The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association released a letter condemning. The airline’s leadership as a “cult” that it says has spent. The past 15 years destroying. The company’s legacy, leaving thousands of vacationers stranded as. A result of the 2022 travel disaster.
The union. which is locked in heated contract negotiations with Southwest. Airlines, released the letter on Dec. 31. It was signed by Captain Tom Nkoye, vice president of the union.
Nekouei said systemwide meltdowns at. Southwest Airlines have increased in frequency and size over the past 15 years . Citing not only . The December failure that left Southwest passengers stranded nationwide. But past incidents as well. These include a series of “meltdowns” at Chicago. Midway International Airport in January 2014. Resulting in the cancellation of 130 flights there; a router brownout. problem in July 2016 that caused 2,300 flight cancellations; and . the October 2021 air traffic control problem in Jacksonville. That caused 29% of Southwest flights to be delayed or canceled.
Nekoi placed the blame on Southwest Chairman and former CEO Gary Kelly. Kelly served as Southwest CEO from 2004 until last February and. Succeeded Southwest co-founder Herb Kelleher in 2008.
“Gary Kelly still reigns supreme on the board of this company despite overseeing. the decisions and setting. The conditions that made this most recent failure possible,” Nekoei wrote. Adding that the airline’s struggles “are not a Southwest Airlines problem. It’s not a. Southwest Airlines employee problem. It’s a Extreme weather is not a problem. It’s a Gary Kelly problem.”
Nekouei accused Kelly of working in. The company’s senior leadership with people from similar backgrounds . Such as those with bachelor’s degrees in accounting from the University of Texas.
“A recipe for operational ignorance and collective groupthink,” wrote Nekoi. “Monetizing what was once a Southwestern. Culture and instead turning it into a headquarters-centric cult. A good old boys and girls network indeed,” he wrote.
“While this would temporarily bode well for our shareholders for. The last decade, it slowly eroded our Company from. within to set the stage for our current and complete meltdown,” Nekouei said.
Staffing problems, Southwest’s unique plane-routing system. And outdated technology have all been cited as reasons. Why Southwest was forced to cancel two-thirds of. Its flights during the holiday travel period. Which included the final days of Hanukkah on Christmas Day. And stranded nearly Half a million passengers. Nekoei argued that the airline’s explanations for its problems. Shared similar themes of underinvestment and refusal to update its operational resources.
The union, Nkoye wrote, “has been beating this drum to management for nearly a decade pleading with. Them to spend the necessary capital to avoid the eventuality any day.”
“As CEO, Gary Kelly made a conscious . Decision to underinvest in necessary technology upgrades in favor of maximizing. Shareholder returns because, well, ‘our technology has been working fine for 20 years,'” he wrote. With each meltdown and . The current situation we find ourselves in.”
In an emailed statement responding to. The union’s letter, Southwest said it “has a more. Than 51-year history of allowing — and encouraging — its employees to express. Their opinions.”