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The suspected heir apparent to American Airlines chief Robert L. Crandall got a step closer to the throne last week.

Mr. Crandall relinquished his title of president to Exec VP-Finance and Planning Donald J. Carty. The position includes AMR Eagle carriers and the cargo division. It also puts Mr. Carty in charge of labor negotiations, which have been an ongoing problem at the carrier. Mr. Crandall remains chairman-CEO of the airline group and pres-ident, CEO and chairman of parent AMR Corp.

"This does not appear to be a change of great magnitude," said Jim O'Donnell, a consultant at Houston-based Seabrook Consulting. "When the day is done, the chief executive officer is still the chief executive officer."

Some industry observers see Mr. Carty as Mr. Crandall's eventual successor, though the latter denied any plans to depart: "Am I going to leave soon? No."

The appointment came with other news of Dallas-based American Airlines, including the elimination of 900 jobs.

The naming of Mr. Carty as president "is a move focused on further cost reductions," Mr. O'Donnell said. "[Mr. Crandall is] giving the position to a bottom-line, numbers-oriented guy."

But Mr. Crandall noted Mr. Carty's marketing acuity: "This is a marketing business with a very creative presentation of our product. Carty's a pretty good marketer."

Michael Gunn will continue as senior VP-marketing.

Harold Shenton, a consultant with Avmark in Arlington, Va., said that Mr. Crandall may be phasing himself out.

"My guess is this is a gradual withdrawal," he said. "If you're by nature aggressive, it's very frustrating if you can't be successful. The last couple of years have been disappointing for him."

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