United Airlines President Scott Kirby has made it clear…he is not jumping ship (again) and returning to American Airlines.
Rumors are abounding that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker will not survive the month at the helm of AA. With American, under Parker’s leadership, having found a way to alienate shareholders, employees, and customers, most analysts, including this one, believe that Parker’s days are numbered.
Enter Scott Kirby, the aspiring lieutenant of Parker dating back to their days at America West and US Airways. After the American Airlines – US Airways merger, most thought Kirby was being groomed to replace Parker as CEO of AA. Indeed, he was. But something happened in 2016.
During remarks at an aviation conference this week, Kirby shared that in late Spring 2016 Parker came to his office, said he was planning to retire, and that Kirby would replace him. But three months later, Parker returned to his office and told Kirby that he needed to resign. It remains unclear what turned Kirby from favored son to outcast, but less than a month later Kirby assumed the position of President of United Airlines, a position created just for him.
In what can only be described as unambiguous clarity, Kirby was asked if he would consider returning to American Airlines as CEO and quickly said:
I made a commitment to Oscar. Oscar was big enough to take a chance on me to bring me to United, and Oscar and United Airlines is the place where I’m going to end my career.
So whoever the new AA CEO will be, it likely won’t be Kirby.
I’m fascinated about what happened between the spring and summer of 2016 to launch Kirby from “heir apparent” to “clean out your desk”. For better or for worse, we will not soon see Kirby at the helm of American Airlines.