Southwest Airlines Promotes CEOs After Operational Meltdown

Southwest Airlines Promotes CEOs After Operational Meltdown

Southwest Airlines has promoted five CEOs as the budget carrier continues to reel from an operational meltdown that led to the cancellation of nearly 17,000 flights during the chaotic travel season.

Levers are filling positions vacated in September that are planned as a second phase of restructuring under new CEO Bob Jordan, the company said, adding that the moves would “enhance our operational execution.”

A Southwest Airlines plane taking off for a flight. Operational failures at the airline have caused nearly 17,000 flights to be canceled during the busy travel season. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee/AP Images)

Notably, Southwest has promoted its Vice President of Network Planning, Adam DeCaire, to Senior Vice President of Network Planning and Control, Network Operations. Decaire will continue to report to COO Andrew Watterson, who has been COO since October 1st.

The company also promoted its Vice President of Customer Experience and Engagement, Tony Roach, to Senior Vice President of Marketing and Customer Experience.

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A Southwest spokesperson told The Associated Press that no employees were demoted or terminated in connection with Monday’s moves, which came days after the company said it could lose as much as $825 million in the fourth quarter because of the fiasco.

Leadership promotions have brought a new wave of scrutiny to Southwest on social media, with critics questioning the optics of giving executives raises, but not firing any for failures that triggered the meltdown.

Southwest Airlines bags are piling up

A passenger walks through the field of unclaimed bags at the Southwest Airlines baggage carousels at Denver International Airport on December 27. (AP/David Zalubowski/AP Newsroom)

“I can’t imagine a worst time to promote these individuals who are responsible for ruining the vacations of thousands of customers and employees,” one person tweeted in response. “This is beyond comprehension.”

Another said Southwest’s announcement could be “an indication of how deaf their management can be.”

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When FOX Business reached out, Southwest declined to comment on the criticism.

Nir Kosofsky, a corporate risk expert and CEO of Steel City Re, told FOX Business that the angry response from clear stakeholders is further evidence that Southwest is going through a “reputational crisis.”

Southwest passengers are waiting

A passenger waits outside the Southwest Airlines baggage counter at Oakland International Airport (OAK) in Oakland, California, December 28, 2022. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Still, Kosofsky says, new promotions for Southwest executives could instill confidence from the company’s investors. “Investors want to know that the company has an effective, reliable and thoughtful risk management process and governance over everything that matters most,” Kosofsky explained.

The most important thing Southwest can do, he says, is to instill confidence that the meltdown that occurred during the holidays will not happen again.

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Southwest is scheduled to report fourth-quarter and full-year results on January 26.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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