The New York Times, and Analysts, Think So.">

Is American "A Waning Star of Air Travel"? The New York Times, and Analysts, Think So.

This morning's New York Times wonders: How much longer can Fort Worth-based American Airlines limp along without merging with another airline, a la Delta-Northwest and, more recently, the proposed United-Continental union? AA, which held a "sparsely attended" shareholders meeting in New York yesterday, is in danger of becoming the nation's No. 3 carrier -- not to mention one saddled with the "industry's highest costs, as well as poor labor relations and a smaller network of routes." Analysts worry. CEO Gerard Arpey says don't, he'll figure this thing out.

Which brings us to this sidebar: The Times story mentions that last month, during the first-quarter earnings conference call, "one Wall Street analyst publicly dressed down the company's executives for a lack of passion." Really? I'd like to see that. So I went over to Seeking Alpha to find the transcript of the April 21 chitchat, and, sure enough, Jamie Baker of J.P. Morgan lit into Arpey over what the carrier calls "Flight Plan 2020," describes during the earnings call as a five-point plan build around five tenents, which are: "Invest wisely, earn customer loyalty, strengthen and defend our global network, be a good place for good people and fly profitably." Baker was not impressed. Mustering his best Peggy Lee impression, he asked Arpey, point blank, "Is this really all you have got?"

Arpey responded by saying that, look, since American's one of the few carriers that hasn't ever filed for bankruptcy, it's saddled with all kind of legacy costs (labor, medical benefits, pensions, etc.) that "depress our operating margin." To which Baker responded:

Maybe it is just a lack of urgency. Maybe it is just me but I think a lot of your owners don't really detect all that much extreme urgency there that we would hope you would be feeling. I guess you just don't sound all that fired up.

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