By Jason Allen

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – In announcing his departure from the CEO spot at American Airlines, Doug Parker suggested anyone jumping on a flight probably won’t notice a difference when the handoff happens next spring.

Labor groups, industry analysts and business experts agreed Tuesday, December 7 he’s probably right, at least for now.

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Parker made the announcement alongside his replacement, current President Robert Isom.

American Airlines CEOs Robert Isom (L) and Doug Parker (R). (credit: American Airlines)

He will take over an airline faced with climbing out of a pandemic slump, in the same way Parker was challenged to in 2013 to lead the newly merged company out of bankruptcy.

While the direction a new CEO will take is hard to predict, the passing of the torch to an already known executive was a signal toward stability, according to Ryan Krause, a professor of strategy at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business.

“Airlines are kind of a microcosm of all of the challenges our society is dealing with right now, and so I can understand why they would be very focused on signaling a very calm, orderly succession going forward,” he said.

Parker made a point of pointing out Tuesday that preparations for the change have been in the works for years, and may have even happened sooner, except for the pandemic.

The decision to make the move now though, doesn’t necessarily mean the company is past the challenges of the last 20 months.

Krause said it was an interesting conflict that Isom would have to deal with, both operating the airline successfully now, while also staking out a long-term direction for the company.

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He should at least start off on the right foot internally, according to Greg Cosey, President of the Transportation Workers Union Local 513, which represents nearly 4,000 airline employees.

“They have seemingly turned a corner in realizing we want to be partners,” Cosey said. “We don’t want to continue to have an adversarial relationship because it does no one any good.”

Cosey said he had made progress this year building relationships with executives working under Isom, especially related to staffing plans at DFW Airport.

He looked back at time Parker’s time with the airline as a mixed bag, and said employees were a bit leery of change, but cautiously optimistic. He wasn’t any more sure about what direction the airline will head next.

Aviation industry and travel writer Matthew Klint agreed that one criticism of Parker and unanswered question with the leadership change is what the company will become.

“Do they want to be the Spirit Airlines plus?” he asked. “Yes, we have first class. Yes, we have Wi-Fi, but we’re really competing on price? Or do they want to really try to be a premium carrier? And that’s perhaps where Parker has come up short.”

Klint, who writes online for Live and Let Fly, said Parker deserved credit for working his way up, guiding the airline to its current position, managing labor relations and continuing a loyalty program he considers superior to those of other legacy carriers.

If Isom keeps some of those accomplishments intact, that may itself be a future competitive strategy according to Krause.

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“Right now as an airline, predictability and stability is a really important thing you want to signal to your stakeholders.”