American Airlines CEO Doug Parker to Retire, President Robert Isom Named Successor

Parker is credited with helping to create one of the world's largest airlines.

Doug Parker today announced that he is retiring from his position as chief executive officer of American Airlines, effective March 31, 2022. Current President Robert Isom has been named as his successor.

Parker oversees American Airlines Group and its principal subsidiary, American Airlines. When the transition goes into effect, Parker will continue to serve as chairman of the American Airlines board of directors, while Isom will join the board.

“It has been the privilege of my life to serve for 20 years as an airline CEO,” Parker said in a statement. “I am forever grateful to the American team, whose commitment to taking care of each other and our customers has never wavered and will continue to drive our success going forward.”

Parker is credited with helping to create one of the world’s largest airlines.

His history with American dates back to 1986, when he held various financial management positions until 1991. From then until 1995, he served as vice president, assistant treasurer, and vice president of financial planning and analysis at Northwest Airlines, before going on to join America West.

He was named CEO of America West just 10 days before Sept. 11, 2001. He is lauded in the industry for leading the air carrier through 9/11.

Prior to the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West Airlines, Parker was chairman, president, and CEO of America West. He then became the chairman and CEO of US Airways, guiding the company to achieve industry-leading revenue growth, operational performance, and profit margins.

In 2013, he then led the merger of US Airways and American Airlines, which represented the largest ever airline integration at the time. American Airlines calls him an “architect of a stronger, more resilient airline and industry.”

In addition to 9/11, his leadership has been faced with the financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic—events that had calamitous effects on the industry. According to a news release, he is the longest-tenured major airline CEO since deregulation.

“Over the span of his 35-year career, Doug has been an architect and advocate for a more vibrant, resilient and secure aviation industry,” Lead Independent Director John Cahill said in a statement. “At American, Doug has overseen unprecedented investment in our team and our product and set the standard for servant leadership, tirelessly championing our people and establishing an accessible and inclusive culture.”

Isom brings more than three decades of industry and leadership experience to the role. His expertise spans finance, operations, planning, marketing, sales, alliances, pricing, and revenue management.

His career began at Procter & Gamble before going on to hold a number of executive positions at America West Airlines. There, he is credited with helping the airline to grow by 50%.

Isom then sat in various senior operations, finance, and commercial roles at Northwest Airlines over the course of a decade. He eventually was named the chief restructuring officer of GMAC, LLC, and later served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of US Airways.

He held the same position at American post-merger before being named president in 2016. He currently oversees operations, planning, marketing, sales, alliances, and pricing, according to a news release.

Isom thanked Parker for his partnership throughout the past two decades, calling him a “leader and teacher who inspires all around him and leaves an incredible legacy at American and in our industry.”

“Looking ahead,” Isom said in a statement, “I am deeply honored to be working alongside the best team in the industry and know that we will achieve great things together.”

According to Cahill, the succession plan—one of the American’s “most important mandates”—is the culmination of a thoughtful and well-crafted process. He said Isom is the “right leader to carry American forward into its next period of growth.”

During COVID, Isom assisted in ongoing recovery by simplifying American’s fleet, driving efficiencies, and spearheading partnerships to rebuild revenue, per the company’s news release.

“Robert is a collaborative leader with deep operational expertise and global industry experience,” Parker said in a statement. “His efforts to guide and support our team throughout the pandemic have been nothing short of phenomenal. We are well-positioned to take full advantage of our industry’s recovery, and now is the right time for a handoff we have planned and prepared for. I feel extremely fortunate to hand the reins to this clear and capable leader.”

The news follows North Texas’ other air giant, Southwest Airlines, also announcing a new chief executive.

Southwest named 33-year company veteran Bob Jordan its CEO-in-waiting in June. Then, in September, Tom Nealon retired from his role as president, effective immediately. Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s chief operating officer, assumed Nealon’s role, in addition to keeping his current position as COO. 

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