Confidence abounds at the headquarters of American Airlines, the world"™s biggest carrier, where the CEO recently declared that his company would never lose money again.
And why not? U.S. airlines are enjoying a golden age. Strong travel demand, cheaper jet fuel and fewer competitors are combining to push profits sky-high.
The No. 2 man at American, Robert Isom, spent years trying to make more flights arrive on time. Since being promoted to president in August 2016, Isom"™s portfolio has expanded to oversee the rollout of new products including Basic Economy, a bare-bones seat that, American hopes, will seem so unattractive to passengers that they will pay more for a better one.
Isom recently sat down with The Associated Press, armed with a sheaf of notes that he checked frequently. Like his boss, CEO Doug Parker, Isom said American will make money even during downturns. And he said the future is so bright that employees will be able to "sign up for American for life." The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Investors and analysts are suddenly very concerned with short-term increases in costs. Are they too worried?
A: I think that we are so short-term focused and have been in the airline business, and probably rightfully so. As we take a look at the future at American Airlines, thinking about where we should be on average, we have talked about producing returns of $5 billion a year. That"™s how we are setting up this airline. Some years we may fall short; other years we think that we will exceed ($5 billion)…