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.