American Airlines: Taking the High Road

Over the years, many of you have asked me why I always fly American Airlines—and why I brag about them to my live audiences and on TV. Here’s why.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: As a policy Steve Diggs does not accept paid advertising at any of his web sites: www.SteveDiggs.com; www.NDNS.org; www.ReTooledAndReFueled.com. What follows is NOT A PAID ENDORSEMENT, nor is Steve in anyway associated with American Airlines or it’s parent, AMR. The comments below are simply his personal thoughts and beliefs.)

For nearly 30 years I ran what grew to be a multi-million dollar advertising and public relations firm. Lots of companies paid us lots of dollars to promote lots of products. As policy, we only accepted clients that we believed in—who sold products that we would personally use. But, it was a for-profit enterprise.

I sold that business in 2000, and since have spent my time sharing important life-skill messages with millions of people. We’ve done hundreds of TV segments and radio interviews, seven books, over 300 major articles, and well over 2500 speaking engagements. Everywhere I go I brag about one, single company—American Airlines. Why? Well, unlike the old days, I don’t get paid for it. I am a walking, talking, 24/7 good will ambassador American Airlines for one reason: I believe in this company! Here’s why:

As one of American Airlines’ biggest fans, I have watched this company do business for years on hundreds of flights. After the terrorists’ attacks on September 11, 2001, the bottom fell out for the airline industry. People were afraid to fly, and airline companies lost billions. Through those rocky days, I watched American Airline ticket agents and crews keep a stiff upper lip and do what they do best. Just as things began to improve, oil prices skyrocketed. Then what many believed to be a terribly unfair ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration dealt another costly blow to this company in 2008. Yet through it all, AMR (the parent corporation of American Airlines) has taken the moral high road. Under the leadership of CEO Gerard Arpey, the company fought staggering headwinds. While I consider them the best airline employees anywhere, not all of the them agreed with his decisions, but through the years, Arpey has built a culture of openness and honesty, which I believe is the essence of an effective corporate mentor. As an honest broker, he and his team have slain dragons to maintain a solid coalition of customers, shareholders and employees. To my knowledge, American Airlines is the only one of the big spoke-and-hub companies to steadfastly refuse to consider bankruptcy. To date, the company has continued funding its employee pension plan. In a personal conversation, one of the company’s high-level officials shared with me how the airline’s executive suite struggled to take the moral high road, even when they could have saved money by cutting corners. Moral corporate cultures are not the product of random, do-whatever-it-takes business models. Morality in a business is the product of morality in the executive suite. In turn, that moral compass is reflected down line. This communication and example-based leadership form the essence of effective mentoring.

So do I practice what I preach? Yes. This year alone I have over 140 flights. Of those 140 flights, 140 are on American Airlines. Sure, there have been times when a discounter would have sold me a slightly cheaper ticket. But, a fair question is, shouldn’t moral people support moral companies? Shouldn’t we put our money where our mouths are?



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