Robert Crandall

Robert Crandall (b. 1935) earned the reputation of toughest executive in the airline industry when working for American Airlines, and held a passion for new technology that led to him revolutionising travel in many ways.

Robert was raised in Rhode Island, USA and gained an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. As early as 1962, while working for Hallmark Cards, he began to develop theories about how computer technology could vastly improve the way that businesses marketed themselves. He was given the opportunity to put these theories into practice during his time at Trans World Airlines from 1966–1973, and there gained the respect of Albert V. Carey, who upon becoming chair of American Airlines in 1974 appointed Robert senior vice president of marketing.

In 1975, Robert founded SABRE (Semi-Automatic Business Research Environment), a unified reservation system that was co-developed with IBM and enabled travel agencies to instantaneously make flight reservations. Several years later, he was responsible for introducing the supersaver plan, offering discounts on tickets purchased months in advance. In the face of deregulation in 1978, Robert reshaped American Airlines to suit the new marketplace by adding seats to aircraft, phasing out low-yield routes, and cutting the workforce by 10%. He became the airline’s president in 1982, and chairman and CEO in 1985, steering the company and its associate AMR Services through some tough years that followed.

Robert retired in 1998, a year after American Airlines grossed $16 billion, although in retirement he continued to serve as a spokesman for the airline industry. He was appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration Council in 2003 and was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1998.