Southwest Airlines Pilots Walk Out On CEO Bob Jordan As Carrier Tries To Restore Culture After Holiday Meltdown

Southwest Airlines Pilots Walk Out On CEO Bob Jordan As Carrier Tries To Restore Culture After Holiday Meltdown

In December United Airlines pilots literally turned their back on CEO Scott Kirby when he came out to meet them during their union’s informational picketing. The union had agreed to a contract, but then pulled their agreement once they saw other airlines offering pilots more, and they were protesting the lack of a contract.

On Wednesday, Southwest Airlines held a major employee rally. They’re working to support the culture, as they always do, but it’s especially crucial now after the airline’s holiday meltdown and because around one-fifth of the carrier’s employees are new within the last year. They don’t have a career of context for the airline to support a warm, positive view of the company. Being stranded in cities without communication over the Christmas period looms large.

However Southwest pilots, themselves negotiating a contract, used the opportunity to walk out on CEO Bob Jordan.

Like United’s Kirby making the classy move of reaching out to his protesting pilots, Southwest’s CEO and Chief Operating Officer applauded and thanked those in the audience who cheered for supporting “the best pilots in the world.”

Southwest, for its part, has been generously compensating customers, taking steps to accelerate its investment in IT, and compensating employees as well. They’ve announced profit sharing plans:

United Airlines is taking aim at Southwest’s operational performance in a Superbowl ad. But their holiday issues were such a combination of factors, not likely to correlate outside of extreme winter, that customers shouldn’t expect a repeat of the same degree of event any time soon. While there will be operational challenges at Southwest (and other airlines!) in the meantime they have a window to improve their ability to recover operations before the same long tail risk re-emerges.

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