Annette Murphy: Love of the Industry...

Sept. 6, 2005
Annette Murphy talks with GSM about the challenges and the close bonds formed during more than forty years in the industry.

Q: How did you get into the industry?

A: Just out of high school and while attending UCLA, I worked evenings as a waitress. One of my best customers was an American Airlines mechanic and his family. He encouraged me to go to work for the airlines, and one afternoon, I went to the AA employment office and applied. Three days later I was in a reservations class. I thought I would do that for a short period of time and then pursue another line of work. But as happens so often, I developed a love of the industry and the rest is history.

Q: What trends have you seen over the years and how has the industry changed?

A: One of the most interesting “trends” is how things are ever-changing and yet un-changing. The obvious things; carriers, aircraft, fares, routes, rules, distribution, services, etc.; are always changing, usually driven by the competition. The market place itself requires us to be very flexible and to manage change aggressively. What surprises me are the things that do not change. Our industry frequently makes the same mistakes over and over again. Many industry leaders that are in charge of managing change do not change the way they actually do business, resulting in an industry that doesn’t always learn from its mistakes. The successful carriers today are the ones who are managed by leaders who recognize this phenomenon and act accordingly.

Q: Did you ever run into any challenges as a woman in the field?

A: When I first worked in reservations, a naive teenager, I asked my male manager about becoming a supervisor. I still remember his name and his response: “There is no place for women in management.” So were there challenges? Yes, absolutely. But like any challenge, you need to be focused and determined. The industry at that time had very few women in management. It meant finding a way around close-minded people and looking for opportunities to prove yourself. Today, there are many more women, but there is still room for improvement.

Q: What is the most memorable moment in your career or your favorite aspect of working in the industry?

A: The memorable moments are too numerous to mention, but my favorite aspect is the people. I love the people I have worked with over the years. I am still in touch with so many of my former employees, and the bond we forged while working together remains strong. I enjoy working with a great team of people who are creative, knowledgeable, motivated and professional and I have been extremely lucky to have had that opportunity many times in my career.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for others in the field or on “best business practices?”

A: Some would have others believe that the airline industry is a complicated industry. In truth it’s fairly simple. You need to understand what your passengers or customers need. You need to involve your employees in every aspect of the business so that they feel empowered. Employees want to make a difference and feel as if they contribute. If we give them this opportunity, they will usually rise to the occasion. In short, it takes good communication, with both the internal and external customers. This is not a new word; it’s just that not everyone really practices good communication. You can identify the success of who does or does not communicate well as a “best practice” by the results they produce.