Moving forward: Interview with American Airlines’ Chicago Vice President Franco Tedeschi

///Moving forward: Interview with American Airlines’ Chicago Vice President Franco Tedeschi

Moving forward: Interview with American Airlines’ Chicago Vice President Franco Tedeschi

Franco Tedeschi

Franco Tedeschi

Franco Tedeschi became the regional Vice President of American Airlines in 2010. He leads operations at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, the carrier’s second largest hub. 

Mr. Tedeschi sat down with Jetting Around to talk about the ongoing integration with US Airways and what passengers can expect from ‘new American’ in the near future.

Could you give us an update on American Airlines’ merger with US Airways?

We continue to make really great progress. In the last 3-week period, we were able to successfully complete the integration of our frequent flier programs.

We also rebanked* our operations at Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago, so now we’ve got a lot more ability to increase the amount of connections offered to customers in those hubs. And on April 8th, the day that we actually targeted almost 17 months ago, we were granted our single-operating certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Are there plans to introduce new planes and routes?

The excitement is that we are still very much on track to have the youngest fleet in the industry by 2017 as we take deliveries between both US Airways and American Airlines.

Those airplanes include some of our new long-haul fleet, for example the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. On May 7th we’ll commence service of that airplane between Dallas and Chicago. Later we’ll see the 787 deployed internationally – at first out of DFW, but there are plans to bring in into the O’Hare hub.

We’ll also be introducing the Airbus A321 into our domestic flying later in the summer.

American Airlines merger

American Airlines and US Airways received a single operating certificate from the FAA in April 2015

Tell us about the combined loyalty program and its impact on customers. 

The integration gives us almost a 100 million customer base. We’re excited that we’re able to offer those customers access to a network that is commensurate with the world’s largest airline – using our own network across domestic US, all of the international destinations we serve, along with partner airlines that form the Oneworld alliance.

Customers will get to earn miles on the American carrier, but equally on the affiliate airlines, and redeem them for travel on a much broader level.

As the ‘new American’ is being built, what improvements can passengers expect in terms of travel comfort? 

Several months ago we announced a $2 billion product investment for the airline to ultimately improve the customer experience – the service that passengers will have in-flight and on the ground.

As we take delivery of new airplanes, that creates a lot of the environment that customers will get to enjoy: improved space in the cabin, more overhead bin storage, power ports that people now look for to support all the electronics they travel with, including what you and I take.

The merger has also been an opportunity for us to get to common ground as it relates to onboard food service and experience. We’ve got to ensure that we have transitioned to one service standard.

American Airlines' Admirals Club

Part of American’s $2 billion investment in product and the customer experience will be spent redoing Admirals Clubs

How does American Airlines plan to stay competitive with the rise of low-cost carriers?

Our focus is to deliver at the highest level, and customers will choose American for a number of different reasons. #1 because of the breadth and depth this carrier has in terms of network, schedule, and product offerings. Some people like to stay loyal to those, like to experience them when they’re flying.

I’ll also say that if customers do get on aa.com and look at our pricing in most markets, we’re very competitive, if not at times actually leading.

Competition is going to be forever present. Here in Chicago I get to experience that on a daily basis with this being a two-carrier hub, and then we’ve got a lot of new entrant carriers. We continue to work hard to not just retain the customers we have, but attract new ones.

What other initiatives can we expect from American Airlines this year?

We have a next merger milestone to complete and that’s the integration of our reservation systems. It would have a lot of customer impact if not done well, but we have done tremendous planning around that and will continue to do just that. There’s a level and knowledge at this moment at the airline that will help us succeed as we move forward.

We’re also focused on getting a little bit of a fresh look for our employees on the ground and in the air with new uniforms. That’s going to be key as we start bringing our employee groups together, so that they represent the new American.

The other thing that’s going to be really important is rebranding our airports. We’re going to display a lot more of the new livery and logo, and that is going to start somewhere as soon as this summer. We’ve initiated some of that work here at O’Hare – you can see new self-service kiosks and the back wall of the ticket counter.

The look is a component of our effort to create a seamless travel experience for the customer.

