Skift Take

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly is dismissing union calls for his ouster but if profits slip, or there is another major tech outage, then the CEO's future will get more interesting.


Southwest pilots and ground workers aren’t happy with management. After a record-breaking IT debacle late last month, the Dallas, Texas-based airline was forced to cancel as many as 8,000 flights — and according to the staff, it’s the fault of CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van de Ven.

Union complaints state that the airline hasn’t made important IT updates over the last several years and has focused too much on profits, a reasonable claim in this era of ultra-profitable carriers.  Already Kelly has denounced the complaints as nonsense even as more unions within the airline voice their disdain.

But will the grousing cause any movement? Perhaps. If the airline remains profitable, then Kelly has a good defense as the CEO who pulled the carrier through the Great Recession. But if profits continue to slip and shareholders side with the unions, then the CEO’s future may get more interesting.


Southwest Airlines’ profits for the quarter have been clouded by rising costs

– @FortuneMagazine

File photo of Lufthansa aircraft driving on the tarmac at Frankfurt airport


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Next week brings the annual Book Passage Conference in Corte Madera, California, just north of San Francisco. A hodgepodge of the country’s best travel writers will convene there for four days of coursework and merrymaking. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by for a visit.


Can be sent to gm[at]skift[dot]com or to @grantkmartin

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Photo credit: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly talks with employees at the College Football Hall of Fame January 30, 2015. Kelly is under fire from the unions after a tech outage. Stephen M. Keller / Skift

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