Departing American Airlines CEO had a big impact on Charlotte
There was big news from Charlotte’s largest airline this week. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker is retiring after 16 years leading the company. He’ll be replaced by the airline’s president, Robert Isom. The news comes after two years of travel-industry tumult amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2004, then-major airline US Airways, which had a hub in Charlotte, was in bankruptcy with a grim outlook.
“Doug Parker was CEO of America West at the time — a smaller airline, bought US Airways out of bankruptcy and then merged it with American about eight years later,” The Charlotte Ledger’s Tony Mecia told WFAE’s Marshall Terry on this week’s installment of BizWorthy. “Really grew the airline, consolidated a lot of things and kept our hub here and kept it alive and kept it growing, and that’s been a really big boon for Charlotte in terms of attracting other companies and making this a desirable place to live.”
These days, Charlotte Douglas International Airport is American Airlines’ second-largest hub.
But while Parker’s legacy has largely been praised, Mecia says, not all his decisions were popular with travelers.
“In the past 16 years, have there been operational meltdowns where they had to cancel a bunch of flights? Yes,” Mecia said. “He was also a pioneer in what is known as à la carte pricing. Instead of putting everything included under a single price of a ticket, you break it out and charge for checking a bag, charge for a seat assignment, charge for food. A lot of people don’t like that approach. ”
In other news, the Ledger reported on Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles applying for an honorary membership at the swanky Myers Park Country Club, which Mecia says has a joining fee of roughly $95,000. It raised some eyebrows, and Lyles eventually withdrew her application.
“She said that she put in the application over the summer, didn’t really think much of it, really, until we reached out to her last week asking some questions as to whether this was appropriate, whether this violated the (City Council)’s gift ban,” Mecia said. “Generally, elected officials can’t take gifts. There is some legitimate question over whether this is a gift. The country club does have this program for other civic leaders but not elected officials, previously.”
The mayor withdrew her application after checking with the city attorney following the Ledger’s story.
“I asked her if there was anything she regretted about these circumstances, and she said she always examines all of her actions to see what she could do better and that this is no exception,” Mecia said.
You can listen to the full BizWorthy conversation above. Here’s a quick look at a few other things Mecia and Terry covered this week.
- There’s a bit more detail about Toyota picking North Carolina for a plant that is expected to bring more than 1,700 jobs to the state.
- British electric vehicle maker Arrival plans to build a third facility in Charlotte for building batteries.