Air Transport World

Rewired for success: American embraces continuous improvement and teamwork at its Tulsa MRO base.( American Airlines )

Fifteen months after American Airlines unionized employees agreed to some $1.7 billion in pay and benefit reductions and productivity improvements in order to keep the airline aloft, management and workers are striving to create a new corporate culture reminiscent of the remarkable transformation achieved at Continental Airlines a decade ago. The drive to change the way the carrier does business reflects AMR Corp. Chairman and CEO Gerard Arpey's conviction that even with nearly $4 billion in total savings since 9/11, American must find ways to compete more cheaply and smarter if it is to stand firm against the rising tide of budget airlines with their threat of permanently lower fares. Executives are candid that the process is very much a work in progress, but they also point to measurable improvements in attitude and efficiency.

Here at American's sprawling Tulsa maintenance base, the largest such facility in the world with some 8,000 employees and 3 million sq. ft. of docks and shops spread across approximately 300 acres, the desire to become more competitive and efficient is driven by an appreciation of the alternative occurring elsewhere: Continued downsizing and outsourcing of airline MRO activity, to third-party shops and OEMs. Over the past three years, United has closed two of its three main bases, Northwest has shuttered its primary DC-9 airframe and overhaul facility, and US Airways has abandoned a heavy maintenance hangar in Tampa and is challenging its unions for the right to outsource heavy checks to Mobile Aerospace, a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Aerospace. …

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