Off the Cuff

US Airways CEO: Government ‘Making Our Lives Difficult’

Off the Cuff

Very soon now, Doug Parker may run the largest airline in the world. Parker is the chairman and CEO of US Airways . On March 27, the airline’s merger with American Airlines won bankruptcy court approval. The new, combined airline will have an annual revenue of an estimated $40 billion, and will offer 6,700 daily flights. The merger is expected to close later this year – it needs approval from shareholders and the Department of Justice.

Parker has been a longtime proponent of airline consolidation. In 2006, he made a run for Delta Airlines, later withdrawing the bid. In 2008 and 2010, he wooed United but was rebuffed. Asked about his relationship with other airline CEO’s, he said,“we get together primarily to work on lobbying in DC, which is something that other industry groups do, and not much else, so that’s most of what we’re talking about. When we’re together, we tend to spend a lot of our time commiserating about how the government is making our lives difficult sometimes in this business, through high taxation and other issues that we’re going to work together to get fixed.”

He was named CEO of America West airlines at 39 years old, becoming the youngest CEO of a US airline—in history. He took the helm just 10 days before the events of 9/11, and was faced with steering the company through an industry crisis. He later initiated the merger of America West with the much larger US Airways.

“I look back on it now and realize all the things I didn’t know,” Parker told "Off the Cuff." “But I think I was capable and competent, not so much because of me, but what I knew is that I needed a team of people who had the experience that I didn’t have. I do my best to hire a really good team and give them the latitude to do the job the way they want, and you can do that at any age.”

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Parker models himself on the legendary co-founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher—a former lawyer whose theatrical flair helped shape Southwest’s ethos. “I do my best to watch Herb as closely as I can and learn everything I can. I think what Herb has done better than anyone is get the employees and all the team members at Southwest engaged in the airline, and excited about it. It’s something we’d like to do with the new American. “Parker himself is no stranger to theatrics. Last Halloween, he impersonated the Korean pop sensation Psy, in a Gangnam-style parody for hundreds of employees.

“I made a fool of myself. I didn’t do it particularly well,” he said. “But yeah, I spent a little time the night before looking at videos.”

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