Jessica Tyler MBA EdD ’06 shares her journey to becoming the first female president at American Airlines’ Cargo Division.
April 09, 2021
By Nicholas Ferrandino
The TCU Alumni Association interviewed Neeley Alumna and President of American Airlines’ Cargo Division Jessica Tyler MBA EdD ’06 about her rise to success. The Facebook Live event shares an inspiring tale of a woman who remains a student at heart, eager to learn with every new opportunity life throws her way.
Tyler first became a student at TCU after obtaining her master’s degree at Florida Atlantic University. Both Tyler and her husband were on the lookout for new opportunities to further their education. Their search brought Tyler to TCU’s now-retired Professor of Education Mike Sacken to discuss her potential avenues at the university.
“That conversation changed the course of my life,” Tyler said.
Sacken invited her to join his new program to obtain her MBA/EdD, which included free residency and tuition along with a living stipend. Eager for the opportunity, Tyler said yes.
“For me, it was coming home,” Tyler said. “The Horned Frog community made us part of the family right away.”
After obtaining her dual degree, Tyler recounts an entrepreneurial odyssey of one job opportunity after the other. For a while she stayed in Omaha, Nebraska, first working for Gallup, Inc. before working with bestselling author and consultant Tom Rath after a chance town hall meeting. But despite her success, Tyler and her family wanted to return to Texas.
While searching for a new job in Dallas, Tyler was offered a position at American Airlines’ Cargo Division.
The day after the company filed for bankruptcy.
But she did not view that as a deterrent. Instead Tyler saw it as an opportunity to play an integral part in reshaping one of the world’s most recognized brands.
“As a consultant and someone who had been around a lot of different companies, I felt like an anthropologist,” Tyler said. “Most people would think it’s crazy, but I just saw opportunity everywhere.”
For the next eight years, Tyler helped cut costs and improve operating income to make American Airlines a profitable company once more. In July 2020, she was elected the first-ever female president of AA’s Cargo Division and vice president of airport excellence. Just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic.
With worldwide travel bans grinding the industry to a halt, Tyler and her team found new ways to keep the company afloat, to everyone’s benefit. Her department has proven integral in the pandemic relief effort, repurposing passenger airliners into cargo vessels to distribute vital medical equipment and COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country.
The talk concludes with Tyler’s optimism for the future of American Airlines, and a fond remembrance for the university her family continues to be a part of.