Is American Airlines Planning For A New CEO?

In an announcement that slipped under most people’s radar, American Airlines may be looking at a new CEO. As the airline works to rebuild once the crisis subsides, it is apparently also looking at promoting from within. But when will this happen?

American Airlines
American Airlines is getting ready for a transition to a new CEO. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines picks an outside firm to find a CHRO

On January 15th, Hanold Associates HR & Diversity Executive Search announced that American had selected it to search for the next senior vice president, chief human resources officer (CHRO).

The announcement included the following details. The CHRO will be based at American’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, and report to Elise Eberwein, American Airlines Group’s executive vice president, people and engagement.

The CHRO will work to further American’s “multi-year strategic succession planning process that is designed to prepare an internal executive for the chief executive officer role.” The company, particularly, stated the following:

“As that transition occurs, there are other key leadership transitions that will soon happen, including Elise’s retirement. After these moves take place, the CHRO will eventually report to the new CEO, who will be a key part of this interviewing and selection process.”

Currently, the CEO of American Airlines is Doug Parker. He has held the role since 2013 after the merger between US Airways and American Airlines. Before that, he was the CEO at US Airways and, before that, he was the CEO at America West and led that airline through the September 11th aftermath. All in all, Doug Parker has been the CEO of an airline for almost 20 years, which is an impressive feat.

Doug Parker
Doug Parker has been CEO of American since 2013. Photo: Getty Images

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Who are the candidates?

American Airlines is looking to promote from within, so the options are a little clearer. Robert Isom, President, currently, would be the clearest person next in line to be the CEO. He came to the airline after the merger with US Airways, and before then, he was at Northwest Airlines. He also worked for a few years with America West Airlines.

Robert Isom
Robert Isom currently serves as President of American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Another option would be CFO Derek Kerr. He also came to American from the merger with US Airways and worked at America West before then. He also has experience at Northwest Airlines.

Derek Kerr
Derek Kerr currently serves as the CFO of American. Photo: American Airlines

There are some other internal candidates, but Robert Isom would be the most likely candidate to become the next CEO of American Airlines.

When is this happening?

After it was picked up on Twitter, Elise Eberwein was quick to reply with the following:

So, it is clear this is not happening anytime soon, which is not particularly surprising. Doug Parker has provided no indication that he wishes to retire anytime soon.

It is also not surprising to see the airline prepare for a future after Doug Parker. It is smart planning on the part of the airline to build relationships and get a team in place to hand over the reins to a new CEO.

Boeing 737 Max Public Flights Resume As American Airlines Flies From Miami To New York
Doug Parker is likely going to be at American Airlines for a few more years before retiring. Photo: Getty Images

Robert Isom is also a natural choice for promotions from within. For example, Scott Kirby previously served as President of United Airlines before becoming the carrier’s CEO. Over at Delta, Ed Bastian also served as Delta’s President before becoming the CEO. Over at Alaska Airlines, President Ben Minicucci will this year become the airline’s CEO after Brad Tilden retires at the end of March.

One possibility is likely that American draws this process out so Doug Parker can oversee the airline’s transition from crisis-mode back toward profitability and away from cost-cutting and managing liquidity. This would mean a transition to a new CEO from perhaps 2023 or later. This would allow the airline’s top brass to focus first on getting the carrier out of the crisis and then letting Doug Parker finally get a good night of rest.

Who do you think will be the next American Airlines CEO? When do you think Doug Parker should hand over the reins to a new CEO? Let us know in the comments!