Internal comms boosted in America West revamp

PHOENIX: America West Airlines announced an executive restructuring last week that leaves the head of communications with direct access to the CEO.

PHOENIX: America West Airlines announced an executive restructuring last week that leaves the head of communications with direct access to the CEO.

Vice president of corporate communications Jim Sabourin will now report directly to CEO Douglas Parker.

Previously, Sabourin reported to corporate EVP Stephen Johnson, who is leaving the company. Johnson oversaw legal affairs, corporate affairs, corporate communications, human resources, labor relations, and real-estate matters. Johnson's position will be eliminated after he departs at the end of the year.

"(Parker's) management style was to have fewer direct reports, and have somebody in the role of almost a chief of staff overseeing the various staff functions like corporate communications," explained Sabourin of the old structure. "Now that he's been CEO for more than a year, and he's becoming more comfortable with the position, (he can) focus his energies more on a longer-term future. As a result, the timing was probably right for a minor change."

Parker took over as head of America West on September 1, 2001. Much of his initial task centered on helping the airline through the difficult period after September 11, said Sabourin.

To facilitate that, the company shifted its communications focus to internal functions, and terminated its relationship with agency of record MS&L as a cost-cutting measure. The seven-person department now handles all internal and external communications, with occasional project help from local Arizona agencies. The main goal is keeping employees informed and motivated through efforts such as town-hall meetings and an internal website.

"Our employees are enduring a very difficult environment," said Sabourin.

"Our CEO believes in communications. He is also an active communicator who understands the power of being in front of employees as often as possible."

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