by Gary Leff
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.
This article originally appeared on View from the Wing.