Amtrak Hires Atlas Air CEO William Flynn to Run National Passenger Railroad

New boss is Amtrak’s third straight CEO from private sector amid a multi-year turnaround

By

Ted Mann for wsj.com

WASHINGTON—Amtrak Chief Executive Richard Anderson is stepping down after three years and will be replaced by the former CEO ofAtlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., which leases passenger charters and cargo aircraft, the railroad announced Monday.

William J. Flynn led Atlas for 13 years, retiring in 2019. At Amtrak, he succeeds another former aviation executive, Mr. Anderson, who came to the railroad in 2017 after a career running passenger carriers, including Delta Air Lines Inc.

Mr. Flynn will be the third straight Amtrak CEO hired from the private sector, as the railroad’s board continues an effort to turn around the government-owned railroad’s finances while improving service and safety.

Atlas subsidiaries operate the largest fleet of Boeing 747 freighter jets in the world, according to corporate filings, and supply aircraft for major shippers like Amazon.com Inc. and DHL, as well as the U.S. military.

Mr. Flynn’s hiring was earlier reported by theNew York Times.

In an interview, Anthony Coscia, the chairman of Amtrak’s board of directors, said that Mr. Flynn’s success in operating Atlas Air over the past decade gave the board confidence that he could continue Mr. Anderson’s track record, in which Amtrak has recorded the best financial results in its nearly 50 year history.

Mr. Coscia also said that Mr. Flynn is expected to have a longer tenure than Mr. Anderson and his predecessor, Charles “Wick” Moorman, the former Norfolk Southern CEO, who was hired in 2016.

Amtrak’s proposals for altering or eliminating some of its long-distance train routes, in favor of more frequent service where the population is growing, is facing opposition among those who fear rural America would suffer. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports. Photo: Getty

Both Mr. Moorman and Mr. Anderson made short-term commitments to lead the railroad, Mr. Coscia said, and served without pay. Mr. Flynn will earn a salary of $475,000 and is expected to stay on for at least five years, Mr. Coscia said.

“Bill’s expectation is that he will have a longer tenure,” Mr. Coscia said. “He’s now got the baton for the anchor leg here, which will be longer.”

Mr. Anderson is slated to stay on with Amtrak as a senior adviser through the end of the year, the railroad said.

Under Mr. Anderson, Amtrak has taken pains to emphasize its greater financial performance. The CEO and the board that the railroad would have greater credibility when seeking large capital grants from Congress if it could show it spent its annual subsidies responsibly.

Mr. Flynn inherits a corporate strategy of improving performance and earnings on the busy Northeast Corridor, while seeking approval and funding from Congress to establish similar multi-city corridors of frequent service in the fastest-growing areas around the country.

But the railroad faces significant resistance to those plans, including from members of Congress who don’t want to see traditional long-distance routes curtailed in favor of more frequent inter-city trains. And in most areas outside the Northeast, Amtrak relies on tracks owned and controlled by freight railroads, which could prove an obstacle to the corridors of service Mr. Anderson envisioned.

Mr. Flynn has sparred with organized labor in the past. He departed Atlas after a lengthy effort to secure a new labor agreement with some of the company’s pilots, a deal that Atlas has yet to close.

Write to Ted Mann at ted.mann@wsj.comamt

Updated: March 3, 2020 — 11:01 AM

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