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American Airlines, the largest carrier at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, has a new person in charge of its operations in Phoenix, as the airline prepares for what appears to be a busy holiday season.
Sophia Philis-Ortiz took charge of US operations from Phoenix this week, having arrived from Philadelphia in July to prepare for the transition. She oversees the airline’s operations in Sky Harbor and its approximately 4,000 employees in the Valley.
She holds the position of Managing Director previously held by John Daley, who retired on October 1. He began his aviation career as a baggage agent for America West Airlines in 1983. Daley led American operations at Sky Harbor for 15 years and spent a total of 37 years in the industry.
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“I’m really excited to run my own city”
Philis-Ortiz has its own history with American Airlines at several airports in the East, including operations at Dulles International Airport.
This is his first venture with the company in the West.
“I’m really excited to be running my own city again,” said Philis-Ortiz. “When you run your own city, you sort of create your own destiny. You actually create the plan, and then it’s your job to execute it. And so your failure and your success is based on everything you do. . “
Philis-Ortiz began his career as an agent for American Eagle at John F. Kennedy International Airport while continuing his university studies. After graduating in psychology from Felician University in New Jersey, she went on to work for American Airlines in a variety of roles, from weigh and balance for aircraft loading to customer service.
She moved with the company to Newark, New Jersey, and then to LaGuardia Airport, where a mentor advised her to learn runway operations. Philis-Ortiz said she was initially hesitant about the idea as she was unfamiliar with this part of the operation, but the mentor convinced her that it was part of the industry that ‘she should learn.
She said the advice has been extremely helpful for her career.
“I kept growing and it was one of the best jobs I have ever had,” she said.
After three years in the Transportation Security Administration, Philis-Ortiz returned to American Airlines. His most recent role prior to coming to Phoenix was as General Manager of Client Operations in Philadelphia.
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American prepares for a busy vacation in Phoenix
Philis-Ortiz takes over in Phoenix as American prepares to ramp up its fall schedule, capitalizing on the significant number of passengers the airline has seen at Sky Harbor.
“Sophia has a proven track record in motivating teams to support American’s goal while achieving superior operational results,” said Franco Tedeschi, vice president of national airports and strategic partnerships, in a e-mail to The Republic.
“Phoenix is an incredibly important market for American, and we are delighted to build on the momentum gained through our recovery efforts to deliver a world-class experience every day for our customers and our team members,” said Tedeschi.
The airline operated 230 daily flights from Sky Harbor in September. This number rose to 242 in October and will rise to 255 in November. That will equate to nine banks of flights this winter, up from eight this fall.
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A bank is a period during which several flights arrive and depart in a short time in order to facilitate connections. More banks means more connectivity between flights. From a passenger’s perspective, this can mean more flight options or less time spent waiting for a connecting flight.
At the height of flight cancellations due to the pandemic, the airline was only operating five banks of flights in Phoenix.
A US spokesperson said that when the airline implements its “flexible schedule” for the holiday season, it will operate the same number of flight banks as in 2019.
Philis-Ortiz said that in addition to leading Phoenix operations at a crucial time, she was also excited to mentor employees to grow in the company as others have done for her.
“I would like to pay tribute to what my mentors have done for me,” she said.
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