A CEO Earns His Wings

As CEO of America West, W. Douglas Parker knows what it takes to make it to the top: Take risks in exchange for more responsibility

I've been the chairman and CEO of America West Airlines since September, 2001, taking the post 10 days before September 11. I'm directly accountable to our board of directors and have six direct reports in the following areas: operations, marketing, finance, legal/administrative, public affairs, and communications.

When I left Vanderbilt B-school 18 years ago, I wasn't exactly certain what I wanted to do. I knew that I had an aptitude for finance, so I worked to find a job where finance was important. I targeted capital-intensive industries, which led me to airlines.


6:30 a.m. -- I'm awake, though I only just arrived home (at midnight) from New York. Our chief financial officer and I presented at an airline analysts' and investors' conference put together by Merrill Lynch. Approximately 200 people attended, including current and potential institutional investors, who want to hear the America West story.

7:30 a.m. -- Attended a Valley of the Sun United Way annual meeting. I've been a board member since 2003, and this group does great things for our community.

9:00 a.m. -- Arrived at the head office in Tempe, Ariz. Since I was out of town yesterday, I have a good bit of catching up to do, and I begin with about 70 e-mails.

10:00 a.m. -- Had a scheduled meeting with the head of our flight attendants' union. Since labor relations are such an integral part of our industry, I meet quarterly with each of our unions' leaders to update them on the company and to ensure they have easy access to me and the rest of the management team. Unfortunately, something came up with our flight attendants, and we're rescheduling.

10:30 a.m. -- We learn through a press release that the Teamsters have petitioned for an election to represent our customer-service agents. We're disappointed because it means that a group of employees either feel we aren't listening to them, or that they will have a stronger voice or accomplish more with formal representation. We have several represented groups at America West, so this isn't the first, but it's disappointing given how hard we're working to improve communication and engage our employees in constructive two-way dialogue.

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