CEO Q&A: Doug Parker, CEO, US Airways

Doug Parker of US Airways talks to Tonya Garcia about digital media and communicating policies that aren't received well by consumers

Why is PR important to US Airways?

Parker: It's important that our customers understand what US Airways is doing and the image we are working hard to portray. Our workforce is so geographically spread around, it's hard to communicate on a face-to-face basis.

When we talk about PR, it's not just external; it's in-ternal, making sure that our employees understand all the same things about what's happening at US Airways.

What results do you expect PR to produce?

Parker: We'd like it to be more analytical, but in this case, the way I know it's going well is talking to people and hearing them replay to me a lot of the message we're trying to communicate.

What is the strategy for introducing unpopular policies, like extra fees for checked baggage?

Parker: We work hard to reinforce a couple of things in that example: that the industry is in difficult straits and we're doing everything we can to make the industry profitable again. So part of the message is reminding people how low fares are, how the industry is losing money, and that we're doing everything we can to figure out the best ways to collect revenues.

And that gets to point two: While it's new, we believe it's a better way of pricing the product. There are people who don't check bags. Those who don't check bags effectively subsidize those that do. The better way to price the product is to charge the users. It's a difficult message because people would prefer not to have the fees at all. But we're very careful to point out everything that went into the decision.

How important is digital media to US Airways?

Parker: For us right now, most of what helps us get a message to a broad base of consumers nationwide and to our employees is through traditional media sources. We do a lot of things with social media, but the things where we start to hear "I read about that" or "I heard about that," they're happening when we get articles placed in traditional media or things that we do more traditionally internally. l

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