US Airways’ Doug Parker: A Driven Man

Sometimes the best way to deflect attention is to seek it. If you’ve done something embarrassing, you can keep people from making fun of it by admitting it up front, at the beginning of the presentation or interview. Doug Parker, the chief executive of US Airways knows this, and he showed that he knows it when then airline had about 40 reporters in a few weeks after Doug pleaded guilty to drunken driving on the night the airline’s unsolicited bid for Delta Air Lines fell through. So US Airways Media Day began with Doug coming to the front of the room, welcoming people and then telling them that he was embarrassed, chastised, humiliated, and would never do it again, all in his very sincere, almost boy scout-like manner. Fair enough. The journos were quiet and no one asked him about the incident or even if the pledge never to make the same mistake again applied to the driving incident or the Delta bid
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Enough said…sort of. As the presentations drew to a close, the airline served lunch from one of its local partners, a restaurant chain called Z Tejas Southwestern Grill, and, in return for the food, US Airways let the chain’s chief executive, Steve Micheletti, stand up and spiel a little about his company. One of the chain’s claims to fame is its margarita, a combination of tequila and triple sec to which it adds the Chambord raspberry liqueur. Z Tejas sells “more margaritas than anyone else in the Valley”, Micheletti said, referring to the ‘Valley of the Sun’ in which Phoenix sits. He then urged reporters and others to head on over to a Z Tejas restaurant a few blocks away and test their margaritas. A voice was heard from the back of the room, adding, “walk. Don’t drive”. Yep, Dougy. A funny guy.
His “little incident” wasn’t all that Parker wanted to apologise for. He spent a fair amount of the media day apologising to people in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, the airline’s largest and most troubled hub. Parker and his America west inherited the Philly mess when it took over US Airways in late 2005 and inherited a lot of unhappy campers. Pre-merger US Airways had suffered through record service failures at Philly, and one, in late 2004, as bad a meltdown as any, piling up bags for days and alienating flyers across the region. Now though Doug and the US Airways team are committed to, as they put it, ‘fixin’ Philly’ because as Parker told reporters “we’re not running as good an airline as we’d like to. The key to that is fixing Philadelphia.”

Parker introduced the new US Airways Philly fixer, Tony Grantham, who noted that Philadelphia, less than 100 miles from new York, is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US and the largest US metropolitan area that has just one major airport, unlike Chicago with two or New York with three But, he pointed the airport is only the 15th busiest airport in the nation (by traffic) because it is hampered by geography and inadequate infrastructure. For instance, it is the largest airport in the world without an in-ground fuel system, which means that fuel has to be delivered to airplanes by truck. Last year, US Airways spent nearly $3 million to upgrade its facilities and equipment at the Philadelphia airport and will spend more than $4 million in 2007 and about $20 million in 2008 on problems there.

To demonstrate the airline’s commitment to Philly, Parker said, the carrier has made the city its long-term gateway for all international service, including new flights last year to Lisbon, Milan, and Stockholm, and flights this summer to Athens, Brussels, and Zurich, as well its proposed flights between the US and Shanghai, China.

Parker said that if US Airways wins the China route, it might also fly between Philadelphia and Tokyo Narita Airport because “If you have planes flying to Shanghai, then Narita is the next step”. The carrier may lease or buy A-340s from Air Canada or another carrier for the China service, but Scott Kirby, the number two at US Airways, told AB that the airline is also trying to figure out where else it could use the long-distance planes. Scott, like his boss, is a young, enthusiastic and sincere fellow; he gave a version of his his upbeat update on US Airways to investors at the JP Morgan conference in New York a few days later and you can read it here: http://library-ir.net/library

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One Response to US Airways’ Doug Parker: A Driven Man

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