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Change in the CEO of American Airlines signals Covid optimism

This reflects a reorganization announced earlier this year at Southwest Airlines Co., which plans in February to replace CEO Gary Kelly after more than 17 years at the helm with Bob Jordan, who has worked for the airline for more than 30 years. It is not the best evidence of the airlines’ diversity efforts that these two CEO changes included promoting even more firmly rooted white men. Moving to calm, experienced hands, however, underscores the uncertainty surrounding the recovery of the pandemic and offers some protection against future disruptions. This is probably not the time to hire an automotive manager to run one of the largest airlines, for example.

Kelly will become Executive Chairman of Southwest with the intention to serve in this role until at least 2026. Parker will also remain Chairman of American; No schedule was given for how long he could stay in this position. Both leaders seemed careful not to start their successors’ tenure with a hot mess and waited until the airlines had at least stabilized before handing over the reins. American’s CEO change “probably would have happened sooner, but the global pandemic – and the devastating impact it has had on our industry – delayed those plans,” Parker said in a letter to employees released Tuesday. “While we still have a lot to do, the pandemic recovery is underway and now is the right time to make the transition.”

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Such optimism may seem shocking when the transferability and term of the recently discovered Omikron variant of Covid-19 is still largely unknown. But while countries tighten international travel restrictions in the face of Omicron, there is still no evidence of a sharp drop in domestic air travel demand. On the contrary, ticket volumes for US travel agents continued to recover the week after health officials first raised concerns about omicron, and according to Airlines Reporting, it remained the lowest percentage since the pandemic lockdowns in early 2020, below 2019 levels back Group. Traffic through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints does not appear to have decreased significantly relative to seasonal demand trends. In fact, an Axios-Ipsos survey of more than 1,000 US adults conducted between December 3rd and 6th found less than a quarter planned to cancel vacation trips because of the variant.

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