Air Transport World

Eagle preens its plumage. (American Eagle regional airlines)(Company Profile)

With new management and strategy, AMR's four regional subsidiaries will have to do more than just feed the parent

DALLAS--When Dan Garton assumed the presidency of the American Eagle network last July, many industry observers felt that he would make big changes at the world's sixth-largest airline system, in terms of flights.

The foreseen changes were prompted by the National Mediation Board's ruling that the four airlines are a single transportation system for representation purposes for pilots and flight attendants. They were warranted because of two highly publicized fatal accidents, which had eroded the traveling public's confidence in an airline that ironically, had a reputation as one of the safest operations in the country. And they were deemed necessary because preserving the feed for American regardless of each Eagle's profitability no longer would cut it in today's competitive environment.

Some felt that Garton would consolidate the Eagle operations under one certificate out of Dallas, in order to take advantage of the economies of scale. The four airline presidents and on-site managers would be sent packing and Garton and his team would micromanage Eagle from here. Only a skeleton staff would remain.

A recent interview with Garton and his three new lieutenants proved how wrong `some prognosticators can be, at least from management's perspective.

"We do not have plans to combine the airlines under one roof," Gatton says emphatically. "Bigger is not always better. There are a lot of areas where size works against us, such as in pilot training, complexity of the operation, bureaucracy.

"For now, we plan to keep the Eagles similar in size to their competitors and independent."

And if the same question were posed a year from now? "Odds are, they will still be independent." Not everyone shares Garton's views.

"Why pay four presidents, 12 vice-presidents and arty number of hangers-on?" asks Capt. Homer Pugh, AlLPA MEG chairman for Simmons Airlines.

Pugh, who will lead ALPA's 2,265 pilots at the four Eagles until an officers' election is held, says: "We see no reason for Eagle to remain four independent carriers. It doesn't make sense economically." Pugh hopes to sit down with the new management soon to discuss the single-carrier issue in depth. In the interim, the new ALPA carriers will have appointed representatives. There are 773 pilots at Flagship Airlines, 492 at Wings West, 225 at Executive and 775 at Simmons Airlines.

The move toward semiautonomy of the four Eagles doesn't mean that no aspect of the operation will be handled by headquarters. …

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