American carries the most debt and failed to secure as many senior employee early retirements as competitors, so their ongoing operations will be staffed by the most senior, highest paid crew, putting them at a cost disadvantage.
I had forgotten just what Steenland’s tenure at Northwest was really like though. Commenter ChuckMObrings up the 2006 dumpster diving incident.
Steenland’s Northwest obtained employee pay cuts in bankruptcy. They also got to outsource ground handling at airports with fewer than 50 flights a week, meaning some employees faced layoffs. In an effort to make them those employees feel better about it, they put out a guide to making do with less, “Preparing for a Financial Setback.” They recommended “101 ways to save money.”
For anyone who remembers the old Northwest World Club at Washington National airport (pre-security in terminal A), they had finally gotten central approval for paint when the merger with Delta was announced – and decided not to incur that expense while they waited to see what their new bosses had in mind.
This was a long time ago of course. Perhaps Steenland’s outlook has changed. But I find the best predictor of future performance is past performance.