NEW YORK: Corporate communications leaders from American Airlines and US Airways are chairing a team that will determine the structure of the communications department that will emerge from the combination of the two companies later this year.
John McDonald and Andy Backover, the VPs of corporate communications at US Airways and American Airlines, respectively, are leading an integration planning team focused on communications. They are working together to make recommendations about department structure and positions, as well as analyzing “gaps” in the function, McDonald said. The companies will implement the changes once the merger closes, which is expected to take place in the third quarter.
“We're way ahead of the process,” McDonald said.
Backover has served as VP of corporate communications at American Airlines since 2011. He joined the company in 2006 as director of financial PR and publishing. McDonald, who previously worked at United, Trans World Airlines, and General Motors, became VP of corporate communications at US Airways in 2011.
The communications-focused group is one of 29 integration planning teams helping the airlines through the merger. Others are focused on areas such as marketing, finance, customer experience, and airport operations, McDonald explained.
On Monday, the airlines unveiled the senior leadership team and board of directors for the combined company, which will be named American Airlines and based at American's headquarters in Fort Worth, TX.
Elise Eberwein, EVP of people, communications, and public affairs at US Airways, will lead communications at the new American Airlines. She will oversee media relations, internal communications, social media, public affairs, and human resources.
Additional appointments include US Airways' Stephen Johnson as EVP of corporate affairs and American's William Ris as SVP of government affairs. US Airways president Scott Kirby will hold the same role at American Airlines post-merger. A number of executives, such as American Airlines finance chief Bella Goren, will depart.
US Airways chief executive Doug Parker will lead the combined company as CEO, while American Airlines CEO Tom Horton will serve as chairman of the board. American Airlines shareholders will own 72% of the new company.
Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, which has worked with US Airways on financial communications for a number of years, is assisting with communications during the merger process.
The $11 billion merger still has to be approved by shareholders and the US Departments of Justice and Transportation. US Airways shareholders will vote on the merger at their annual meeting on July 12. American Airlines parent AMR Corp. must also emerge from bankruptcy protection before the merger is finalized.
The airlines announced the merger in February, noting that the deal would create the world's largest airline and help embattled American Airlines compete with rival carriers.