An insider’s account of the disastrous challenges that faced American Airlines, a combination of events that led to the creation of the world’s largest airline.
In a workmanlike behind-the-scenes narrative, Kennedy, the company’s general counsel from 2003 until his retirement in 2013, and Maxon, a retired Dallas-based airlines reporter, describe the turmoil and chaos that befell AA following 9/11. Though certainly of interest for those involved in the airline industry, the saga, full of jargon-laden descriptions of lawsuits and mergers and acquisitions, may be lackluster for general readers. NFL legend Roger Staubach, who served on the company’s board during those tumultuous years, introduces the book by referencing the company’s 2011 bankruptcy as “a Hail Mary pass” to save the airline and return it “to health and prosperity.” From there, the authors pick up the story, as Kennedy recounts his long history at AA and the events leading up to 9/11. During that tragedy, AA lost both Flight 11 in New York City and Flight 77 at the Pentagon. (AA would be involved in another tragedy just two months later when Flight 587 crashed in Belle Harbor in Queens.) The authors explain the complex business circumstances surrounding those events, including the acquisition of TWA’s assets and liabilities and the subsequent recession of 2001. They also provide an accounting of the cost of doing business in the airline industry, referencing fights with labor unions and the federal government, a revolving door of executive leadership, and tussles with competitors like Southwest Airlines over gates at Dallas’ Love Field. It all culminates in the courtroom drama of the company’s bankruptcy and subsequent merger with U.S. Airways. It’s not always riveting, but it does portray the risky landscape that large companies in a public space must navigate among regulators, the market, and their own people and how American just managed to survive.
A serviceable account best appreciated by students of business and veterans of the airline wars.