Skift Take

From its labor contracts to airplane redecorating, Horton's talk and action recently is focused entirely on projecting an image of an airline that's ready to go it alone.

American Airlines CEO Tom Horton told a crowd of corporate travel agents Sunday that he wants to return his airline to being an industry leader by the end of the year, but he shied away from discussing a possible merger with US Airways.

“I feel about American the way I feel about America. There’s no option but success,” Horton said. “This is a company that flies our flag around the world.”

The airline’s parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy in November. Recently, Horton has been on a public relations tour spreading a new message: American Airlines is recovering.

The airline lost money in the second quarter — $241 million — though all of the loss can be attributed to the cost of the company’s restructuring. Without that, American would have earned $95 million, its first quarterly operating profit for April, May and June since 2007.

“The people of American have been standing tall,” Horton said during the opening session of the Global Business Travel Association’s annual convention.

Horton did not say much about the push by US Airways Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker to merge the two airlines. Horton has said American is exploring all options.

The two CEOs, who worked together in the 1980s at American, had breakfast in Washington on Thursday. Horton joked about all the news coverage of the meeting that he had arranged.

“I had the oatmeal. I have oatmeal every day,” he said. “No surprise there.”

He continued to say that consolidation has helped the airline industry and that there will be more.

“American will be carefully considering whether to participate in that,” he said.

Asked if American should have followed other major airlines and filed for bankruptcy years ago, Horton said: “We try not to look back and second guess that decision.”

“American fought that longer and harder than anybody else,” he added. “I think that was honorable. I think the people of American should be proud of what they did.”

But, he said, other airlines were able to slash expenses in the courts, leaving American at a disadvantage.

American is preparing new planes, new interiors and upgraded airport facilities so it can eventually better compete with bigger rivals Delta Air Lines and United Continental Holdings Inc.’s United Airlines.

As part of that process, American might lose its iconic look: polished silver metal jets with red, white and blue stripes. The airline is planning to take delivery of new Airbus jets and the Boeing 787. Both sets of aircraft have plastic composites, Horton said, requiring the airline to rethink its exterior design, or livery.

Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at


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