I’m not sure AA “gets it”.

A few weeks ago, American Airlines conceded publicly that it would examine all options for exiting bankruptcy rather than just the stand-alone approach it had been evangelizing up to that point. This was due primarily to the campaign for merger that US Airways has been engaged in and the unsecured creditors committee desire to see all options reviewed.

Since that time, there have been quite a few indicators that American Airlines simply paid lip service to the court of public opinion without actually engaging in the act of reviewing merger potential. PlaneBuzz made mention of an internal town hall put on with CEO Tom Horton and the view that Horton isn’t acknowledging that a merger decision or any decision on AA’s exit from bankruptcy lies really at the hands of the bankruptcy judge and the unsecured creditors committee. In short: Once you’re in the bankruptcy court, your control over your destiny is very limited.

In addition, AA has proceeded in its talks with unions with the clear intent to win its Section 1113 motions to abrogate the union contracts. What I mean is that they haven’t made progress with the unions although I’ll concede that they have so far managed to engage the pilots enough that they are returning to the negotiation table. However, they largely went through the motions with the unions by all accounts.

CEO Tom Horton was in Beijing for the IATA conference and was quoted by Bloomberg saying: “We’re very focused on restructuring independently,” Horton said. “That has to be our focus now and anything else for the time being is a distraction.”

The problem with these developments is that the UCC (Unsecured Creditors Committee) for this bankruptcy is the one that forced AA to publicly acknowledge that it will examine all options and statements and actions like those on Horton’s part speak loudly to so far ignoring the wishes of the UCC.

And it’s notable that a large part of the UCC is made up of AA unions. The bankruptcy judge has made it clear that even if union contracts are dissolved, American Airlines still has to do a deal with the unions and unions still have to get a new contract in place. His message is that the two parties better start figuring out how to make things work under the legal framework that will continue to exist or both sides are in trouble with respect to a successful outcome. US Airways having top level agreements in place with AA unions shows at least a willingness to get a deal done that hasn’t existed at AA in more than a decade.

I will note that American Airlines does seem to be trying hard to come to terms with others on the UCC to kick the legs out from underneath US Airways. They have managed to come to terms with HP over terminating HP’s development of AA’s new passengers service system that was to be called JetStream. New IT VP leader Maya Leibman has now indicated an AA preference for buying a new system off-the-shelf and adapting AA business practices to the system rather than building a one-off system to meet the business practices of AA. That isn’t exactly the wrong direction at this point. There is less risk involved and it at most brings AA at the level of Delta and United.

HP has plenty of horsepower to offer in passenger reservations anyway. It operates the SHARES system already, for instance, and that is the one that United adopted from Continental.

But how do other creditors view advantageous terms being agreed upon with key members of the UCC? What is a union response to another UCC member getting a quick resolution vs their own membership? And can AA pull off a similar deal with Boeing and Airbus that keeps those orders on the books and Boeing happy as a member of the UCC? Maybe. Then again, maybe US Airways waves a follow on order for more Boeing aircraft to replace aging Airbus equipment? You never know.

At the end of it all, one doesn’t sense that AA has done anything to explore other options that involve mergers. To the contrary, one senses that they have retrenched and gone about their own ideas of what to do without regard to the opinions and desires of creditors. When a big majority of your creditors are your own employees who are already angry at your actions against them, there comes a time to pay attention and I don’t think any leadership at AA is paying attention.

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One Response to “I’m not sure AA “gets it”.”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. AA management seem to think they have all the answers and certainly have the arrogance. I just wonder how long the UCC will put up with their arrogance and move forward with getting this company in the hands of a management team with a real plan?

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