(Bloomberg) — Southwest Airlines Co.’s next chief executive officer said the carrier is wary of sharing no-fly lists with other airlines, as advocated by Delta Air Lines Inc. to protect flight crews from unruly passengers.
“These are industry issues, and so I’d like to use the A4A as the body to think through that,” said Bob Jordan, referring to the Airlines for America trade group.
Recent internal data showed that incidents involving disruptive customers were down nearly 50% over the last two weeks, he said. The reasons for the drop are unclear, although he speculated that less-full flights following the peak summer travel season and crews growing more skilled at de-escalating tense situations were factors.
“We’re heading in the right direction, so it’s very encouraging,” he said.
Jordan, who will succeed Gary Kelly as Southwest’s CEO in February, discussed a wide range of issues with reporters and editors at the Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. Here are some highlights of his comments:
Southwest doesn’t have plans to add Airbus SE aircraft in the next decade. The Dallas-based carrier decided in March to stick to its fleet of only Boeing Co. 737 narrow-body jets, after studying the Airbus A220.
"It’s a ‘no’ for now but there’s no way it is a ‘no’ forever.”
The company isn’t considering imposing a Covid-19 vaccination mandate, relying instead on incentives, such as 16 hours of extra pay to get shots. He estimated that 65% of Southwest employees have been inoculated.
“We’ve got a 60-day or so period here where we’re moving through this process of incenting people to be vaccinated, and I’m very encouraged and I’m very hopeful that we’ll get to a much higher number.”
The airline plans to announce new, 10-year environmental, social and governance goals in about a month that will include plans for sustainable aviation fuels, aircraft modernization and other elements. And the carrier has “a lot to do” on diversity and inclusion.
“Our workforce is terrific but our workforce needs to reflect the country that we serve and, in particular, our leadership team needs to reflect the country that we serve.”
Southwest is monitoring alternative energy aircraft such as electric vertical takeoff and landing planes, many of which are quite small, with limited range.
“It’s too early to know what the market position is going to be, what propulsion is going to win out.”
The airline plans to keep at least $6 billion in cash on its balance sheet, roughly double the amount it typically carried before the pandemic, having learned that “suddenly, you could have a lot of cancellations that show up.”
“You must protect yourself.”
This article originally appeared on Crain's Chicago Business