Report: Southwest Airlines CEO Flew American Back To Dallas After Pilots Walked Out On Him At Rally

On Wednesday Southwest Airlines held an employee rally in Baltimore and pilots, in the midst of a contract negotiation with the airline, walked out on CEO Bob Jordan, reminiscent of United Airlines pilots turning their back on their own CEO in December.

The Wednesday Baltimore event appeared to be the scheduling conflict that meant Jordan was unavailable to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington DC on Thursday. Southwest sent Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson in his place.

After his trip to Baltimore, Jordan reportedly flew back to Dallas – not on Southwest Airlines – but on American Airlines, according to a Southwest pilot:

I reached out to Southwest Airlines for comment, and they declined to offer a statement for the record, though they did not deny that their CEO flew American.

The implication of the story could be that labor relations at Southwest are so bad that their own CEO cannot fly the airline right now. However we do not know why Jordan would choose the flight he did. There are other potential reasons he might fly an airline other than Southwest (aside from being able to fly first class, which Southwest doesn’t offer!).

In fact, it’s not entirely unusual for an airline CEO to fly a competitor. In May 2020, after George Floyd, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker flew Southwest and got into a well-publicized conversation about race with a flight attendant. Here’s his version of the encounter which came about because he opted not to bump a passenger off of a full American flight to Florida for his own travel.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is entitled to lifetime first class travel on American Airlines from his time as President of that airline. While it might look funny for him to use it, it’s good to know what your competitors’ products are like.

On the other hand, a highly visible executive can certainly be accosted when flying commercial. In fall 2020 an American Airlines flight attendant took out their rate at being furloughed on former airline CEO Don Carty.

There’s no question that Southwest’s once-vaunted labor relations are frayed with their pilots at present. The airline didn’t furlough anyone during the pandemic, while American furloughed nearly 20,000 including pilots. But memories are short, it seems.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Bob Jordan is the George Santos of airline CEOs. It’s not even close.

    Only question is exactly when SWA’s institutional investors (Vanguard, Blackrock, etc.) will replace him.

  2. they should have kept one of the 737-700s they sold and make it a private jet for their CEO and execs.

  3. WN’s employee relations are far more damaged than their operational issues which can be fixed.
    WN execs refuse to own the mistakes they made – and BoJo is just as much the heir of the decisions that others before him as Scott Kirby has to live with the decisions that UA’s former execs made including walking away from JFK with it highly unlikely they will be able to return.

    And it is not just WN’s pilots that are upset. Pilots can get by with a lot that other employees cannot and so they act out the way other employees wish they can.

    The picture of Scott Kirby being dissed by a cross section of UA employees in Houston proves that some employee groups are willing to stand with the vocal pilots

  4. It would be interesting to find out how he flew TO BWI. If he flew F on AA to BWI , then it’s likely he did so for F class instead of his own airline’s economy. Also would love to know how the COO flew to/from DC.

  5. @Lori Highly unlikely — BWI and DAL are hubs for WN, and looks like WN has 5 non-stops on weekdays from BWI to DAL, whereas AA has 2 or 3.
    Last flight time out isn’t an issue either, 6:55 PM vs. 7:01 PM.

  6. “The airline [Southwest] didn’t furlough anyone during the pandemic..
    But memories are short, it seems.”
    NO. What WE remember is that 6828 workers, including 1221 pilots at SWA got letters of INTENT to furlough a couple weeks before Christmas 2020 – while the company still had BILLIONS in the bank. I support a furlough if necessary for company survival, but that was just to preserve cash for Wall Street’s benefit. UNEXCUSABLE!!!

  7. @JL100 evidently the inside joke that u clearly made involving the 737, flew over everyone’s heads and took a nose dive. I got it though, and I agree

  8. Maybe its timr for a buyout or a merger. SW no longer fits the needs of todays flyers.

    The Herb days are long gone. Nobody wants point to piubt, unnasigned seating, no business or economy class, no charging ports, filthy planes and old and haggered flight attendants who wear sneakers, back packs and no make-up!

