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American Airlines CEO Doug Parker to retire, Robert Isom to take over March 31

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Yahoo Finance Live's Adam Shapiro joins fellow anchors in examining American Airlines CEO Doug Parker announcing his retirement and the state of travel sector stocks.

Video transcript

- We've been watching travel stocks as well. They've been coming back quite a bit. And there is news in particular on American Airlines. The CEO Doug Parker says he's going to be stepping down next year and handing the reins to one of his longtime lieutenants. Our Adam Shapiro covers the company, covers airlines for us. He's joining us here this morning to talk about that now succession at the company. And we got to say, we were-- we were looking at the charts this morning, Adam-- American has not done great under Doug Parker compared with some of the other airlines.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Right. And in fact, American Airlines, you know, they went bankrupt in 2011. And Parker at the time was CEO of US Airways. Before that, he had been at America West, and he acquired US Airways. Then in 2011, he acquired American and CEO now. But he acquired American out of bankruptcy. So it's something they have been before, to the back and beyond. The question is whether they would have gone bankrupt because of the pandemic.

Now Parker was instrumental along with other airline CEOs in getting the $54 billion from you and me and 330 million other American taxpayers to help with the Payroll Support Program. So Parker's been there for 20-some odd years as an airline CEO. The person who is going to replace him is Robert Isom. Bob Isom was actually on Yahoo Finance Live with us just a month ago talking about rebuilding the airline after the pandemic. Here's what he told us.

ROBERT ISOM: We're building the airline to meet the demand that's out there. And throughout the pandemic, you know, we've known that travel is something that people, they need-- from a business perspective, from a leisure perspective. And you can see it, every time there has been throughout the pandemic, just the slightest bit of decline in infection rates, you know, travel-- travel increases. We know that people want to get out there.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Now when you look at Robert Isom's background, He's been in the airline industry for quite a while. He was at one point the chief operating officer at US Airways. He actually was at America West. He was at Northwest Airlines when Delta took over Northwest. But he's also got a background-- he was at Procter and Gamble at one point, he was at GMAC. Right now, his responsibilities are overseeing American's operations, their planning, their marketing, their sales, alliances with their partner feeder airlines, and of course, pricing. He's got a big ticket, a lot of responsibility coming his way. This is by a number of aircraft, number of employees, the largest airline in the United States, and still trying to emerge like the others from the pandemic, losing more than $9 billion last year. Julie.

- Adam-- Adam, there's a bit of a changing of the guard here in the airline industry. It started with United Airlines, Oscar Munoz stepping aside, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announcing his retirement this year, now Doug Parker. What's driving this and really, the only person still at the top that we all know is Ed Bastian over at Delta.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Yeah, I actually asked whether there was a succession plan at Delta-- just, you know, one of those background discussions you have the airlines a while back. And Mr. Bastian has only been there for about five, six Years, So no plans yet at Delta-- watch me be wrong. But in the case of Doug Parker, he would have left before the pandemic. Remember, Scott Kirby was at American, and a lot of people thought Kirby was going to be the replacement for Parker, but then United hired Kirby, and now Kirby is in charge of United.

So there's a transition underway. And when you talk about Gary Kelly, Kelly has been with Southwest 35 years. He's been in the role of CEO for an incredibly long time. Again, another pandemic-delayed transition. But we interviewed Bob Jordan, who's going to be the new CEO at Southwest just about a month ago, and all of these transitions will be taking place in the coming year. At Southwest, it's February, at American, it's going to be in March.

But keep in mind, Doug Parker is still going to be chairman of the board at American, and Gary Kelly is going to serve the same kind of role at Southwest. So no longer in the CEO seat, but very much at the control panel.

- Yes, not as though these guys are going away. And thanks, Adam, for that perspective. Very helpful to get the context as to what's going on at these airlines.

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