For a leader originally set against airline deregulation and then dismissive of strategic alliances, Robert Crandall's frequent description as industry innovator has been earned in a peculiar way.
But Crandall's handing over the helm of American Airlines to Donald Carty should ensure that the Crandall legacy continues, though perhaps with a softer style of management.
Carty, who has been heir apparent for some years, has been groomed to ensure a smooth handover on 20 May when Crandall retires as chairman and chief executive officer. Carty will retain his title as president when he also becomes chairman and CEO.
Observers praise Carty for fronting the difficult pilot union negotiations last year. Many also feel that Carty will be a better match for senior British Airways executives, if the BA-American alliance goes ahead.
The retirement announcement is also prompting words of admiration for Crandall. 'Crandall has been a great industry innovator and leaves AMR strong and well positioned. He is an outstanding individual and an extraordinarily capable executive,' says Charles Fisher on behalf of AMR's board of directors.
While Crandall did not initially welcome US deregulation or global alliances, he was sufficiently flexible to embrace them later on, analysts point out. His fierce competitive instincts, combined with marketing innovations and a grasp of yield management before it became an industry buzzword, set him apart from other airline executives.
American's first quarter results show a 90 per cent increase in net earnings from $152 million in 1997 to $290 million. Revenues are up 7 per cent to $4.7 billion.
Source: Airline Business