Exclusive Interview: American Airlines Officials Discuss Boeing, Airbus Deal
Yesterday, after weeks of speculation, American Airlines announced the largest ever order for new aircraft. Would it be Boeing? Or perhaps Airbus? In the end, it turned out to be both. With one of the oldest fleets among major U.S. carriers, American’s ambitious five-year fleet renewal plan meant that no one manufacturer could deliver within the airline’s timeline.
According to American Airlines executives we spoke with, the deal “was literally signed in the dark hours of the night.” Until shortly before the deal was announced, “we didn’t even know whether this was going to be one manufacturer [or] two.”
They told us that the deal consumed “a huge amount of corporate brainpower, time, energy, [and] focus for weeks and weeks and weeks.” As a result, in some respects little if any planning has been done in terms of specifics, such as what routes the new planes will fly, how many will be deployed where, and so on.
“Today’s news,” said an executive at the company, “is by and large very good news for your audience in almost every case that I can think of. And I also think they will be thrilled with the speed with which this happens, which is one of the reasons we did two deals to get these planes in 5 years which is bordering on unprecedented.”
Jonathan Spira and Ben Rossi discussed the announcement with Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ CEO, and Tim Smith, an official spokesman for the company.
THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MARKET
Jonathan Spira: As you know, my main interest is the business travel market. I presume you want to attract new corporate travelers to the airline through a major fleet renewal, so I wondered if you would want to comment on the perceived impact of the aircraft acquisition on one of your largest and most important groups of customers.
Gerard Arpey: What we have tried to do with our own network and OneWorld partners is try to create a global network that is the best network for premium traffic. So if you look at our five cornerstones in the U.S., New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, L.A., those are, if not the top, among the top premium markets around the world. Looking beyond there’s British Airways with its Heathrow hub, Iberia with its Madrid hub, JAL in Japan, Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong… it’s designed to focus on premium business traffic. But the other piece of the puzzle is having a quality product on board our aircraft and these airplanes are going to allow us to make a lot of progress on that front
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