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American Airlines announces new cargo president

Management changes are part of restructuring to cope with COVID-19 downturn

American Airlines is restructuring its management team, including the cargo division. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) on Tuesday promoted Jessica Tyler to president of cargo and vice president of airport excellence, tying together two inter-related groups and underscoring how members of the cargo team are taking on expanded roles as the company contracts to a more manageable size.

Tyler replaces Rick Elieson, who was named vice president of loyalty, overseeing the AAdvantage program.

The move is part of a broader restructuring of the leadership team and overall reorganization outlined by the airline in late May. American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is also eliminating 30% of middle management positions and preparing to reduce the number of pilots and other frontline workers to survive as a smaller entity in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that has significantly depressed travel demand and jeopardized airline finances. 

The airport and cargo divisions will retain separate functions, but placing them under one organizational roof to share talent and expertise will help in areas such as strategy, policy and procedures, training, automation and innovation, American Airlines said. 

A critical part of air cargo success is ground handling and shipment processing at airports.

As Elieson’s deputy, Tyler led several large-scale modernization projects, including a business transformation that represented the largest investment in cargo in the company’s history. The primary change involved development of a new, robust cargo management system.

“Rick did a wonderful job leading the cargo division for the last few years. He’s earned us the best revenue and performance year in cargo history, and I’m thankful for the way he has navigated cargo through this pandemic thus far,” said Jim Butler, senior vice president of airport operations and cargo. 

Tyler will report directly to Butler.

In the new organization, Roger Samways will take on an expanded role as vice president of commercial cargo – reporting to Tyler – and will be responsible for global cargo sales, revenue management and customer care. Lisa Oxentine will report to Samways as managing director of cargo global sales.

David Vance will continue to lead the cargo operation, but in an expanded role that oversees all policies and procedures for the airline and aligns airport and cargo operations. He will serve as vice president of cargo operations and airport support.

U.S. airlines are beginning to see promising signs of recovery after the novel coronavirus forced the cancellation of most flights for more than two months. Traffic over the holiday weekend was the best since mid-March, with the number of passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration exceeding 715,000 on three of four days. For perspective, travel volume was still 63% lower than the same period a year ago. American recently announced its schedule for 347 widebody flights per week beginning July 7, as it sees a steady rise in domestic demand and passenger load factors.

Click here for more FreightWaves and American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]