The airline’s five-year plan, addressing the pilot shortage and the expected impact of Artificial Intelligence were among the many topics covered when Southwest Airlines President and CEO Bob Jordan had a “fireside chat” with BWI Business Partnership Executive Director Gina Stewart during the Partnership’s March Signature Breakfast. The event was held at the BWI Airport Marriott.

Early in the conversation, Jordan acknowledged that the airline “dropped the ball” during the Christmas 2022 travel season when what the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated at 16,900 flights were cancelled, citing an information technology system that has been widely acknowledged to be outdated. Therefore, he said that the first step in the plan is to modernize its operations, then added that the customer experience will also be improved with updates like more overhead bag space and increased seatback power.

Next, Jordan cited heightening the employee experience with what will include a uniform refresh; and that Southwest will work to improve its corporate culture, noting its non-expiring flight credits for passengers as part of that effort.

Next, after estimating that business travel is “back to about 85%” of pre-COVID-19 levels, Jordan said Southwest had 60 planes it couldn’t fly last year due to a lack of pilots. However, those planes “are now staffed,” which bodes well for BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, where the airline has added 18 cities since the beginning of the pandemic.

He also commented on the impact of AI, saying that it will be good for “sorting out the data lace and getting to the pertinent information” for some tasks, but noted that there are many jobs it will never replace.

The Partnership’s next Signature Breakfast will be held Thursday, April 18, at The Hotel at Arundel Preserve. It will feature Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman with Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. President and CEO Kirkland Murray; and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball with Howard County Office of Workforce Development Director Francine Trout.