Doug Parker, who served as American Airlines CEO from 2013 to March 2021, is stepping down as chairman of the airline company at the end of April, the company announced on Thursday. Parker, who led the company through the merger of American Airlines and US Airways to form the world’s largest carrier, spent over two decades as CEO of major US airlines, navigating through three recessions and an era of consolidation.
Parker will be replaced by Gregory Smith, an independent board member and former executive vice president and CFO of The Boeing Company, who joined the American Airlines board in 2022. Smith played a key role in Boeing’s efforts to return the 737 Max to service after it was grounded worldwide following crashes in 2018 and 2019.
After starting his career at American Airlines’ finance department in 1986, Doug Parker went on to work for Northwest Airlines before becoming the CEO of America West. He became CEO of America West just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In 2013, Parker became CEO of the newly merged American Airlines and US Airways, orchestrating the takeover of bankrupt American Airlines and assuming the role of CEO of the world’s largest carrier. Parker was also instrumental in securing over $50 billion in federal government grants and loans to support the airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During Parker’s tenure as CEO, American Airlines faced significant labor relations issues and struggled for years to merge two massive companies. However, Parker also oversaw a massive fleet renewal program, ordering new aircraft from Boeing and Airbus to improve fuel efficiency and lower costs. American Airlines also opened a new headquarters building in Fort Worth during Parker’s tenure as CEO.
Parker’s departure as chairman comes just months after he stepped down as CEO and handed over the reins to Robert Isom, the company’s longtime president cum business partner since they worked together at America West. Unlike his counterpart at Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, who took an executive chairman role at that airline and remained an active lobbyist and adviser with an office near that of CEO Robert Jordan, Parker has not had an executive position at American Airlines since stepping down as CEO.
In conclusion, Parker’s departure as chairman marks the end of an era for American Airlines, and Smith’s appointment as his replacement highlights the company’s focus on aviation industry expertise and experience. With Parker’s departure, American Airlines will continue to navigate the challenges and opportunities facing the airline industry in the years ahead.
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