US Airways' Merger Edge: Its CEO Is 'One of Us'
For the Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier, the weapon of choice in shaping perceptions is exactly what it has been for a decade: Have CEO Doug Parker talk, whether it be to reporters, analysts, legislators, the public, or employees. Parker often, but not always, can win people over, and at the airline he has run for 11 years -- longer than any other CEO at the top seven airlines -- he presides largely through the force of his personality, displayed constantly in a corporate culture of openness.
That's in contrast to the usual model where CEOs, at airlines and elsewhere, tend to be isolated, cautious in what they will say, separated from workers by inclination and a wide salary gap, and surrounded by an inner circle that restricts access.
Parker will take the stage Wednesday before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he will discuss US Airways' effort to take over American. He is not expected to unveil any surprises, but he generally has something to say, a reality that has for several years made US Airways earnings calls among the most-anticipated in the airline industry. The airline, hoping for a wide audience, has already issued two news releases reminding of the appearance.
So far, the key moment in Parker's career has been the 2005 merger between US Airways and America West. In 2001, the 39-year-old Parker was named CEO of America West 10 days before the Sept. 11 attacks. The carrier barely survived the falloff in travel that followed. But by 2004, it had $2.4 billion in annual revenue and was ready to begin to pursue mergers in a bid to ensure its long-term survival.
US Airways was undergoing its second bankruptcy when Parker and his management team stepped in. The carrier emerged in September 2005, and its employees greeted Parker as a hero, particularly when he embraced the airline's heritage, which included predecessors like Piedmont and Allegheny. Within a year, the US Airways fleet included four airplanes painted in predecessors' colors.