    No red eyes, no tv monitors and a horrible snack mix for every flight!

    I dont see what all the hype is about SW, there on time performance SUCKS!

    I will fly anything other than SW and I guess the CEO Bob Jordan absolutely feels the same way! But can you blame him!

  9. CEO Jordan was in Baltimore and couldn’t testify in DC? He could have taken a taxi. It’s a one-hour drive from Baltimore to D.C.

  10. And I flew next to the great Herb Kelleher on an AA first class flight. Half the plane knew who he was.
    Not sure what the big deal is.

  11. “…[Southwest] didn’t furlough anyone during the pandemic… But memories are short, it seems.”

    Southwest sent WARN notices to 1221 pilots a few weeks before Christmas, threatening furlough, unless the pilots agreed to a 10% pay cut. So, no. Memories are not short. In this case, they are lingering and bitter.

  12. This is perfectly normal, and was even more common for WN corporate travel prior to Wright Amendment fully going away in 2014. I recall reading somewhere that Herb Kelleher was an Exec Plat on AA

  13. Almost 30 years ( April 5 ) and things have changed, after BoJo become a CEO I invited him to come over and visit us, at the hanger floor , his office is less then 50 years away , 5 minutes walking distance and have not done so, neith G K , the one and only visitor was RIP Herb Kelleher, Irish Catholic , we keep the planes safe in the airspace

  14. Maybe he flew back on a different airline to get the point across that people have options, and that they will exercise those options?

  15. The “LUV” at SWA disappeared the day Gary Kelly walked in the door. Its not coming back under Bob Jordan. Those employees deserve better. Not that you care Leff!

  16. DFW is only a twenty-minute drive from Southwest corporate headquarters, if you’re lucky and 183 isn’t a zoo like it often is. Plus, Jordan could get some business done at one of the numerous Admirals’ Clubs instead of waiting with the Great Unwashed at a gate at Love Field (you know that Southwest has some sort of corporate Admirals’ Club membership). If I had the choice, I’d fly American rather than Southwest going out of Dallas to somewhere other than home.

  17. There was no company rally. That was a pilot union rally and Bob Jordan had no reason to be there, nor would he have been welcome. Try to add some context next time.
    Second, I’ve had other airlines CEOs on my airplane. Do you not think it would be appropriate for them to have some idea of what the competition offers?

  18. Herb used to fly AA regularly between DFW and Washington D.C. on an annual first class, positive space A5 pass. Who can blame him – FC space and service and no employees to bend his ear with complaints. I’m sure the practice continues. Crandall flew Southwest at least once that I know of Tulsa to Dallas. I’m sure all airline executives have or can get FC positive travel on most other carriers.

  19. Used to love SW back in the Herb Kelleher days. Enjoyed stories about him wearing Elvis jump suits on Halloween, and Easter bunny outfits at Easter annd riding his planes for PR.
    Now, not so much. I guess if AA first class is good eniugh for the head of SW, it’s good enough for me.

  20. Another news outlet making noise and looking for something suspicious. I worked for southwest airlines in the companies travel department and all airlines board members/CEOs have free flight privileges on each other which is normal in th industry and routinely fly each other. We would constantly get bookings for other airlines CEOs and board members.

  21. The reason SWA Did not furlough is because they took government money. Those grants and loans has the caveat of no furloughs and no stock buybacks . SWA does not care about it’s pilots and will furlough if needed. The culture now is toxic and was cause by the previous and this current band of entitled empty suits.

  22. BoJo inherited a hot mess from Gary Kelly. Unfortunately, corporate greed runs deep through WN. Top management only has bachelor degrees- I think a lot of nepotism is at play with top officials at WN. They’re ruining what was once a well respected company.. RIP WN 🙁

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