American Airlines check-in O'Hare

AA has started rebranding its airports, which includes new signage and self-sevice kiosks

What is your favorite part of the job and working in Chicago?  

Chicago and the people here are just tremendous. For all the work that we have undertaken, the team here is second to none. There’s such a level of commitment around that I could ask for no better place to be as we navigate through a lot of change at the airline.

In terms of the things I enjoy – I’m coming upon 25 years with American and I’m driven by the work that I get to do, which is certainly being close to airplanes. Also, being able to bring so many moving parts together on any given day, and no two days are the same.

If you could introduce one American Airlines route, which city or region would you choose?

That’s difficult, because I’m European and would probably want to go to Europe. [laughs]

When I think of market potential, we as an airline continue to evaluate a lot of different routes on a regular basis, because market conditions change. You have to pick your moment.

If it was without any challenge, I think that Spain is somewhere we’d probably look at. Brazil is terrific as well. In fact, almost two years ago we applied for an opportunity to service Brazil from Chicago. Timing is everything, so we’ll watch the economies. For now, we’ve got great service from Brazil to Miami.

New American Airlines

The new American fleet will feature Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A321

*changing the flight schedule in order to group departures

By | 2017-03-04T18:23:15+00:00 April 30th, 2015|Interviews, STORIES|36 Comments

About the Author:

avatar
Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.

36 Comments

  1. avatar
    Made in China May 1, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Go with new European destination, more competition is always healthy for passengers!;) good read, cheers!
    Made in China recently posted..1 maja- uliczni przodownicy pracy cz.II (galeria).My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:58 am

      I’m with you on Europe! Although I wouldn’t mind a direct flight to, say, Montevideo…

  2. avatar
    Anna May 2, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Where is te questions we were all waiting for – free flights for Polish citizens? :D
    Anna recently posted..Where to eat in east London?My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:55 am

      Haha, wouldn’t that be nice? ;)

  3. avatar
    Marcin May 3, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Certainly visa waiver program for Polish citiziens would boost the traffice between the US and PL! Good interview by the way!
    Marcin recently posted..Iran. Praktyczny przewodnik oraz informacje o krajuMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:54 am

      Without getting political, let me say that I have some friends that share your sentiment. :)

  4. avatar
    zof May 4, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Go with a connection from LAX to EVN:-) Great interview, thanks for sharing.
    zof recently posted..Why would anyone blog about a Genocide?My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:50 am

      Cool idea! That would be quite a long flight, so maybe Dreamliner?… :)

  5. avatar
    Elaine J. Masters May 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Interesting dialogue. I’ve already experienced part of the improved and streamlined customer relations in my home airport of San Diego, CA when an American Airlines ticket agent went out of his way to help me with a rescheduled flight by walking to the U. S. Air agent. Just an anecdote but hopefully the merger will continue prioritizing that hands on help when needed.
    Elaine J. Masters recently posted..The giants of Honolulu, Hawaii’s Banyan Trees, under attackMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:47 am

      I love hearing stories like this! My favorite AA customer service moment was a couple of years ago, when the Twitter team helped me locate lost luggage in Uruguay. I still remember…

  6. avatar
    eo.stories May 4, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    So great of him to sit with you and share some insights. I was interested to read the asnwer to the question about lo-cost companies competition.
    eo.stories recently posted..How To Rent A Car In EuropeMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:42 am

      I enjoyed the conversation and learning more about how the airline operates. Thanks for reading!

  7. avatar
    Traveling Rockhopper May 7, 2015 at 2:34 am

    Interesting, however I still prefer European airlines than American ones :)
    Traveling Rockhopper recently posted..Galapagos – Sea lionsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:38 am

      Which ones do you like? Before I moved to the States, European airlines were my go-to carries.

  8. avatar
    Jessica May 11, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Amen to more space in the cabins! Great interview! I have to admit I don’t normally choose to fly AA but maybe I’ll reconsider once all the improvements are made!
    Jessica recently posted..The Weekend Guide to Half Moon BayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:33 am

      Yes, space! I like their new regional jets that easily fit carry-ons. No need to gate-check them anymore.

