Southwest Airlines Pilots Want to Fire Their CEO

Southwest Airlines Pilots Picket During The Company's Annual Shareholder Meeting
A Southwest Airlines Co. plane takes off as representatives and pilots from the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA) demonstrate outside Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Pilots picketed the meeting to protest the lack of a new contract with the company despite four years of negotiations. The union also recently sued the carrier to block it from flying a new aircraft that's not listed in their current contract. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo by Daniel Acker—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pilots and mechanics who work for Southwest Airlines are calling for a management shakeup at the company.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association voted unanimously on Friday requesting that CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van de Ven step down from their roles at the company. The 20-0 “Vote of No Confidence” was agreed upon by the association’s board of directors, a move that was augmented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association’s own vote of no confidence.

“We can no longer sit idly by and watch poor decision after poor decision deeply affect our customers and Southwest Airlines,” SWAPA president Captain Jon Weaks said in a statement obtained by Consumerist. “Senior executives at Southwest Airlines have prioritized short-term stock performance at the expense of long-term investment in people and infrastructure.”

Weaks’ statement refers to a technological glitch that forced Southwest to cancel 700 flights just last week, as well as “chaotic crew scheduling” during the summer and the holidays when flight volumes tend to increase. He says that despite “record-breaking revenues” the executives have failed to update the airline’s “critically outdated IT infrastructure and flight operations.”


In addition to these operational deficiencies, he blames Kelly and Van de Ven for “unprecedented labor strife” and “continued culture erosion at the company.” He maintains that if the two are replaced, it would help “secure a more stable, sustainable, and profitable future” for Southwest Airlines.

Randy Babbit, Southwest Airlines’ senior vice president of labor relations, told Fortune in a statement that SWAPA’s vote of no confidence is not about any of the reasons outlined in Weaks’ statement. “This is about the Union’s approach to contract discussions and its attempt to gain leverage in negotiations,” he said. The pilots have been requesting a contract that is in line with those at the three other “Big Four” domestic airlines, and most recently picketed the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

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