AS PRESIDENT of US Airways, Scott Kirby (pictured) cut costs by eliminating free non-alcoholic drinks for coach passengers. This week, he was probably popping the cork on something fizzy. On Tuesday, American Airlines, which took over US Airways in 2013, announced that Mr Kirby is out of his job—and filings show that he is walking away with $13m and lifetime flying privileges.

For passengers who have felt the pinch of every airline cost-saving manoeuvre, the discrepancy will feel cruel. So-called golden parachutes are standard practice in the corporate world, and Mr Kirby’s is peanuts compared with, say, Steve Wynn, a casino mogul who negotiated a $358m exit deal. But at least he got peanuts. Airline passengers have found themselves denied even salty snacks in recent years. Employees, meanwhile, have complained of a lack of investment in basic infrastructure.

So they would be forgiven for asking where, exactly, all this money came from. Mr Kirby will receive $3.85m in cash, accelerated vesting of more than 250,000 stock shares (worth nearly $10m),…Continue reading