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American CEO faces turbulence
New company head looking for a quick exit from bankruptcy
A: Not often.
Q: How long will the bankruptcy process last?
A: I want to go as quickly as we can. We must do this right. We must do it only once, and we must be sure that the company is profitable, successful and growing coming out the other side. I’ve given our team a target to have that done by the end of the year. I will admit that is an aggressive target by prior standards. There’s no reason why we can’t do it.
Q: Recently, you’ve opened the door to a possible merger but not while you’re still in bankruptcy protection. Is that a new position?
A: No, nothing new at all. For years I’ve said that I think consolidation has been can be healthy and constructive for the U.S. airline industry. But right now we are in the midst of a very complex restructuring, and so our focus is singularly on returning the company to profitability and growth. The idea of doing the two together strikes me as a bridge too far.
Q: Will American need a merger partner at some point?
A: I think American needs to be bigger, which is why our business plan in the restructuring is all about renewal and growth. We’ve got 460 new narrow-bodies [midrange aircraft] on order with 465 options on top of that. Largest aircraft order in history. It came with $13 billion in manufacturer financing, so that is a great opportunity for our company not only to be on the path to having the youngest fleet in the industry, but also it gives us great capacity to grow where it makes sense. I don’t think American is compelled to do a combination, but the point I have made is we don’t rule anything out.
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