Southwest promotes key staff despite Christmas crisis • The Register

After a Christmas holiday that canceled about 16,700 flights, you’d expect heads to roll at Southwest Airlines, but that’s not the case.

Instead, several of the company’s executives are promoted, including the VP responsible for planning its aircraft network.

Southwest announced five leadership promotions Monday that it says are part of structural changes that began last September that will “strengthen our operational execution and better serve our people and customers.”

The most notable promotion goes to Adam Dekar, SWA’s former vice president of network planning, who is now the company’s chief network nlanning and Network Operations Control (NOC) specialist.

SWA describes the NOC as “the heart for key operational decisions and coordination,” which includes controllers, meteorologists, crew planners and other personnel who keep the aircraft network running smoothly … usually.

Southwest said Decaire’s promotion “creates a tighter feedback loop between schedule design and schedule execution while adding resiliency and reliability to the network” and supports the design and implementation of new technologies and solutions for network planning at SWA.

“[Decaire] Together with the single organization that integrates Network Planning with NOC, it will continue to provide extensive knowledge of the airline’s network,” Southwest said.

Decaire replaces Andrew Watterson, who was promoted to SWA’s Chief Operating Officer in October. It is unclear how much Decaire was involved in reducing the Christmas crash, and the SWA told us it would “not comment on personnel matters”.

Other promotions announced today see new leaders in the company’s marketing and customer experience team, culture and communications group, and legal and sales.

No chief optician?

Southwest told us the date for yesterday’s announcement was set for November, but apparently hasn’t stopped to think about changing any decisions after a bad Christmas.

COO Watterson blamed outdated scheduling software that left thousands of passengers stranded for days in late December — something that fell squarely in Decaire’s wheelhouse.

according to New York TimesSouthwest is unique among major carriers in that it allows you to fly faster, cheaper routes without a central hub.

It also means there are no standby ground crews to pick up the slack when scheduling breaks down and planes aren’t at major hubs. The disruption, with flights canceled and crews unavailable, has torn Southwest’s flight network apart, leaving only one way to reset them: Return the crews to their original locations and start over.

IT problems were also blamed, with some pilots and crew waiting hours to reach Southwest’s operations staff, overwhelmed with requests.

Caught in the mix, customers sued in late December, claiming SWA failed to promptly refund tickets and breached its contractual obligations to its passengers.

Southwest pilots say leadership is to blame

It’s unclear what changes Decaire will bring to SWA’s flight schedule, or whether he can prevent a future crash without an overhaul so far-reaching that it changes Southwest’s business model.

But one thing is abundantly clear: The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association thinks bigger changes are needed.

“How did we go from the most stable and profitable airline in history to the biggest collapse in airline history,” SWAPA 2nd Vice President Tom Nekouei asked in a blog post. “In our case, it comes down to three words: Lack of leadership,” Nekouei said.

Nekouei said SWA’s executives sent a lot of “saccharine corporate-communications-written and legal-counsel-reviewed ‘sorry’ and ‘love you’ messages” that “definitely obfuscate actual corrective action.” need to be pulled out of this graveyard spiral.”

Nekouei said system-wide failures at SWA have increased over the past 15 years and are “the result of conscious operational, workforce or technology infrastructure investment decisions made at the highest levels of our entire company.”

Nekouei said there was no real accountability for the decision-makers involved in SWA’s numerous accidents over the years, instead arguing that Southwest had allowed the same people to do the same thing over and over again despite its failures.

“Many of us thought that maybe this incident would be the last straw to shake the Southwest Board out of its slumber…it’s clear that Southwest management is circling the wagons as it always has in the past,” said the union VP. he said.

In an SEC filing last week, Southwest said it expects to report losses in the fourth quarter, with pretax earnings expected to decline to between $725 and $825, and net operating expenses likely to increase due to customer reimbursement efforts. ®

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