Southwest Airlines is aiming to return its reliability to a level it was known for in earlier decades, executives from the airline told attendees of a BWI Business Partnership.
Tony Roach, Southwest’s senior vice president, marketing and customer experience, and Adam Decaire, senior vice president of network planning and network operations control, spoke Thursday at the BWI business Partnership Signature Breakfast at the Hilton BWI Airport Hotel.
Their discussion was led by Partnership Executive Director Gina Stewart before a group of close to 300 attendees. Talk quickly turned to the recent holiday debacle that was caused by weather issues, Southwest’s information technology network problems, employee absences and their ripple effect; it plagued the airline and thousands upon thousands of its customers for about a week.
Decaire talked about Southwest working to improve operations in various departments as the events of late December are being discussed in Congress. He also said that a “third party,” who he didn’t name, is helping the airline in those efforts.
Roach, who has been busy addressing the well-known customer service issues while working with various departments of transportation, said, “We have to make [flying] easy” for the airline’s customers. “Business travelers need unique things,” he added, such as Southwest’s new Wanna Get Away? Plus fares. There are also efforts to improve check-in operations.
Both executives commented that Southwest’s focus in 2023 isn’t to look for new destinations, but to boost its number of flights back up to pre-pandemic figures ― and its number of planes in use up from 680 to 1,000. Decaire also commented on another goal.
What Southwest is aiming for today, he said, “is to restore network and reliability for business travelers to what it was in (Co-founder) Herb Kelleher’s day,” he said, while noting an early step from late December that pointed in that direction. That’s when a considerable number of employees who had been on vacation “volunteered to come back in to work” and that the airline was back to on-time schedules in about a week.