With 2004 drawing to a close, I hope you would agree that all of us have a lot to be thankful for. Among other things, last month in the United States we went to the polls in record numbers to elect the individuals who will represent us in our government. There were no guns, tanks, or troops — just citizens making sure their voices were heard. Millions have fought and died for that right, and there are a lot of men and women sacrificing right now so that we may enjoy it. In fact, more than 1,100 of the mili­tary reservists called to active duty during the past 2 years are members of the American Airlines and American Eagle team, and I would like to use this month’s column to express to them my personal ­admiration and gratitude.

As most people know, reservists bear a unique burden in balancing civilian careers with military duties. It should be clear to all of us that the days of the “weekend warrior” are long gone. Reservists today play an incredibly important role in protecting America, and that role inevitably takes a toll on them and their families. While roughly three-quarters of our employees who have taken military leaves are pilots, the group includes colleagues from throughout the American Airlines organization — flight attendants, mechanics, dispatchers, airport agents, even managers. About 400 of them remain on active duty today.

The contributions of American Airlines’ people to our country’s efforts go beyond the heroic service of our reservists. In fact, just a few weeks ago we were proud to welcome to our headquarters the Director of Operations of the United States Air Mobility Command. He was there to personally deliver 83 Aerial Achievement Medals and 874 Certificates of Appreciation to AA employees called to duty during the recent Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) activation. CRAF is a program whereby American and other airlines make aircraft and flight crews available to the Defense Department in times of need. Since early 2003, American pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and aircraft have flown hundreds of missions, ferrying tens of thousands of troops overseas and back again. The assignments usually come up with little or no notice, but our people line up to volunteer because they know it’s a privilege to serve their country.

To express our appreciation for our service­men and -women, American has extended a series of special offers — including Admirals Club access and discounted fares — to active-duty members of the U.S. military. We have also invited uniformed military personnel to preboard with our First Class passengers, or at any time during the boarding process. While these gestures pale in comparison to the contributions the troops make on our behalf, they are, nonetheless, our heartfelt way of saying thank you.
As you enjoy the celebrations of the season, I hope you will join me in reflecting on the many wonderful opportunities we enjoy as Americans, and in thanking the brave men and women whose service and sacrifice make all those opportunities possible. Thank you for flying with us today, and happy holidays!

Picture of Gerard Arpey

Chairman & CEO
American Airlines