Southwest Airlines promotes executives after operational meltdown

Southwest Airlines has promoted five executives as the budget airline continues to recover from an operational meltdown that resulted in nearly 17,000 canceled flights during the chaotic holiday travel season.

The company said the elevations fill positions that were vacated in September and were planned as the second phase of restructuring under new CEO Bob Jordan, adding that the changes will “strengthen our operational execution”.

Southwest Airlines airplane

A Southwest Airlines plane takes off for the flight. The airline’s operational failures led it to cancel nearly 17,000 flights during the busy holiday travel season. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee/AP Images)

Most notably, Southwest promoted its vice president of network planning, Adam Decaire, to senior vice president of network planning and network operations control. Decaire will continue to report to chief operating officer Andrew Watterson, who has served as chief operating officer since October 1.

The carrier also promoted its vice president for 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 had been demoted or terminated in connection with Monday’s moves, which came days after the company announced it could lose up to $825 million in the fourth quarter due to the fiasco.

The leadership promotions prompted a new wave of scrutiny for Southwest on social media, as critics questioned the optics of handing raises to executives but not drawing on the setbacks that caused the collapse.

Southwest Airlines Unclaimed Bags Are Piling Up

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

“I can’t imagine a worse time to promote these individuals responsible for ruining vacations for thousands of customers and employees,” one person tweeted in response. “It’s beyond comprehension.”

Another said Southwest’s announcement could be “an indication of how tone-deaf their management really is.”

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When contacted by FOX Business, Southwest declined to comment on the reviews.

Nir Kossovsky, corporate risk expert and CEO of Steel City Re, told FOX Business that the apparent angry stakeholder reactions are further evidence that Southwest is going through a “reputational crisis.”

South West Passenger Awaiting

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

However, says Kossovsky, the new promotions of Southwest executives could inspire confidence in the company’s investors. “Investors want to know that a company has an effective risk management process and governance that is authenticated and thoughtful about everything mission-critical,” Kossovsky explained.

He says the most important thing Southwest can do is instill confidence that the meltdown that happened over the holidays will never happen again.

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Southwest is scheduled to release its fourth quarter and full year results on Jan. 26.

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LUV SOUTH WEST AIRLINES CO. 36.21 +0.60 +1.68%

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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