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American Airlines is planning for life after CEO Doug Parker

American Airlines is planning for a future after CEO Doug Parker as it looks for a new human resources chief to lead hiring while helping with the eventual transition to a new chief executive.


The executive search firm Hanold and Associates released a job posting last week for a “chief human resources officer” who probably would eventually succeed Elise Eberwein, the Fort Worth-based airline’s executive vice president of people and global engagement. But that person would also “report to the new CEO, who will be a key part of this interviewing and selection process.”


“As that transition occurs, there are other key leadership transitions that will soon happen, including Elise’s retirement,” said the search firm, according to a report from the executive search news organization Hunter Scanlon. “After these moves take place, the CHRO [chief human resources officer] will eventually report to the new CEO.”


The post from Hanold & Associates has since been changed to take out the details about the transition plans, but Eberwein and American confirmed that the carrier is making CEO transition plans, which they characterize as normal for any large publicly traded company.


The internal executive who is presumed to play a key role in the new hire is American Airlines president Robert Isom, who oversees many of the airline’s daily operations and is the company’s No. 2 executive.


Parker, 59, is still young in CEO years. He’s been running the airline since 2013, when he helped orchestrate the merger between American and US Airways, where he was CEO. He had been appointed CEO of America West Airlines just after the 2001 terrorist attacks, giving him almost two decades as the leader of a major airline.


Isom has taken an increased role at American since he was named president in 2016. Most letters to employees are co-signed by Parker and Isom, and Isom does many of the face-to-face meetings with worker groups.


Isom has been presumed to be the eventual CEO successor since the company parted ways with Scott Kirby in 2016. Kirby, like Isom a longtime business partner of Parker’s, left for Chicago-based United Airlines and took over as CEO last year.


American Airlines’ Eberwein confirmed many of the details of the report on social media but pushed back on some of the speculation as “inaccurate.”


“It’s true Robert is the ideal internal candidate. It’s true Doug will celebrate 20 years this year as CEO. Someday, not today, next month, or year, Doug will retire. Robert will likely become CEO if all goes as planned. That was made pretty obvious several years ago,” she wrote in a post on Twitter confirmed by American Airlines.


The tweet said the new chief human resources officer would report to Eberwein until she decides to retire. That person would then report to the new CEO.


It’s common for airlines to have CEO succession plans for eventual retirements, sudden corporate upheavals or unexpected deaths. But it’s rare for a company’s plans to become public in this way. Eberwein wrote that many of the details were released to make the job clear to potential candidates.

“None of this is happening immediately or even anytime soon,” she wrote. “In hindsight, it’s clear we should have just left the reporting structure to me and those who want to report to the president or CEO would just opt out.”

A lot could happen for American in the next few years. Parker hasn’t publicly disclosed his plans. Isom may not be willing to wait around for Parker to leave or may retire himself. In the meantime, a new leadership candidate could emerge.


Jason Hanold, who is leading the search, said in an email that such searches are common.

“It is normal for contemporary well-run organizations to have a transition and multiyear succession-planning strategy in place, both for public and private companies, large and small,” Hanold said. “There is no imminent leadership change at American, simply ongoing planning for an enduring future for the airline.”


This article originally appeared on Dallas Morning News


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