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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 11/29/2011

American Airlines parent appoints new chief executive

The board of directors of AMR Corp. appointed Thomas W. Horton, who has spent more than 20 years with American, to replace retiring chief executive Gerard Arpey as the company filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure its operations.

Horton was appointed president of AMR and American in 2010 and has served as an executive vice president and chief financial officer, along with other positions. He has also worked as vice chairman and chief financial officer for AT&T.

According to his official company biography, Horton holds an MBA from Southern Methodist University and graduated magna cum laude from Baylor.

Here is the text of Horton’s letter to employees distributed Tuesday.

Dear Colleagues:

Today, we took an action that is the necessary and correct path for us to take - and take now - to become a more efficient, financially stronger, and more competitive airline.

 We believe that taking decisive action today will allow American Airlines and American Eagle to restructure so that we can emerge from Chapter 11 well-positioned to assure the company's long term viability and its ability to compete effectively in the marketplace. It is the right decision – and the right time – for our company and its future.

I realize this news might be difficult to absorb; change is never easy. We will do our very best to keep you informed, understanding that there will be many questions we are not able to answer right away. I can certainly tell you that we expect to continue to provide employee wages, healthcare coverage, vacation, and other benefits, without interruption.

 As each of us begins to process this news, we must look beyond the moment to consider the powerful assets of our company and the exceptional strengths we have as we enter into this process: one of the most recognized brands in any industry, our unmatched AAdvantage program, our global network and alliances, the innovation and dedication of our employees, and the loyalty of our customers. We will also have the youngest fleet in the industry, giving us more flexibility and the opportunity to build and grow our network down the road. Together, these form our foundation for greater future opportunity. And now we have the potential to overcome our last hurdle by achieving a competitive cost structure, returning to both financial health and a position of industry leadership.

 As we work to achieve our goals, our customers' safety, comfort, and travel experience must remain, as always, our top priority. Their satisfaction ultimately determines whether we succeed and are able to shape a successful future for our company.    

The people of American have worked tirelessly and honorably to overcome the challenges we've confronted over the past decade, and we made incredible progress against all the odds. Yet, in spite of all our progress, other factors evolved around us to make our road ahead that much tougher. The impact of our significant cost disadvantage compared to our now-larger competitors, all of which restructured their costs and debt through Chapter 11, has intensified in recent weeks due to global economic uncertainty, volatile and rising fuel prices, and ever greater competitive challenges. In spite of the uphill battle we've fought, we nevertheless put in place a powerful foundation: we strengthened our network and forged premier global partnerships; invested in our customers' experience, and announced a transformational fleet renewal plan that is the envy of our industry. We confronted our challenges head on, but in the end, we are now faced with the accelerating impact of factors outside our control and a widening cost gap we have not been able to close – a situation that had to change, one way or another. Our Board decided that it was necessary to take this step now to restore our profitability, operating flexibility, and financial strength, before we missed the opportunity.

As I mentioned, achieving a competitive cost structure remains a final challenge that we must overcome. We have one opportunity to do this right, and that requires a comprehensive overhaul of our costs. We can get it done together, recognizing that we are in this together.

One person who has always put our company's interests first is Gerard Arpey. Gerard led American out of its darkest time and fought with all his considerable energy and intelligence to avoid the path we are taking today. In spite of all the headwinds, Gerard had the vision and fortitude to continue laying the foundation for success, the building blocks for our future – and I was proud to be by his side. And in his last decision as CEO, too, his overriding concern was the best interests of the company and his belief that new leadership was the best choice for our path forward. I have rarely encountered a more honorable or principled person and it has been a privilege to work for him and learn from him for the past 26 years. I will personally miss Gerard's daily presence, but I know we can all continue to count on his friendship and encouragement. 

American Airlines has a proud history and we will have a successful future. We intend to reinforce our reputation as a global leader known for excellence and innovation, a travel partner customers seek out, and a carrier that serves communities throughout the world.  

 The coming months will not be easy, but this company has overcome challenges – many in just the past decade – that would have defeated lesser teams. I am confident that your courage, determination, and ingenuity will assure that our company reaffirms its position among the world's premier airlines.

 Sincerely,

 Tom Horton

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By Washington Post Editors  |  10:10 AM ET, 11/29/2011

Categories:  Aviation

 
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