Hey, that’s Bob Crandall!

Friday afternoon while connecting in Chicago I spent about an hour at the American Admirals Club. As the agent was checking me in, an older gentleman walked by, who evoked Justin Bieber-esque emotion from the agents (did I refer to Justin Bieber twice in a 48 hour period? I’m pretty sure my blog just hit a new low). One of the agents yelled out “OH MY GAWD IT’S MR. CRANDALL!” The other agents quickly looked up, having similar reactions – “MR. CRANDALL, I WANT A HUG.”

Yes, it was Bob Crandall, American’s former CEO. He talked to the agents for about a minute, as they complimented him on not aging a day, saying how much they missed him.

I shared an elevator ride with him up to the Admirals Club, where I needed to see the agents at the service desk regarding a seat swap. As Bob Crandall walked by, the agents had the same reaction. Some requested a picture with him, some requested a hug, and some requested he return to American because they miss him so much. The customer in line in front of me commented to Bob Crandall that “I don’t know who you are, but based on how much they love you I really want to know now.”

In a way, the whole interaction was kind of touching. I think just about every airline industry CEO nowadays is disliked. Take Glenn Tilton, United’s former CEO, for example. I can only imagine how employees would react if he walked into a lounge. It’s not to say that disliked CEOs are bad people. It’s a tough industry and tough decisions have to be made. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that all too many CEOs nowadays forget that their most valuable assets are their employees. It’s not just about decent pay and benefits, but also about treating them with respect and showing them appreciation, which Bob Crandall seems to have done.

Comments

  1. Crandall at least has a personality, like Kelleher and Bethune, two other guys who were passionate about the business.

    Compared to today’s Exucu-Bots, he practically is Justin Bieber.

  2. It doesn’t hurt that he ran AA in the 1990s when the company was profitable and growing. Maybe he deserves some credit for that, but a lot also has to do with the general economic environment.

  3. I’m really surprised. As a customer, I found Crandall played extreme hardball and spoke out of both sides of his mouth. For example, if a customer tried to break AA’s rules (for example by flying using someone else’s ticket in the days before routine ID checks), Crandall’s policy was to have the CSA confiscate the ticket and accuse the customer of committing fraud. But Crandall was found guilty of trying to price-fix with Braniff – a clear breach of US law.

    When I flew United into DFW during Crandall’s tenure, I half expected to find him shooting at our plane from the roof of the airport….

  4. I’m glad that you met Mr. Crandall. Who the heck is Justin Bieber and why does anyone care. I guess I’ve heard the name, but I’m not connecting. Is this related to my having tossed the TVs about 15 years ago? I enjoy your trip reports a lot, but the writing is a bit on the fluffy side. Just the facts, Sir. Please. Best wishes, -C.

  5. Oh Ben, if I were you, I would definitely have requested a picture with him. He definitely is an icon, and coined the (sic) phrase, “Airlines aren’t an investment. They’re an important company doing important business, but never invest in an airline.”

  6. Bob Crandall is no Jeff Smisek. No one moves his hands as sketchily and unnecessarily as JS. Can’t wait to be flying a 737 with almost no fuel left from Chicago to South America.

  7. Hmm, I wonder what kind of reaction Frank Lorenzo would get at the President’s Club in Houston? 🙂

  8. About six years ago I was on a flight from HOU to DAL with SWA CEO Herb Kelleher. He kissed more flight attendants and gate agents that afternoon than Richard Dawson ever did on a season of Family Feud. He was (and still is) revered by the folks there. Our plane had mechanical difficulty, so they simply moved us to the plane at the next gate – now that’s service!

  9. I also was at the PC in IAH once when someone tried to get Gregg Brennerman to show ID. He was not pleased and the more senior agent had to chide the other with “Don’t you know who that is?”

  10. How long until the whispers are “Hey, There’s Ben! He’s a Rockstar of Frequent Fliers!”

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