Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan on What Went Wrong
Your unions say that for years Southwest has been too investor focused and underinvested in the operation. What is your response to this criticism?
I’ve been asked a lot if we have outdated technology. We spend a billion dollars a year on technology here at Southwest. And, like in any business, there are always new things, like our maintenance system, and there are always things you are working on.
We have a very good operations improvement plan. Crew planning is a big part of that. If you look back just last year, we put in, I think, eight new versions of SkySolver. We hired 120 crew planners. We put leadership on crew planning and realigned. I’m not saying for a minute that we’re done or that’s enough.
On the issue of shareholders, this is not a single decision. We are in very good financial health. And because of that, we don’t have to make a choice between investing in technology or investing in our shareholders. During the holidays, we went to the bonus, we offered recognition bonuses, we made gestures of goodwill for our employees, as well as for our customers.
How do you regain the trust of your customers?
For 51 years, we have operated a very good airline and provided excellent service. It didn’t change just because we had this event.
This does not rule out the fact that we were wrong. I think the best thing we can do is use this event as a catalyst to be even better. It’s a great company, but the best thing we can do for our customers is to continue to deliver a great product, to invest in our product. You’ve seen us do all of these things – we’re adding larger feed ports and bins. Keep investing in them, keep running a great operation, keep providing great hospitality, and be even better.
Can you help us understand when you knew things were really bad at Christmas?
We plan days and days ahead for storms, hurricanes – all of those things. We monitor the operation daily; our leaders get many calls a day just to figure out how we are doing. I get several calls a day on a normal day. Everything that was going on.