Skift Take

Richard Anderson deserves kudos for having helped to revitalize Amtrak in his three years as CEO. The former Delta Air Lines top boss put the U.S. railway operator on track to its first-ever operating profit while also improving its safety record.

Amtrak said Monday that William J. Flynn will replace Richard Anderson as CEO of Amtrak.

Flynn was chairman and CEO of Atlas Air, a cargo company, through last year. The 66-year-old previously held senior positions at CSX, a freight company.

“Bill has a consistent track record of growing and improving complex transportation businesses,” said Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia in a statement.

When former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson took a leadership role at Amtrak in 2017, he tackled several challenges: improving the company’s safety record, tuning up its operations, ordering modern train cars, rebalancing the route schedule to emphasize shorter money-making trains instead of long-haul routes, updating the company’s loyalty program and mobile app, and wooing continued U.S. government subsidies.

Analysts gave Anderson good marks on all of those scores except for the last. The Trump Administration in January proposed a federal budget for 2021 that would slash by more than half Amtrak’s subsidy.

When Anderson joined, it experienced two crashes in a brief span, and it didn’t earn enough revenue to cover its costs.

Anderson leaves with a much-improved safety record for the railway and a budget on track to cover its expenses in 2020, after factoring in government subsidies. That’s the first time in Amtrak’s 50 years that it came close to “operationally break even.”

Anderson spoke September 19 at the Skift Global Forum in New York City. Here’s the video:

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Tags: amtrak, ceos, rail, rail travel, trains

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