Arpey will be joining Houston-based firm Emerald Creek Group, a private equity firm founded by former Continental chief executive Larry Kellner.
Over the summer, American had announced the largest plane order in aviation history, saying it would buy 460 planes from Airbus and Boeing with aircraft deliveries expected to start in 2013.
The massive order would replace most of its domestic fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft. The first 230 planes in the order were financed through the aircraft manufacturers.
However, on Tuesday morning, the company had not mentioned the order in its bankruptcy filing announcement. The head of the Allied Pilots Association said the bankruptcy filing was disappointing.
"While today's news was not entirely unexpected, it is nevertheless disappointing that we find ourselves working for an airline that has lost its way," APA president Captain David Bates told pilots in a message on Tuesday morning.
"In 2003 American Airlines' pilots provided management with significant cost savings that were characterized as essential to avoiding bankruptcy at that time. We agreed to sacrifice based on the expectation that our airline would regain its leadership position. What has transpired since has been nothing short of a "perfect storm."
American is the largest carrier at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, operating about 85 percent of all of the flights out of DFW. The airport is currently renovating its older terminals where American operates as part of a $1.9 billion project.
"While the situation is fluid due to AMR's bankruptcy filing, operations are business as usual at DFW," said airport chief executive Jeff Fegan. "For now, we anticipate that passenger levels and Airport revenues will remain strong even during the American Airlines reorganization proceedings."
The mayors of Fort Worth and Dallas offered their support to the company and its workers.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she learned about the bankruptcy filing about 6 a.m. Tuesday. "It wasn't a huge surprise," she said. "It had been in the offing."
Although she said she and other officials are concerned about the company and its employees, Price said she hopes the company's move will have as minimal an impact as possible on Fort Worth and the Metroplex.
"If there's anything we can do, we are a resource," she said. "Obviously we are confident they are going to find their way through and become very competitive again."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said American's move was "the right thing to do."
"While this was a tough decision by management, it puts American in a much better situation long term and ... the Metroplex will be better," he said. "It's always difficult to make the right decision, but they made it."
Rawlings, who plans to fly on American Airlines Wednesday, said it's important to support the company and its employees as it works through the bankruptcy process.
"We want to reach out emotionally to all the employees and retirees in the American Airlines system," Rawlings said. "This is a tough time, and we want to be there for them."
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said she was "very disappointed" by the company's decision.
"I have worked with AA's CEO Gerard Arpey and his representatives on pension issues and I know of the extensive efforts made by the company to keep the defined benefit pension plan for employees," she said. "I remain concerned about the company's pension plan -- one of the most generous in the industry -- being placed in jeopardy by this unfortunate turn of events."
Staff writers Bud Kennedy and Anna Tinsley contributed to this report.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631
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