American Airlines announced a handful of senior leadership changes this week ahead of quarterly earnings reports at the end of the month. But few left or even changed departments, does Emperor Parker have new clothes?
Big Shakeup, Huge
Five changes have been announced… so far… here are the affected parties and their titles:
- Kerry Philipovitch – SVP of Customer Experience (retirement)
- Kurt Stache – SVP of Loyalty, Marketing and Sales
- David Seymour – SVP of Operations
- Don Casey – SVP of Revenue Management
- Vasu Raja – SVP of Network Planning
Legacy US Airways executive, Kerry Philipovitch is retiring in a reportedly planned move. Her job description encompassed a lot of what legacy American customers feel has gone wrong at the new American Airlines. I’d venture to say that she shouldn’t be blamed for American Airlines’ customer experience degradation as much of it appears to be directed by (at the time) Kirby, now Isom, Parker and perhaps even CFO Derek Kerr experimenting with what they can get away with. (This interview with American CFO Kerr from Inc.com is internet gold.)
Here’s where they all landed after the great American Airlines management shakeup of 2019
- Kurt Stache – SVP of Customer Experience (replacement)
- David Seymour – SVP of Operations
- Don Casey – SVP of Revenue
- Vasu Raja – SVP of Network Strategy
- Jill Surdeck – SVP of Flight Service
So different. Can you believe they moved Casey from Revenue Management to Revenue? Or Raja from Network Planning to Network Strategy or Seymour from Operations to… Operations?
Can you say “disruptors?”
Emperor and His Wardrobe
Parker goes unmentioned in the brief which is not surprising. If there is no change in his role or they want to see how these drastic changes play first, that makes sense. But who in their right mind would presume that these management “changes” even warrant a press release?
This is where Parker goes down and is emblematic of why he goes down. If he (and presumably, the board) felt changes were necessary amongst the executive team – no one would be fooled into thinking that any of these would amount in a material shift in the direction of the company.
It’s as if Doug Parker thinks everyone is just too stupid to see this for what it was. No sir, we can see you have no clothes, no direction forward, no plan to remove American Airlines from the bowels of hell from where you have delivered it.
Expecting Different Results
Moving a few people to essentially the same roles, titles, and level of management Raja has been a regular feature in an American Airlines employee podcast and is known for his insight and vision. Parker fails to see the writing on the wall with the LATAM JV, doesn’t make the strategic investment that Delta does, crashes the relationship with Alaska and then hands over the keys to “network strategy, alliances and partnerships” to Raja.
How effective can Seymour be in his same role but with a renewed focus on “operational excellence” with the same title, and Parker handcuffs from the last four years? It’s not like in his new/same role he is going to suddenly have the latitude to become Delta. Is Kurt Stache going to be able to invest in seatback entertainment? No? So, pretty much business as usual.
The point of leadership changes are to symbolically and in practice effect a sea change in the direction of the company. By appointing the same people, to more or less the same positions within the same limitations, how would anyone expect different results?
I feel like I’m on crazy pills!
SVP of Revenue Management to SVP of Revenue, SVP of Network Planning to SVP of Network Strategy, SVP of Operations to SVP of Operations – Blue Steel, Le Tigra, Ferrari, it’s the same thing!
The announced changes are encouraging for one reason: it reflects that there is pressure to improve. However, the changes made will have zero impact, demonstrate a contempt for the process of changing the company in a material way, and show that Parker and company believe that investors and interested parties are stupid enough to believe that this will mean anything at all. I’m also not convinced that Parker isn’t out around Q3 reporting depending on results.
What do you think? Do these changes demonstrate progress because there is some willingness to recognize the airline isn’t performing as expected? Is this a case of the Emperor having no clothes?