Issue No. 843

Parker Exits The Pattern

Doug Parker Will Leave Behind a Radically Changed Industry

Pushing Back: Inside The Issue

The C-suites of U.S. airlines will look quite a bit different when the pandemic recedes than it did before Covid-19. Gone or soon to be gone from the corner offices are United's Oscar Munoz, Alaska's Brad Tilden, and Southwest's Gary Kelly. And now another veteran has decided to peace out: American's Doug Parker.

Parker has had a remarkable career for a number of reasons, but not least of which is that he's had the same job for 20 years. It's just that the offices kept getting bigger. He first assumed the chief executive role at America West, in 2001. He subsequently headed US Airways, after America West merged with that carrier, and then took the job at American, the world's largest airline, after a bruising merger in 2013. Parker will leave the airline to Robert Isom, who so far says he plans to stay the course Parker set.

What his career proves is that Parker was among the first to see that consolidation would return the U.S. industry to profits after the recession immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Indeed, the America West-US Airways merger set off a chain reaction that winnowed the industry to the four (or five, counting the merged Alaska-Virgin America) large carriers we see today. Gallons of ink has been spilled debating the pros and cons of consolidation, but Parker was right about one thing: A historically loss-making industry turned the corner and led the world in profits. Parker famously said he didn't foresee any way the U.S. industry could ever go back to regularly losing money. Unbeknownst to him, a virus had other plans.

Elsewhere in this issue and speaking of American, the Ft. Worth-based carrier is cancelling several international routes and delaying other thanks to Boeing's 787 delivery delays. Southwest is taking a cautious approach to 2022 growth, while Azul sees nothing but opportunity ahead. But one thing every airline executive seems to agree on is that next year will be the industry's year to transition out of the pandemic. Sound familiar? That's what they said about 2021 at the end of 2020.

The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

Who is Robert Isom? This week, Edward Russell and Madhu Unnikrishnan discuss American Airlines’ new CEO, and recount retiring CEO Doug Parker’s long career that reshaped the U.S. industry. Also, Southwest Airlines is cautious for 2022, while Azul charges ahead with the bulls. Go here for a full archive of the podcast.


"Who would have thought coming out of Covid would be harder than going into it."

Mesa Air Group CEO Jonathan Ornstein

Weekly Skies

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will retire on March 31, and be succeeded by his longtime deputy, President Robert Isom.

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Boeing still isn't delivering 787s and the delays are spilling over into 2022 with customers caught in the crosshairs. American Airlines is one such airline.