Q: You've had employees picket at airports to complain about AMR management. Is that difficult to watch?
A: I don't pay attention to it. I don't know how many people have been out picketing. It must not be very big because I haven't seen it, but I've talked to thousands of people, real people doing real work on board our airplanes or out at our airports, and what I see is people doing a real good job and wanting to get behind the company and excited about the future.
Q: There are a lot of satirical videos on the Internet about AMR management ...
A: I never watch that sort of thing. Never.
Q: Have you heard about them?
A: I have heard about them, yes. To me that's just not relevant. That's a side show, so I do not look at things like that. I don't think that has anything to do with advancing the future of this company.
Q: What's it like being a CEO in the age of social media when people can put something critical of the company up on YouTube?
A: Always try to do what's right. It's not always what's easy. Being a leader is not easy. You're going to take fire whatever you do because there will be people who will disagree with you.
Q: A few (weeks) ago, you had a flight attendant who apparently had a breakdown on a flight. Passengers took video with their cell phones and posted it online.
A: A company with 80,000 employees is really just a slice of America, a slice of the world. We have people with all sorts of opinions, hopes, dreams, challenges, personal issues. Yes, we had that incident. It was a medical incident at the end of the day, and that individual is being treated. It happened at JetBlue. These things do happen in business.
Q: What do you say to the passengers who were on that flight?
A: Well, I don't say anything to them. (The company apologized to passengers in a statement.) All you can do is apologize. You can't make that right. I mean, it's very unfortunate that people had to hear things like that and to be troubled and disturbed on the outset of a trip.
Q: Your reorganization plan envisions $2 billion in cost saving and $1 billion in extra revenue every year. Some analysts are skeptical about the $1 billion in new revenue. Is it real?
A: I think it's very real. It's really about being able to tailor what airplanes we're flying to what markets and there's a lot of revenue there. We are also going to fully capitalize on the joint business agreements that we've put in place over the last couple of years (with British Airways and Japan Airlines and a pending deal with Qantas). And then of course we would foresee more flexibility to code-share (work together and share revenue with other U.S. airlines). All those things taken together add up to a lot of revenue.
Q: How long will the bankruptcy process last?
A: I want to go as quickly as we can. We must do this right. We must do it only once, and we must be sure that the company is profitable, successful and growing coming out the other side. I've given our team a target to have that done by the end of the year. I will admit that is an aggressive target by prior standards. There's no reason why we can't do it.
Q: Recently, you've opened the door to a possible merger but not while you're still in bankruptcy protection. Is that a new position?
A: No, nothing new at all. For years I've said that I think consolidation has been — can be healthy and constructive for the U.S. airline industry. But right now we are in the midst of a very complex restructuring and so our focus is singularly on returning the company to profitability and growth. The idea of doing the two together strikes me as a bridge too far.
Q: Will American need a merger partner at some point?
A: I think American needs to be bigger, which is why our business plan in the restructuring is all about renewal and growth. We've got 460 new narrowbodies (mid-range aircraft) on order with 465 options on top of that. Largest aircraft order in history. It came with $13 billion in manufacturer financing, so that is a great opportunity for our company not only to be on the path to having the youngest fleet in the industry but also it gives us great capacity to grow where it makes sense. I don't think American is compelled to do a combination, but the point I have made is we don't rule anything out.