American Airlines Honors Retiring Charlotte Executive, Who Says CEO Parker Had to Earn Her Trust

In a demonstration of a close affiliation between an airline and a hub city where it employs 11,000 people, American Airlines (AAL) donated $340,000 to Charlotte charities Tuesday as a popular executive nears retirement.

Terri Pope, 59, will retire June 2 as vice president of hub operations. Her 41 years in the airline industry include 17 years as the top airline executive in Charlotte, running the hub first for US Airways and then for American.

Throughout the period, Pope was among the top women airline executives. She presided over development of a hub that now has 664 daily departures, making Charlotte the third-largest single airline hub in the world.

To honor Pope, American held its weekly Monday morning management meeting in Charlotte, the first time it has taken place outside of Dallas, said CEO Doug Parker, who spoke Monday night at a retirement ceremony.

Parker first worked with Pope when America West, which he headed, merged with US Airways in 2004, as US Airways emerged from its second bankruptcy. He recalled that Pope later told him, "I wanted to trust you but I couldn't."

"She said, 'the reason was the people at US Airways have been through so much,'" Parker said. "Terri and others like her had to work in an environment, at times, {where} they didn't have trust or faith in the leadership about where the company was headed. Terri made sure she protected {her employees} because that's what she cared about.

"Recently we have been working to try to figure out how best to transform this culture to a place where Terri would have taken it long ago," he said. "I'm pleased {that} she approves of where we are and what we're doing."

Pope called Parker, "a servant leader" and "the most influential leader in my life.

"Doug taught me through his actions that you can be the leader you are in your heart," she said.

Last month, American jumped ahead of contract negotiations with flight attendants and pilot to say that it will award raises totaling $930 million in 2017 and 2018.

On Sept. 27, 2005, the day US Airways and America West completed their merger, Charlotte employees celebrated with a cavalcade of baggage carts through the airport. Pope was in one of them, dressed as Queen Charlotte, the British queen for whom Charlotte is named.

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