American Airlines, the largest airline in the US, has named Priya Aiyar, a former Obama Administration official, as a senior vice president and General Counsel.
Aiyar, an Ivy League-educated Big Law partner and former acting general counsel of the Treasury Department, is joining the AA’s Fort Worth, Texas-based legal department by way of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, where she serves as a partner in the firm’s litigation and global trade and investment groups in Washington. She plans to begin her new job next month.
“I was very happy in private practice,” Aiyar was quoted as saying in newsreports. “But when this opportunity came along I just thought that it’s not very often you get the chance to work for a great and iconic American company with the breadth of legal issues an airline faces.”
Aiyar succeeds Paul Jones, who retired earlier this year. She will hold the reins of AA’s legal affairs team and oversee legal strategies for a wide range of issues, from corporate governance, securities and finance to antitrust, compliance, privacy, environmental, employment and intellectual property.
“I felt like the diversity of what I worked on and what American faces were really a good match,” Aiyar said. “I have a pretty diverse background in government and private practice. When I thought about my background and the kinds of issues American faces, I realized they do all of that. They do incredibly complicated finance. They have complex regulatory and environmental issues.”
Before she joined Willkie Farr, Aiyar spent about seven years as a senior government lawyer, first as legal adviser to the chair of the Federal Communications Commission. She went on to serve as deputy chief counsel for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill before joining the Energy Department as deputy general counsel for the environment and nuclear programs. In 2013, she went to work for the Treasury Department as deputy general counsel and was promoted to acting GC in 2015.
Steve Johnson, AA’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, described Aiyar in a written statement as “an outstanding lawyer and an extraordinary intellect, and her strategic perspective, integrity, energy, unique experience, passion for the law, and demonstrated ability to build and inspire teams make her the perfect person to lead our legal strategy and team over the coming years.”
He added, “We remain focused on evolving our culture and attracting the best and brightest to American and, in both respects, we could not have found a better person.”
As her career was getting off the ground, Aiyar clerked for Judge Merrick Garland of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer before joining Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, now Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick.
She is a graduate of Yale Law School and has a master’s degree from the University of Oxford along with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.
American Airlines is among the top carriers in the country with 6,800 daily flights to more than 365 destinations in 61 countries, employing 130,000 staff globally and serving some 200 million customers.