American Airlines names new president as Kirby exits to United

An American Airlines jet parked at a terminal of Miami International Airport in 2014. The world’s largest airline plans to stop on-board announcements of connecting gate information as flights prepare to land. 

American Airlines Group Inc. has named Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom president, effective immediately, the Fort Worth-based carrier said Aug. 29.

Isom succeeds J. Scott Kirby, 49, who is leaving the airline effective immediately, going to United Airlines.

United Continental Holdings Inc. said Monday that Kirby has been named president and will oversee operations, sales and other duties.

Kirby was often seen as a likely successor to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

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Instead, he will add airline-industry expertise to United’s management. The Chicago-based airline is led by Oscar Munoz, a longtime railroad executive who became CEO less than a year ago.

In his new role, Isom, 52, a more than 20-year veteran of the airline, will report to Chairman and CEO Doug Parker, 54.

“Robert is a world-class executive, and extremely well-qualified to assume the role of president,” said Parker. “He has played an important role in the success American has become, including leading our operational integration and building an outstanding team. Robert is an engaging leader with a talent for growing and inspiring the colleagues around him. As president of American Airlines, Robert will do great things for our team members, our customers and our shareholders.”

Isom began his airline career at Northwest Airlines in 1991. He joined US Airways as chief operating officer in 2007 and led the turnaround of US Airways’ operating performance and reliability. He was selected to become chief operating officer of American Airlines in 2013 after the merger of American and US Airways. As president, Isom will continue to oversee the airline’s operation and assume all revenue responsibilities for the airline.

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The recent management changes are the result of the company’s board of directors’ ongoing succession planning process. The company had said it would not be able to retain its existing executive team in their current roles for an extended period.

In a statement, United’s Munoz said Kirby “is a proven leader, whose deep airline experience and expertise will further accelerate our efforts to build the best airline in the industry.”

Munoz said Kirby’s hiring culminated the building of his senior leadership team, which included this month’s hiring of a new chief financial officer and chief commercial officer. Earlier this year, two activist shareholders threatened a proxy battle if Munoz did not surround himself with more people experienced in the airline industry.

Kirby’s departure from American breaks up what was an unusually long-tenured management team for the airline business. Kirby worked for Parker at America West Airlines and US Airways, where he rose to president in 2006. Both men took the same jobs at American after engineering the December 2013 merger of the two airlines.

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– Associated Press contributed to this report