A campaign to reinstall 86-year-old former American Airlines head, Bob Crandall as CEO of the world’s largest carrier appears to be less about drafting the airline executive from his retirement and more about illustrating differences between today’s air travel experience and the more glamorous air travel experience of yesterday.
The folks behind BringBackBob.org freely admit that former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall isn’t necessarily on board with the idea of reinstalling him as the chief at the massive legacy carrier. On the other hand, that might not really be the point in the first place.
“BringBackBob.org is not affiliated with Robert Crandall, American Airlines, or any of American’s labor unions,” the group explains in a telling disclaimer. “It’s simply a reflection on a time when American was a leader in corporate innovation, which benefited customers, employees and shareholders alike.”
Although the site appears to be something of an online shrine to Crandall who retired from the carrier in 1998, the love letter to the former CEO is carefully curated not only to highlight the passenger unfriendly changes that have been put in place in his absence. The group has also carefully chosen a number of news stories and interviews which draw a stark contrast to the public perceptions about current American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.
“When customers, employees and shareholders ALL benefited,” the group proclaims, remembering the glory days and lamenting, “If we could only Bring Back Bob!”
Crandall himself has been critical of both his successors and the current direction of the airline industry. In 2018, he made comments indicating the airline management may have become contemptuous of their own customers. In a speech at the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) annual conference, he blamed much of the tribulations of modern air travel on the industry’s deregulation of the 1970’s, but urged airline industry leaders to “pay some more attention to the reaction of your customers” while trying to maintain a healthy bottom line.
Airline industry experts are questioning if Crandall was ever the white knight that he is all of a sudden being portrayed as in the current campaign. “He’s 83 years old, retired from American 21 years ago, and wasn’t exactly a peach — but he represents what is in some ways the airline’s glory days,” View from the Wing columnist Gary Leff offered this week.
The “Bring Back Bob” proponents credit Crandall with “pioneering aviation innovations such as frequent-flier miles, electronic reservations and yield management.” Crandall has admitted, however, that sometimes those innovations were subject to the law of unintended consequences – in the case of American Airlines’ “golden ticket” which allowed purchasers unlimited first class flights for life with disastrous effect.
“We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees,” Crandall later recalled in characteristically earnest fashion. “It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were.”
[Featured Image: Flickr/SDASM Archives]