.

You said recently that US Airways has more of a bias for action than American. What did you mean?

The culture of American is probably a little more buttoned down than the US Airways culture, but that has some real benefits. The US Airways culture is, I think, a little more open and does have a little more bias for action. That also means we sometimes fire before we're ready.

You also said that if the DOJ lawsuit stopped the merger, it would have been less exciting to go back to the way things were.

I was certainly thinking, 'How do we motivate the team?' (He had promised US Airways employees pay raises, and senior executives stood to get jobs with the new company.) It was going to be a lot harder to go back and tell them, 'Well, now we're back to where we were.'

Tell us about yourself. Do you have any hobbies?

I used to run, and my knee now is down to not much cartilage, so I do the elliptical (exercise machine) instead. Most of what I'm doing, if I'm not working, is with my family. I have three kids — one in college, a sophomore in high school, and a girl who's in eighth grade.

When was your last vacation, and where did you go?

We took a few days and went over to Southern California at the end of July with the family. We haven't had a real, get-out-of-the-country vacation in too long.

Finally, why do people love to hate the airlines?

I don't know. It's something we need to get past. It affects the people that work at the airlines. We have people out there every day who do just amazing things to help get people from Point A to Point B. It's a noble job. It drives commerce, it gets people to go see their loved ones, it gets people to be able to see the world.