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What follows below is a shorter version of an OpEd that was submitted to the Dallas Morning News during the week of the Wright Amendment celebration. We also ran a half-page ad on the same subject in the business section of the Dallas Morning News on October 16 & 17.

With the sun setting on the Wright Amendment at Dallas Love Field October 13, this is truly a new dawn for Southwest Airlines and the City of Dallas. Restrictions placed on Southwest Airlines and Love Field that prevented nonstop travel to markets outside of the state of Texas, with a few exceptions, have now been lifted and people in Dallas are now "free to move about the country."

On the heels of record profits and a return on invested capital (ROIC) not seen in over a decade, Southwest Airlines is poised to profit even more from the Dallas market. CEO Gary Kelly was recently quoted as saying, "I'm very confident that the demand will far exceed the capacity of the airport." With these new opportunities developing out of Dallas, combined with an international expansion and a nearly complete integration of AirTran Airways into Southwest, these should be very exciting times for the employees of Southwest Airlines.

A look behind the scenes reveals a different picture. The employees of Southwest Airlines, known for their heart and "can-do" attitudes, are witnessing an erosion of morale because open labor contracts are being delayed by upper management. Further erosion of our famed culture will certainly damage our coveted spot as an industry leader.

Lately, the language from Gary Kelly regarding labor contracts has been peppered with words such as "furlough" and "bankruptcy," words never associated with record financial performance. We've also been told that the shareholders of Southwest Airlines have suffered long enough and their reward is our priority. This is despite the fact that shares of Southwest Airlines (LUV) have quadrupled in the past two years and our stock dividend has doubled.

In the past, Southwest's publicly stated strategy was to put employees first, the customer second and the shareholder third. Happy employees would bring back customers again and again, fueling profits that attracted shareholders. Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta Air Lines recently said in Forbes Magazine, "At Delta, we believe long-term success requires that our people, customers and investors win together. We have always been committed to sharing with employees the success they create." We, the pilots of Southwest Airlines, could not agree more.

The Southwest Culture is the reason that most of us think of our jobs as a dream job. With a shift back to our roots, where the employees came first, the customer second and the investors third, our old formula for success will work better than ever. Our hope is that Gary Kelly will see the importance of wrapping up labor talks to allow us all to get back to what we do best: Operating the world's best airline.

Mark Richardson | President

Southwest Airlines Pilots: Leaders in the Aviation Industry

Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA) is the sole bargaining unit for the more than 6,300 pilots of Southwest Airlines. Southwest pilots are leaders in aviation industry productivity and are the world's leading experts on flying the Boeing-737.  Southwest Airlines operates a growing fleet of the 737-300, 737-500, 737-700 and 737-800.

SWAPA is in its 36th year of service to the pilots of Southwest Airlines. Prior to the union's beginnings in 1978, pilots worked cooperatively with the Company to compile work rules for safe, efficient operations. That cooperative spirit has continued through the negotiation of eight labor contracts.