  9. avatar
    Szymon Podróżnik May 12, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Ja się zachwycałem zawsze amerykańskimi lotniskami i liniami lotniczymi. Zmieniali mi loty na lotnisku, nic nie musiałem dopłacać, wszystko bez problemu. Większość linii europejskich może się sporo nauczyć ;)
    Szymon Podróżnik recently posted..Pascha w Moskwie, czyli o prawosławiuMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:30 am

      Przypomina mi to sytuacje, kiedy wracalam do domu z Miami. Mialam dwa loty, a pierwszy sie opoznil przez pogode… AA przebukowalo mnie od razu i przy wyjsciu z samolotu wreczono mi nowa karte pokladowa. Az milo. :)

  10. avatar
    Leah May 13, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Great interview, Pola. It’s been years since I’ve flown American, but it sounds like they have some exciting things in the pipe. Maybe I’ll give them a second look.
    Leah recently posted..Top French Cities Seen through Instagram’s SquareMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:26 am

      If you fly through DFW, you might want to give them a try. Their terminal looks great, and I can’t wait to see the rebranding at ORD too.

  11. avatar
    Traveling Ted May 16, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Most of what I hear from American and any U.S. carrier for that matter is negative, but hope these changes start to change perception and reality.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Post Gatineau Loppet relaxation at Nordik Spa NatureMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:09 am

      “Perception and reality” – I like that, both are important.

  12. avatar
    Lauren May 18, 2015 at 11:31 am

    I had no idea they were merging. Thanks for sharing!
    Lauren recently posted..You Gotta Do This: Madrid, SpainMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:02 am

      My pleasure, Lauren! It’s amazing how many steps there are to merge two companies…

  13. avatar
    Karilyn May 18, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Great to read this. It’s always interesting to hear what a company’s plans are for the future.
    Karilyn recently posted..How to Fly with Spirit AirlinesMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

      Glad you enjoyed, Karilyn. I was excited to hear the plans too, especially the part about new planes.

  14. avatar
    lola May 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I can’t help but fly American from time to time. I’ve had some great experiences and some of the very worst with them. There’s potential there for sure. I hope they get rid of the crotchedy old staff that treat customers like dumb servants and move forward shiny like their new logo.
    lola recently posted..Airbnb Times ThreeMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 12:59 am

      Gotcha… I’ve been flying AA for a few years now, and I’ve enjoyed them most since the merger.

  15. avatar
    Lance | Trips By Lance May 19, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Living in a city with an airport that has been controlled by one of American’s competitors for years until that competitor recently dehubbed the city, I’ve only recently become more familiar with American. I’ve enjoyed my flights with them. In fact, three years ago our son’s first international flight was with American from Chicago to London and we found the staff to be tremendous to him. The flight attendant mailed our son a letter with wings for him. It was great.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Ready for Southern California Family FunMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 12:56 am

      What a neat story, Lance! I bet your son will remember the letter for a long time, just I like do receiving a ‘junior stewardess’ pin on a flight years ago.

  16. avatar
    kami May 19, 2015 at 4:10 am

    what a great interview! And this must be such an interesting job!! I wouldn’t mind working in some airlines one day!
    kami recently posted..Persepolis images – a gallery from the most known ancient city in IranMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 12:54 am

      Same here, Kami! Airline operations are fascinating to me.

  17. avatar
    Milosz Zak May 19, 2015 at 6:07 am

    It’s always great to see any company reinvesting into its operations. This is indicative of a cash surplus, but let’s not forget that airlines make money intermittently, and even if fuel prices would fall, most companies lock-into multi-year contracts. That’s what LOT did, it signed a contract for super-expensive jet fuel a few years back, and then energy commodities crashed.

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 12:50 am

      Great insights, Milosz. Imagine being an airline executive and having to make those fuel decisions… Not an easy job.

  18. avatar
    Pauline Umbers August 3, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I am so impressed and amazed that you got an interview with a VP of an airline. You really did have a good story to share to us. I have fun reading it and have learned a lot also. Thanks for sharing.

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Thanks, Pauline. I’ve been a fan of aviation since my first flight at the age of 3, so learning about airline operations and sharing that was a pleasure.

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