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In last month’s column, I wrote about commercial aviation’s role as a key element of our economic infrastructure. Our industry drives more than a trillion dollars of annual economic activity and supports, directly and indirectly, more than 10 million jobs. This month, I want to emphasize that while our industry and our company are anything but immune from the challenges our economy is facing (we have made, and will continue to make, difficult choices as we navigate through this economic storm), we continue to invest in the long-term future of our company. We know that prudent investment is essential if we are to sustain our catalytic role in the economy and fulfill the commitments we have made to the customers, employees, shareholders, and communities that depend on us.

With that in mind, we recently placed into service the first of the 76 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft we will be receiving through the first quarter of 2011. The 737s, which will gradually replace our fleet of MD-80 airplanes, represent an investment in the future that will benefit all our major stakeholders.

From a passenger perspective, the 737s feature new first- and coach-class seats that provide greater living space and comfort, as well as bigger overhead-storage bins and an improved in-flight entertainment system. From an employee perspective, these new aircraft will be maintained at our Tulsa, Oklahoma, maintenance facility by American Airlines workers; in contrast, many of our competitors have outsourced most of their maintenance work overseas. Our shareholders will benefit from the fact that a new 737 burns 35 percent less fuel per seat mile than an MD-80. And of course, from an environmental perspective, our increased fuel efficiency translates to fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and a smaller carbon footprint -- a good outcome for everybody.

While the recession, coupled with the problems in our capital markets, makes investing more of a challenge these days, we believe it would be irresponsible not to make the investments we know are needed to preserve our role as one of the country’s foremost economic catalysts. By the same token, and as I have discussed at length in previous columns, we believe it is absolutely essential that our government invest now in the modernized air traffic control (ATC) system our country urgently needs.

As hard as it is to believe, the current ATC system is based on decades-old radar technology that is less precise than available satellite-based technology. Its limitations are manifest throughout the country in delays and inefficient routings, both of which slow the aviation system down, cost airlines and their passengers money and time, and force us to burn far more fuel and emit a lot more greenhouse gases than necessary. Despite the current recession, the Federal Aviation Administration is forecasting significant long-term growth in air travel, which makes it critically important that as a nation, we start investing in a modern ATC system as soon as possible.

We cannot afford to let the economic woes of today, serious as they are, distract us from our responsibility to prepare for tomorrow. So as I thank you, as I do every month, for flying with us, I also want to assure you that my colleagues at American Airlines and I are not only looking forward to serving you for many years to come, we are getting ready to do so.

Have a great trip!

of Gerard Arpey

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines