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On behalf of all my American Airlines colleagues, I want to congratulate you for getting your year off to a flying start — and of course, thank you for honoring us with your business today. Some loyal “Vantage Point” readers may be surprised to see an unfamiliar picture alongside this month’s column — mine. On the other hand, I’m guessing that many of you are aware that late last year, I took the reins as chief executive officer of American Airlines, thereby becoming the newest face in American Way. I look forward to using this space to describe some of the interesting and exciting things going on at our airline. This occasion, however, seems a good time to introduce myself.
I grew up near Houston, and from an early age, I was fascinated with the sky. My father worked for NASA, and growing up, my heroes — and many of my neighbors — were the original astronauts. To this day, I am inspired by the memory of the ingenuity and spirit that propelled our country to leapfrog the Russians and put a man on the moon. After completing my studies in 1985, I was fortunate to land a job with my dream company, American Airlines. After 17 enormously interesting and challenging years at American Airlines, I made the very difficult decision to take on a challenge at another iconic American company, AT&T. My time at AT&T was a great experience. But when my great friend (and predecessor as CEO) Gerard Arpey called in 2006 and offered me a chance to return to the company I love, I leapt at the opportunity.
While some may say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, the reality is that I never stopped believing in either the greatness of American Airlines and our people or the nobility and importance of the work we do. In fact, I believe in those things now more than ever. We connect the world, and in doing so, we make it a smaller, smarter, more dynamic, more prosperous and, simply, better place.
Of course, our noble mission doesn’t mean that we do not have serious challenges in front of us. You are probably aware that in order to secure the future success of our company, we are in the middle of a restructuring — an outcome that, unlike virtually all of our competitors, we fought hard to avoid for many years. Will the restructuring require change? Absolutely. Indeed, we expect to emerge from this process a leaner, more efficient and far more competitive airline.
But let me talk about what’s not going to change. First and foremost, our commitment to safety and customer service will remain paramount. We are continuing to move aggressively, along with our oneworld partners, to build the premier global airline network for you. Likewise, we are moving full speed ahead with the most ambitious and dramatic fleet transformation in our long history — one that will result in AA operating the youngest and most efficient fleet of aircraft in the U.S. industry. We remain committed to investing in the services, products and technology necessary to provide you with a world-class travel experience. And importantly, by making our company leaner and more competitive, we’ll have even greater wherewithal to do so.
I can assure you that from your standpoint, it is “business as usual,” and the entire American team will be working hard to do a great job for you every day on every trip. But I don’t want that to imply that we’re standing still, as nothing could be further from the truth. You deserve an airline that is striving to be better and better — and American Airlines is that airline.
Let me close by thanking you for reading my column and of course for flying American Airlines. My colleagues and I are going to be working very hard to earn your loyalty for many years to come.
Have a terrific trip!
Thomas W. Horton