Everyone knows the old joke “I just flew in from [some city], and, boy, are my arms tired!” Ouch. Our company’s version of that joke, I suppose, would be: “This year, we flew more than 120 million passengers about 1.3 billion miles, and we’re not even tired.” 2006 has been an incredibly busy — and in many ways good — year for our airline, and I want to use this, my final column of the year, to congratulate and thank the men and women of American Airlines for their tireless commitment to our company and to our customers.
I particularly want to thank those who will be working on and around the holidays. For many of our people, helping our customers connect with friends and family means spending the holidays away from their own friends and family. It’s one of the sacrifices they make in order to do the work they love. I deeply appreciate it, and I know our customers do too.
The bustling holiday season is an apt finish for a year in which we will have operated more than 1.5 million flights, carried well over 100 million bags, and delivered roughly three-quarters of a million tons of cargo. Throughout the 365 days of 2006, an American Airlines or American Eagle flight took off somewhere in the world approximately every 22 seconds. Our far-flung operation — which reaches roughly 250 cities in 40 countries — never rests.
The fast pace of our activity in 2006 wasn’t confined to the front lines of the operation. Our reservations agents handled more than 95 million calls this year, and AA.com received about 450 million visits. Our world-class maintenance team cared for a fleet of more than 1,000 American Airlines and American Eagle aircraft as well as those of several third-party customers.
I realize this may sound like just an average year for the world’s biggest airline, but our people learned a long time ago that there is no such thing as an average year — or an average day, for that matter — in the airline business. Given the velocity of change in our industry, the lessons we learned 10, five, or even one year ago are of little value today. The most important thing we have learned over the years is how to learn.
By learning and working together and embracing the need for constant change, we have thus far navigated our way through the most tumultuous time in our industry’s history while continuing to meet the commitments we have made to our employees, retirees, suppliers, creditors, and the communities we serve. And, while we still have a lot of work to do, we have — despite a gargantuan increase in the price of fuel — made steady progress in our quest to return our company to financial health after several difficult years.
It would take a much longer column for me to do justice to the pride and gratitude I feel for the people of our airline and the job they have done in 2006. And, of course, none of what they accomplished this year would have been possible without you and your fellow American Airlines customers around the world.
One of the great joys of this business is that, by doing our job well, we help you live the kind of life you want to live. When you choose to fly with us, you return the favor. Your support means the world to us, and we are going to do our very best to earn your continued support in 2007 and beyond.
On behalf of everyone at American Airlines, thank you for flying with us, and happy holidays to you and yours.
Gerard J. Arpey