Southwest’s ex-CEO turned the airline into a ‘cult’ that couldn’t recover from its ‘meltdowns’, says pilots’ union official

Southwest Airways canceled 1000’s of flights this vacation season.Getty Photographs

  • Southwest’s former CEO created a “cult” targeted on its headquarters, its pilots’ union VP stated.

  • Captain Tom Nekouei stated in an open letter that Gary Kelly’s chickens had “come residence to roost.”

  • Southwest canceled tens of 1000’s of flights over the vacation season following winter storms.

The person who ran Southwest Airways for nearly twenty years turned it right into a “cult” targeted on its Dallas headquarters and failed to make sure the service might address weather-related disruption, a pilots’ union official stated.

In a scathing open letter dated December 31, Southwest Airways Pilots’ Affiliation vice-president Captain Tom Nekouei accused Gary Kelly of prioritizing shareholders over employees throughout his time main the corporate, and drew a direct hyperlink between his actions and its pre-Christmas chaos.

Technical issues pressured Southwest to cancel tens of 1000’s of flights following winter storms.

Captain Mike Santoro, one other pilots’ union vice-president, instructed Insider that the airline’s “outdated” scheduling software program made the disruption a lot more durable to recuperate from than it in any other case ought to have.

The airline skilled an additional system glitch on Wednesday that grounded extra flights.

Nekouei stated “systemwide meltdowns” had turn into extra frequent over the previous 15 years, and there had by no means been any actual accountability for the airline’s decision-makers.

“And now, Gary Kelly’s chickens have come residence to roost. In true Southwest vogue, our executives proceed to apologize and ‘settle for accountability’ out of 1 aspect of their mouths whereas making banal excuses that deflect from the true trigger out of the opposite aspect,” Nekouei wrote.

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Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly

Gary Kelly stepped down as CEO of Southwest Airways in January 2022 however stays govt chairman.Southwest Airways

Kelly took over as CEO of Southwest in 2004 from Herb Kelleher, who Nekouei stated took an extra employee-centric method to operations and processes. Kelly stepped down as CEO in January 2022 however retains a robust function as govt chairman.

Nekouei stated Kelly spent $12 billion shopping for again the corporate’s inventory throughout his tenure as CEO to take care of the share value — and due to this fact assist increase his remuneration — quite than put money into techniques “in determined want of serious funding and improve.”

“Whereas Gary’s monetary acumen can’t be debated, his poor operational management and judgment have been demonstrated repeatedly with every meltdown and eventually laid naked with the present scenario we discover ourselves in,” Nekouei wrote.

Kelly’s choice to herald different prime executives with accounting backgrounds led to “a monetization of the as soon as vaunted Southwest tradition and as an alternative turning it right into a headquarters-centric cult,” he added. “Gary Kelly’s solely enduring legacy is that he destroyed Herb Kelleher’s.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airways stated it had a “greater than 51-year historical past of permitting – and inspiring – its workers to specific their opinions in a respectful method.”

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