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American to build new operations center near headquarters

🕐 3 min read

FORT WORTH – American Airlines Group plans to break ground in the next 30 days on a new Integrated Operations Control center near its Fort Worth headquarters, the company announced June 4 in a letter to employees.

The city is in talks with American on potential incentives. The staff will brief Mayor Betsy Price and City Council members on Tuesday on a tax abatement and economic development program with American, according to a city agenda published Friday for the pre-council meeting.

According to the letter, American plan to open the new center by the third quarter of 2015. The new center is part of the airlines consolidation of its operations from Pittsburgh to Fort Worth. The new center will oversee the daily flight operations of the newly merged airline.

American officials did not mention the plan during its Wednesday annual meeting in New York.

Aside from the typical voting for board candidates common to annual meetings, many American retirees registered their displeasure with pending changes to the company’s employee travel policy.

American Air mulls shareholder returns as 2014 decision seen By Mary Schlangenstein (c) 2014, Bloomberg News. DALLAS — American Airlines’ board is considering options and timing to return cash to shareholders, a step that may include a dividend or buyback, and expects to make a decision by the end of the year.

The issue was among several discussed Tuesday by directors ahead of Wednesday’s annual meeting in New York, Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said in an interview. It’s the first shareholder gathering since the company was created in a December merger with US Airways Group Inc.

“We are early in the merger,” said Parker, 52. “I would like to get more integration work behind us” before settling on a return plan.

Making a choice this year on capital allocation would add to American’s fast start since the US Airways tie-up formed the world’s largest airline. Fort Worth, Texas-based American may earn an annual profit of $3.87 billion, based on analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg, which would be a record for the U.S. industry.

American rose 3 percent to $42.68 at 3:22 p.m. in New York, adding to a 64 percent gain this year through Tuesday that was the most among major U.S. airlines.

Before deciding on returns to shareholders, the 11-member board wants to ensure American has sufficient capital to complete its integration with US Airways, to reduce any high- interest debt and cover other needs, Parker said. American had $10.6 billion in cash and short-term investments through March.

Last month Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines announced plans to increase dividends and repurchase stock. Delta reinstituted a dividend last year, after a decade-long break that included a bankruptcy and the acquisition of Northwest Airlines Corp. Dallas-based Southwest has paid a dividend since 1976.

American has reduced its shares outstanding since the merger by settling a convertible note and paying tax withholdings for employees in lieu of issuing common stock as compensation under its bankruptcy reorganization plan. The steps amount to a $710 million return of capital to shareholders, Parker said.

The carrier has a debt covenant that limits what it can do in the way of share repurchases or dividends unless it refinances the note. If the company waits until next March to refinance, a make-whole provision in the note would not apply, Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr has said.

Parker told shareholders at the New York meeting that the airline is likely to exceed its $1 billion estimate for merger revenue synergies from combining networks, winning back corporate contracts and other steps.

“So far, we believe we are going to exceed that target,” he said.

The airline previously said it had identified other ways since the merger that could generate $400 million more with moves such as adding seats to some aircraft models.  

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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