American Airlines

December 7, 2013

Meet the management team at the new American Airlines

The merged airline’s executive team is dominated by top executives from US Airways, which engineered the merger with the bankrupt American.

There’s a new team sitting in the executive suites at the American Airlines headquarters on Amon Carter Boulevard.

While the combination of American Airlines and US Airways will keep the American name, many of the top executives will hail from US Airways’ offices in Tempe, Ariz.

Doug Parker, 52, who engineered the merger as CEO at US Airways, is stepping in as American’s new CEO to lead the world’s largest carrier, taking over from Tom Horton. Horton will remain as chairman of the new company’s board of directors until the first shareholder meeting sometime next year.

Parker, who started his aviation career in the late 1980s in American’s finance department, is the industry’s longest-serving CEO. He has run US Airways since it merged with America West Airlines in 2005, and was named to America West’s top spot just days before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Of the top executives who report to Parker, five are from the former US Airways leadership and three are from American.

“We have to go to work on getting this team working as one,” Parker said in an interview last week. “We know each other pretty well because of all we’ve gone through, but now it’s one team instead of two. So immediately, we will be having staff meetings and things like that to get this airline running as a normal operation.”

Here’s an overview of who is now leading the world’s largest airline.

Scott Kirby


Previous position: President, US Airways

Age: 46

Education: B.S., Air Force Academy; M.S., George Washington University.

Career: Worked at the Pentagon and at AMR subsidiary, American Airlines Decision Technologies, before joining America West Airlines in 1995. Held several executive positions and was named president of the combined America West/US Airways in 2006.

Top of to-do list: “I have a very long list of meetings already set up at headquarters to get a more in-depth understanding. My focus will be on network and revenue issues.”

Expected challenges: “The challenge for 2014 will be to deliver on what we told everyone that we would, in terms of realizing synergies, in terms of fostering the strong relationship that we have with labor today.”

One thing that people may not know about you: Although he has lived in Arizona for almost two decades, his family has Texas roots. “My family has been in Texas forever. When my second daughter was born here in Phoenix, my father mailed me four tins of dirt and told me to put them under the bedposts so she would be born on Texas soil.”

Robert Isom

Chief operating officer

Previous position: Chief operating officer, US Airways

Age: 50

Education: B.S. and B.A., University of Notre Dame; MBA, University of Michigan.

Career: Worked at Procter & Gamble, America West Airlines and Northwest Airlines. Before joining US Airways in 2007, he was the chief restructuring officer for GMAC.

Top of to-do list: “Getting leadership in position. When you think about how you can move forward, it just can’t be done in pockets. People have to know where they belong.”

Expected challenges: “If anybody came in and said there is one biggest challenge, I would tell you they are not the right person for any of these jobs. Everything is the biggest challenge. Everything is tied for first ... you never know what’s going to hit you in the airline business. Whether it’s maintenance-related, whether it’s catering-related or cleaning-related or airport jet bridges, de-icing, any one of those things can shut us down.”

One thing that people may not know about you: He swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco with his 14-year-old daughter in April. “You get dumped in the water and swim back from Alcatraz. It was pretty cool.”

Derek Kerr

Chief financial officer

Previous position: Chief financial officer, US Airways

Age: 49

Education: B.S. and MBA, University of Michigan.

Career: Worked as a flight test coordinator at Northrop Corp.’s B-2 Division and in financial planning at Northwest Airlines. Joined America West in 1996 and held several executive positions before becoming CFO of US Airways in 2009.

Top of to-do list: “Moving into managing the intregration from a synergy perspective and working with Bev [Beverly Goulet, chief integration officer] and Robert on the integration management office to make sure we plan out how we do this to get the synergies that you expect in a merger.”

Expected challenges: “Because of the timing of the merger, we’ve had to do two different stand-alone plans for 2014. How we bring that together and how we put a forecast process in place at the new company so that we can manage costs going forward is a challenge.”

One thing that people may not know about you: “I walked onto the University of Michigan’s baseball team and played four years, lettered three years, and went to the College World Series twice,” said Kerr, who played catcher but declined to disclose his batting average. “We lost to Texas my first year. It was a grand slam home run. We lost 4-2. He golfed it off his toe.”

Elise Eberwein

Executive vice president, people and communications

Previous position: executive vice president, people, communications and public affairs, US Airways

Age: 48

Education: B.A., Lindenwood University; MBA, Colorado State University.

Career: Started as a flight attendant at TWA. Worked in media relations, employee communications and other roles at Frontier Airlines. Joined America West in 2003 as vice president of corporate communications.

