College of Law > About > Centers & Institutes > International Aviation Law Institute > Conversations Oral History Project > A Conversation With Robert L. Crandall

A Conversation With Robert L. Crandall



This message is based on Professor Havel's introductory and closing remarks at the interview of Mr. Crandall.

I am pleased to welcome you to this website.

This program is the third event in the Institute’s special oral history series, "Conversations with Aviation Leaders,” in which we explore the origins, history, and record of U.S. airline deregulation with academics, officials, political figures, and industry leaders who played a significant role in this extraordinary public policy experiment.

Our format today will be three one-hour sessions covering the emergence and initial experience of airline deregulation n Part 1, the post-deregulation era and the influence of deregulation on the restrictive regime governing international air transport in Part 2, and some overall perspectives and retrospectives in Part 3. At least that’s how we planned it in theory. But it’s really up to our distinguished interlocutor and his guest as to how this conversation will unfold.

Our interviewee Robert Lloyd Crandall, known through the aviation industry as Bob Crandall, is the former president and chairman of American Airlines. An MBA from the Wharton School, he worked for TWA in the 1960s, veered off into the retail industry, and returned in 1973 as senior financial VP for American. A strong critic of deregulation prior to the passing of the 1978 legislation, he nevertheless led American to significant success in the reordered marketplace. He became president of the airline in 1982 and in 1985 he succeeded Albert Casey as the airline’s chairman and CEO. Among his significant industry innovations were the first frequent flyer program in the industry and the use of computer reservations systems.

Bob's candor and outspokenness are legendary, and he will certainly be asked to comment on some of his long trail of quotable remarks. Here’s one that the public, or at least the investing public, may have taken on board: "I've never invested in any airline. I'm an airline manager. I don’t invest in airlines. And I always said to the employees of American, 'this is not an appropriate investment. It's a great place to work and it's a great company that does important work. But airlines are not an investment." "A lot of people came into the airline business after deregulation," he has noted, adding that "most of them promptly exited, minus their money."

Bob was the 1997 recipient of the prestigious Horatio Alger Award honoring Americans who have achieved distinction despite challenging life circumstances, and in 2001 he received the Tony Jannus Award for outstanding leadership in the commercial aviation industry. The 2009 winner, incidentally, is Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Bob retired from American in 1998 and continues to be active in a wide range of business matters, some of which are aviation-related.

The interlocutor, former U.S. Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel, is someone Mr. Crandall encountered in those heady days in the early 1990s when the giant transatlantic code-sharing alliances were first starting to emerge. J.D.’s long and distinguished tenure at the U.S. State Department, culminating in his appointment as U.S. Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues in 2002, included periods when he became involved in bilateral negotiations with Germany on open skies issues and the use of code-sharing as an alliance-bonding device.

J.D. retains a healthy interest in aviation issues, as we realized when we were preparing with him for this interview, but his career, with sojourns in Washington, in Europe, and in Asia, has ranged broadly over many diplomatic questions concerning issues as diverse as World War II property restitution issues, the worldwide ban on sales of so-called conflict diamonds, the reunification of Germany, and the deployment of U.S. Pershing missiles in Europe. J.D., who holds an M.P.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is the recipient of numerous U.S. and foreign awards of merit and distinction including the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award in 2001.

We are very proud and honored at DePaul University to have J.D. serving now as our vice president for Community, Government, and International Affairs where he is responsible for deepening the connections between our Chicago and overseas campuses and communities. J.D. is also a founding board member of the International Aviation Law Institute and we are delighted that he agreed, without a moment’s hesitation, to bridge the years since he last worked with Bob Crandall and to appear today as Bob’s interlocutor.