Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2005 (Revised May 2009)

C.R. Smith and the Birth of American Airlines

by Anthony Mayo and Laura Gaie Singleton


Presents an overview of the path that C.R. Smith pursued to build American Airlines into one of the largest airlines in the world in the 20th century. Over the course of his 30-year tenure as president of American Airlines, Smith deployed a three-pronged strategy--technology standardization, safety, and customer service--to build his business. Covers the first 50 years of American Airlines' history, beginning with its role as an industry consolidator in the late 1920s. Smith's strategic and operational choices in building American Airlines played a significant role in the overall growth of the airline industry in the United States. Explores the interaction between the growth of a company and an overall industry.

Keywords: Leadership Style; Growth and Development Strategy; Industry Growth; Operations; Air Transportation Industry; United States;


Mayo, Anthony, and Laura Gaie Singleton. "C.R. Smith and the Birth of American Airlines." Harvard Business School Case 406-082, December 2005. (Revised May 2009.)