Up Front: EXECUTIVE FOLLIES
TWA'S FRANTIC COCKPIT CHANGE
Nobody thought pulling ailing Trans World Airlines out of its tailspin would be easy. But a behind-the-scenes look at the nation's seventh-largest airline, which emerged from bankruptcy last summer and still shows red ink, indicates some of its wounds are self-inflicted.
Start with Chairman William Howard, who quit in January. The 72-year-old former head of Piedmont Airlines had a political problem with the new board at the Mt. Kisco (N.Y.) carrier. He had been appointed by the creditors' committees--namely, the consultants and lawyers representing the various classes of debtholders. But he rapidly lost the board's confidence, reports a well-placed TWA veteran, adding he "didn't do much." Howard couldn't be reached for comment.
The drift under Howard is best illustrated by his hiring of consultant Mort Beyer, according to TWA employees. A prominent airline industry figure who worked with Howard at Piedmont, Beyer is known as "Big Bird" at TWA because of his height. Beyer, who earned some $6,000 weekly, championed a high level of trans-Atlantic flights during the usually sluggish winter season. That lost the company bundles of money, so it stopped the experiment. Beyer left in November, but still defends his idea as sound.
TWA, though, has won plaudits for its Comfort Class service, which uses added leg room to lure customers. Under Howard's replacement, former Allstate Chairman Donald Craib, TWA predicts it will break even later this year.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER Kevin Kelly