Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

December 10, 2013

New American Airlines CEO vows to make merger work

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines and US Airways seem an unlikely couple, even to the man who took over the combined company after they completed their merger on Monday.

Doug Parker says, however, that American’s buttoned-down, corporate culture will be the perfect complement to his scrappy US Airways, where “we sometimes fire before we’re ready.”

At his spartan, temporary office in American’s Fort Worth headquarters, the longtime US Airways CEO sat down for a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.

Parker talked about the merger, the government’s attempt to block the deal, looming competition from foreign airlines, and the public’s perception of air travel. The answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Do you see a gap widening between people in first- or business-class and leisure travelers in the back of the plane?

Parker: No, I don’t necessarily. You described it as the front versus the back, and the reality is all the seats in coach are not the same, and customers prefer certain ones over others and are willing to pay more either through loyalty or just paying more for a ticket in order to get a better seat in the coach cabin.

I don’t see a gap first versus coach as being a major change going forward.

Q: What are your biggest challenges in making this merger work?

Parker: It’s two complex organizations that need to be melded into one over time. That’s the biggest challenge by far. It’s not easy, but we have people that have done it before -- both airlines have been through a merger in the semi-recent past. We have consultants on board who’ve done this with other carriers, so we’ll learn from what we’ve seen at others as well as what we’ve seen ourselves.

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