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Airlines and travel agents are Sabre Corp.'s most important constituencies -- other than shareholders -- and now the company has former airline executives serving as CEO and executive chairman of the board. These airline connections aren't the only reasons the board selected these executives but their experience certainly can't hurt.

In a changing of the guard of sorts at Sabre Corp., the board appointed Sean Menke as president, CEO and board member, replacing Tom Klein, who announced earlier this year that he would resign.

Menke, who had been president of Sabre Travel Network, the unit that operates Sabre’s global distribution system for suppliers and travel agents, since October 2015, and previously had been CEO of Frontier Airlines and an executive at Hawaiian Airlines and Air Canada.

He ironically was chief commercial officer at Air Canada from June 2005 to August 2007, a period in which the airline battled with Sabre and others over distribution issues, and later made peace.

In announcing the appointment, Sabre also stated that Larry Kellner, non-executive chairman of the board, would become executive chairman. Both appointments become effective on December 31.

Like Menke, Kellner is a former airline executive, having been chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines from 2004 to 2009.

In tapping Menke, who joined Sabre a little more than a year ago, the company is making a break with its past in choosing a relative outsider. Outgoing CEO Klein, who has been selected as chairman of tourism-promotion group Brand USA, had been with Sabre since 1994.

Klein’s predecessor as CEO, Sam Gilliland, served for a decade until 2013, and had worked at Sabre since 1988.

So Menke, having only worked at Sabre for a little more than a year, represents a change in direction from a recruiting standpoint.

“Sabre touches almost every facet of the travel ecosystem to drive value and success for our customers,” said Menke in a statement. “I know first-hand the critical and growing role technology plays for our customers. It’s a core investment for airlines, hotels, agencies and travel management organizations alike, and Sabre has unique capabilities to help our partners grow revenue and operate more efficiently. It’s an honor to succeed Tom and build on his strategic vision for Sabre and to lead such a talented team to capitalize on this opportunity.”

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Tags: gds, sabre

Photo credit: Sabre Corp.'s new president, CEO, and board member Sean Menke. Sabre Corp.

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