Update: It appears that Hogg did not defy Beijing in such a dramatic fashion. In fact, the circumstances behind his termination remain unclear. The original article below remains unaltered.
Leadership is built on integrity. Former Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg is now a hero. He would also be a great CEO of American Airlines.
We knew that Beijing forced Hogg out. But now we know the circumstances behind it. China’s Civil Aviation Administration asked Cathay Pacific to compile a list of Cathay Pacific employees who had protested.
The submitted list included only one name: Hogg.
If true, what a beautiful act of peaceful resistance. Whatever your views on the topic of Hong Kong, there is a big difference between supporting self-determination and supporting violence. Hogg was the sacrificial lamb in more ways than I imagined…
> Read More: Cathay Pacific CEO Becomes Sacrificial Lam(b)…
Meanwhile, American Airlines is dealing with an identity crisis of its own. The carrier loses money flying…it profits on the back of its AAdvantage loyalty program. Front and center in the debate is American’s poor relationship with most of its unions. Employees are angry…and passengers have noticed. Throw in a summer of perpetual delays and cancellations and you are left with an airline still with great potential but lacking the direction and vision to take advantage of this uniquely profitable period in the cyclical world of the airline industry.
Imagine Hogg as the AA CEO. He has just proven valiantly that he stands up for employees. Thus, he starts from a position of trust, not skepticism. Past actions are not necessarily indicative of future behavior, but Hogg’s record suggests a less confrontational approach that will allow him to instill other values into frontline employees.
How Hogg Could Make A Difference at AA
It’s foolish to speculate about bringing Cathay Pacific levels of first class service to American Airlines…but treating every passenger with dignity starts when the CEO treats every employee with dignity. Insight gained from his years at Swire and Cathay Pacific may help Hogg to cultivate a better customer service model and increase customer satisfaction scores. If nothing else, Hogg is an outsider to the American corporate world and therefore likely has a clearer perspective that the status quo is not working.
From a shareholder perspective, Hogg helped to turn Cathay Pacific as well from inefficient to efficient in a highly competitive region. This is the sort of vision AA needs as well, as it falls behind to Delta and United. Hong Kong is hardly a western Europe bastion of labor rights. Six-day work weeks and low wages underscore that Hogg will not offer unnecessary concessions to employees.
In short, Hogg possesses a number of excellent qualities that lay the groundwork for a successful tenure as CEO of AA.
Just to note, I’m not a huge critic of Doug Parker. I laughed at “Nostradamus” Parker promising eternal profits. Furthermore, I think AA has made strategic blunders with its cabin interiors (737 Oasis) and AAdvantage program. Clearly, employees across the board are not happy, which represents a failure in leadership. Yet, by all accounts Parker is a decent guy who cannot be blamed for the 737 MAX issues eroding profits. Thus, my analysis is not driven by any animosity toward Parker.
It would not surprise me if Hogg is already talking to several airlines about a new job. It would behoove American Airlines to make him an attractive offer, even if he has to wait a bit longer for the corner suite.
image: Cathay Pacific