Deep down, American Airlines President Robert Isom is an operations guy. We've rarely seen someone get so excited while talking about what it takes to make sure an airplane departs on time.
At American Airlines, some airport employees call Robert Isom Capt. D0, an homage to his obsession with on-time departures.
It’s a nickname Isom likes, he told me last month at Skift Global Forum, because he believes D0 — that’s airline speak for flights that leave on time — is the most important metric for operations. He became animated speaking about the “choreography” required for punctual departures, from what happens at ticketing counters to fueling, catering, and cleaning.
“If you depart on time, guess what?” said Isom, American’s president. “You have a really good chance of arriving on time. It’s a surprising correlation between the two, right?”
American is not perfect. For the first seven months of this year, it ranked seventh among 10 U.S. carriers in arrival performance, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data. Its on-time arrival performance, including codeshare partners, was more than five points worse than Delta Air Lines.
The rigidity can also cause drama at the airport, where it can produce uneven customer service, as agents may close out flights before connecting passengers arrive. Isom said he understands the criticism, but said in many cases keeping operational integrity helps more customers. American has 6,700 daily flights, and sometimes it’s easier to put passengers on the next one, rather than hold doors open.
An early morning delay, Isom said, “cascades through the rest of the day. You’re not going to just disrupt 150 passengers, or 200 passengers. You’re going to ultimately disrupt potentially over 1,000, and lost bags, and staffing, and overtime, and you name it. It’s an issue of disruption.”
What do you think about Isom’s obsession with D0? Is that the right metric?
SkifT Forum Videos Are Online!
If you missed the best travel conference of the year last month in New York, do not despair. We have posted videos of all the sessions, including my discussions with Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s president; Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO; and Isom.
Isom and I discussed basic economy, fuel prices, on-time performance, and employee relations.
Be sure to let me know what you think.
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Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [[email protected]] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.
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Photo credit: An American Airlines employee uses a tug to push back a Boeing 737. American President Robert Isom is obsessed with on-time departures. American Airlines