American Airlines did something classy today. The airline broke ground on its new combined operations center where the new American’s thousands of daily flights will be managed, and named it the Robert W. Baker Integrated Operations Center.
I don’t want to imply to you that I knew Bob Baker personally, though I did see him on occasion in my previous life. He always made it a point to acknowledge employees. He was a frequent visitor to Washington, DC, and it was not unusual for him to pass through the DCA station. He always made it a special point to stop and chat with one of our longest-serving gate agents. He was known as the “operations guy” around American and the whole industry, but was a Wharton business grad just like our boss, Bob Crandall. Not only was he smart, but he was an all around nice person in every interaction I ever had with him.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he was highly thought of amongst all the employees. I believe I’ve said so on this blog before, but if not, I’ll tell you now that I personally believe the story of American Airlines would have been written a bit differently had Mr. Baker not been diagnosed with lung cancer. I firmly believe he was Crandall’s choice to lead the airline, and I believe he would have had he not gotten sick. It was a sad day at the airport when the employees learned of his passing.
It is very fitting that the name of someone so well known for his interest in and dedication to airline operational integrity be attached to the new American’s operational control center. It also gives me a bit of hope (not that I ever lacked any) that American’s new management team is grounded in the reality of who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they want American to become. That’s a good thing.
-MJ, July 8, 2014