Top of to-do list: “It’s getting operations on the line and start meeting the employees and the leaders that are out there and figure out how we are going to create a culture here at an airline this size that allows people to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.”

Expected challenges: “The challenge is the people doing the real work of the airline — mechanics, the flight attendants, the reservationists, the pilots — they don’t sit at offices, they don’t gather around the water cooler. ... To have them feel connected to something in the same way that management does sitting at headquarters. ... It’s the age-old challenge that airlines have of connecting with people who, for them, their offices are at 35,000 feet.”

One thing that people may not know about you: Her husband is a pilot for US Airways. “I met him when he was informational picketing my first week working for Doug [Parker] at America West.”

Beverly Goulet

Chief integration officer

Previous position: Treasurer, American Airlines

Age: 59

Education: B.A. and J.D., University of Michigan

Career: Worked as a corporate and securities law attorney in Dallas for more than a decade before joining American in 1993 as associate general counsel for corporate finance. Was named American’s chief restructuring officer in December 2011.

Top of to-do list: “The first thing that we’re going to focus on is to make sure that as we start to introduce changes that we do it in such a way that is not at all disruptive to the customer.”

Expected challenges: “An airline all by itself is a pretty complicated operation and when you put two of them together it’s going to be a very large undertaking.”

One thing that people may not know about you: During American’s first year in bankruptcy, Goulet’s travel involved only two cities. “When I went back and looked at my 2012 travel, I had made 52 flights that year and they were either DFW to LaGuardia or LaGuardia to DFW,” Goulet said. It improved only slightly this year. She added Phoenix to the list.

Stephen Johnson

Executive vice president, corporate affairs

Previous position: executive vice president, corporate affairs, US Airways

Age: 57

Education: B.A., California State University, Sacramento; MBA and J.D., University of California, Berkeley.

Career: Worked at America West in several positions from 1995 to 2003. Before rejoining US Airways in 2009, he was a partner at the private equity firm Indigo Partners.

Top of to-do list: The first thing I’m going to do is apologize to my wife and son for being an absent father for the last two years. And then I’m going to try to get some rest and then I’m going to, with enormous excitement, turn to the challenge at the new American.”

Expected challenges: “The biggest challenge is finishing the really good work we’ve done with the labor unions and to make progress with respect to the labor integration.”

One thing that people may not know about you: For the last twelve years, he has averaged 150 to 180 nights in a hotel each year. “I’m hoping that the way we’ll be structured at the new American there will be less travel required. I have lived half of my life in a hotel.”

Maya Leibman

Chief i nformation officer

Previous position: Chief information officer, American Airlines

Age: 47

Education: B.A., University of Chicago; MBA, University of California, Berkeley.

Career: Joined American in 1994 in the revenue management department. Was president of the AAdvantage frequent flyer program before becoming chief information officer.

Top of to-do list: “US Airways has, I’d say, about 750 applications or systems right now and American has 750 systems and applications. In the future, we’re not going to have 1,500. So really, the first priority is to figure out how we are going to integrate all these systems.”

Expected challenges: “We absolutely have to get the customer-facing systems right. My goal is that on the day of a big integration, the customers are going to say, what integration?”

One thing that people may not know about you: Her six-year-old son gets upset with her when she can’t name the 10,000 different characters in Star Wars movies. “He can name every character in every movie of Star Wars even though he has never seen any of the movies. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s true.”

William Ris

Senior vice president, government affairs

Previous position: Senior vice president, government affairs, American Airlines

Age: 66

Education: B.S., Northwestern University; M.A., Johns Hopkins University; law degrees from University of Denver and Georgetown University.

Career: Trial attorney for U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board in the 1970s. Worked as counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and then as outside counsel for American while at the Wexler Group. Joined American in 1996 as its primary government affairs executive.

Top of to-do list: “We have to explain to people what’s going to happen from here on in because it’s not going to be instantaneous by any means. Day one, nobody is going to see a completed integrated airline. So I think what we’re trying to do, particularly with members of Congress, is to explain what the process is going to be and how it will take place and how long we expect it to take.”

Expected challenges: “The biggest challenge will be continuing to figure out how to operate in a period of great uncertainty with respect to the federal budget and that includes the possibility of our services being taxed more, which is being talked about right now.”

One thing that people may not know about you: His first job in aviation was with the Civil Aeronautics Board before airline deregulation. “It’s not that I knew anything about aviation or cared about it, I was just offered a lot of money. It was $14,000 a year and I could never imagine how I could spend all that money.”

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