Aviation News

December 9, 2013

EMERGING DETAILS: American’s Tim Ahern Talks About the New American Airlines

During the course of the momentous day of the American Airlines/US Airways merger into the new American Airlines, NYCA was able to spend some time with Tim Ahern, VP Gateways and Hub Coordination, American Airlines and pose some questions regarding the merger.


Tim Ahern, American Airlines VP Gateways and Hub Coordination

NYCA: This is very much a historic day in the aviation industry with the merger.  Obviously there are detractors to the events, but on the whole it seems to be very well received.

TA:  We are very proud of the combination of the two carriers.  There is very little overlap and as we merge both of our networks into one, we have a really great opportunity to offer our guests a whole new world particularly in the New York area and we look to make our network even stronger with the add-on of the new East Coast Shuttle service but also the service will grow from an international perspective.

NYCA:  With more aircraft available in the fleet for the market, do you see expanding the international market and maybe into the African market following what Delta and United have done.

TA: Growth opportunities are clearly there for us in the international market and whether it be Africa, the Middle East, Europe or even South and Central America, we’ll look at the markets that we are currently flying and see if there is an opportunity to use the aircraft to new destinations and come forward with a network plan.  It’s a little premature to look at that right at this moment, but our network teams are certainly anxious to compare where the US Airways colleagues have flown and where we currently fly and see what new opportunities are available to us.

NYCA:  Currently, there are two alliances represented, oneWorld with American and Star Alliance with US Airways.  Are there any plans for a single alliance to be used and is there a timetable for this?

TA:  Obviously with oneWorld and our joint business with British Airways, important decisions will be made.  US Airways will leave Star Alliance in the spring of 2014 and immediately come over to oneWorld – they will leave Star Alliance one day and join oneWorld the next day.  We anticipate that to happen in the late March 2014 time period.

NYCA:  With your new role with Hubs, there are hubs out there now, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, etc. for American and Phoenix, Charlotte, Philadelphia for US Airways.  What are the plans for the hubs and also the maintenance bases going forward?

TA:  Obviously we will look at the hub situation.  Both airlines have a lot of aircraft on order, in the American fleet, we will be taking 60 new aircraft next year, that is more than one a week and US Airways has done a great job of restructuring their fleet and making it more fuel efficient and while they will be taking some new aircraft next year, much of their restructuring is done.  So, there will be growth opportunities across the United States and obviously as we introduce the Boeing 787 and there is an order of the Airbus A350 for US Airways, we will look at where we expand internationally with those new aircraft so you will see some adjustments to the hubs but I really believe it is going to be more of a growth opportunity for the current hubs.  You might see some changes in the way we fly in that where both airlines fly the same time departure from an airport to the same destination, you’ll see a slightly flatter structure in the hubs.  It won’t make sense to be stacked on top of one another as opposed to flying against a competitor.

NYCA: You mention the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 opportunities, obviously within the US, the introduction of the new A321 Transcontinental service is going to be big too.

TA: The A321 is going to be a game changer in that market for us.  It is a special aircraft, configured with 102 seats with 10 fully lie flat First Class seats, 20 full lie flat Business Class seats, 36 seat Main Cabin Extra and 36 seat Main Cabin on an aircraft that is typically configured with 180 plus and will be a market class game changer.  We will be introducing the aircraft on January 7, 2014 to our guests and will grow the service by the summer with 13 flights a day between New York’s JFK International Airport and Los Angeles and we will also grow San Francisco from 4 to 5 flights a day.  We really see this service as a market differentiator in those markets and we think that is going to be the best aircraft to fly trans-continental bar none.

NYCA: Do you ever see that service expanding to the other large east coast market for America, Miami?

TA:  You never know.  Right now this is a first opportunity for us.  Obviously we will look at market demand but with the mix of aircraft we have now, what the fleet allows us to do is to pick and choose what aircraft to put into the specific market places to meet the demands of our guests and that is the beauty of having 940 plus aircraft in the fleet plus the regional flying so right now, that is not in the plan for 2014.

NYCA: The new color scheme that was recently introduced has been well received.  Is that going to be the final scheme for the new merged American Airlines?  I know that Doug Parker had made some comments regarding the scheme – are they going to be some changes in that?

TA: I know that if Doug Parker were here he would say that that is one of the things that we have looked at.  When you look at the rebranding of American Airlines, we really did our homework to make sure that we took an iconic brand and modernized it.  With that said, as we merge the two companies, there are some 35,000 employees at US Airways that are will be losing their brand identity and they are equally proud of their heritage and so I don’t know if that is the final answer to the new brand.  We will be taking another look at that and be very mindful to the fact that as we move forward we take all of the work that was done to identify the new brand for American and then incorporate some thoughts from our colleagues at US Airways.  It is very important that we get it right to identify the brand going forward.

NYCA:  One of the biggest fears with any merger, and it is not only in the airline industry, it happens when any companies merge, the potential is there for layoffs, for attrition due to retirements, how does that position hold for the new American Airlines?

TA:  I really think that if you look at what is going on, this is going to be a growth opportunity for us so as you look at the new airplanes coming in, the nice part of having that fleet order is that depending on what happens with demand, we certainly can take the supply and either throttle it up by keeping some of the airplanes that we currently have in the fleet flying or we can throttle back.  The intent of everything that we are looking at is not only to maintain but also to grow.  I know that when you tend to look at merger opportunities that there is some shrinkage, but I think with the new American, you will see we come out with expanded growth.  Now with that said, people will choose to retire from the company.  We have just finished with a town hall meeting with staff and employees and used different roles in the old company to the new company are examples and used that to show that it can be a great outcome and opportunities for everyone going forward.  We need to make sure that we do it right.  Both carriers have a history of mergers in the past and we also have looked at other recent mergers in the industry and we want to take the best out of all those experiences and do it right.  We have formed integration teams, there is an integration office that manages some 29 integration teams throughout the organization and they are looking at everything we do and we are really looking at the best of the best not only between the two carriers but looking at the best of the best in the industry and other industries as well.  This is an opportunity to do some lessons learned and grow upon those lessons learned to have the best team going forward.

NYCA: Today is the first step in a long merger process.  When do you think consumers will start to see things like integrated frequent flyer programs, etc.?

TA:  We will start doing that right after the first of the year.  Mid-January is when work on the frequent flyer and customer facing branding begins.   We want to stabilize over the holidays and not make many changes over this busy period from a customer standpoint.  Obviously a lot of our guests have already made their holiday plans and we did not want to make any changes until that busy holiday period was past.

NYCA:  Thanks very much for taking some time out of your very busy merger schedule to spend some time with us and answer our questions.

About the Author

Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence is a NYCAviation staff member and a south Florida-based aviation fanatic. He has been around the industry since he was a small boy. Mark can be reached at [email protected]


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