CEOs of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines “Take Off” at SABEW

April 8, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

By Maggie Ashworth
Friday, April 8, 2011, business professionals and journalists gathered in Southern Methodist University’s Crum Auditorium for “Up in the Air: The Future of U.S. Airlines.”

The discussion featured the Chief Executive Officers for two of the country’s leading airlines, Southwest and American Airlines. The discussion was part of a series of lectures and workshops at the 48th Annual conference for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).

The session was lead by Terry Maxon, airline writer for Dallas Morning News, who introduced Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, and American Airlines CEO, Gerard Arpey. Maxon helped lead the conversation and prompted questions for both speakers to answer.

One would have expected some serious tension between these competitors, but the discussion could not have gone more smoothly. With a room full of business writers, there were plenty of questions to keep the speakers talking about a variety of subjects.

Kelly addressed the Southwest Airlines incident in Arizona last week, when the airline was forced to land a Boeing 737 in Yuma, Arizona, after discovering a hole in the roof of the aircraft.

“It was not expected, it is not what we want, certainly for our customers. It is a very, very rare occurrence. We have over a million takeoffs and landings a year, every single year, and the Boeing company has said that this was an unexpected event. The NTSB, of course, is leading the investigation into the incident and has already reported that Southwest Airlines was in full compliance with our maintenance program, that there were no missing maintenance steps,” Kelly said.

In response to the Boeing incident, Arpey still has faith in Boeing for American Airlines. Arpey stated that within the next year he thinks that American will actually host more Boeing 737 planes than MD-80s.

“The MD-80 has been a great airplane for American, but it does burn a lot more fuel than a 737, so it’s a good economic decision for us. And I think you can expect us to continue down that path,” Arpey said.

Other topics discussed during the lecture included the American Airlines decision to not file for bankruptcy, the problems faced in the transportation industry, as well as Southwest Airlines and American Airlines opposing views on charging customers for baggage, change in travel plans, and cocktails.

Today’s conversation leader, Terry Maxon, who regularly writes about the travel industry for The Dallas Morning News, felt that overall the discussion with Arpey and Kelly went very well. Maxon’s only complaint was that there was not enough time to have all the questions answered. Maxon feels that with so many issues in the airline industry, including pricing, customer service, fuel, and the impact of natural disasters, there could have never been enough time to discuss all aspects of the business. However, Maxon was pleased with the questions that were asked, and the topics that were discussed.

“There were a lot of questions asked, the audience got to ask a lot of insightful questions. You always worry that there’s going to be dumb questions asked, and there wasn’t a single question where you slapped yourself on the forehead and said that that shouldn’t even be brought up,” Maxon said.

The SABEW Conference will continue throughout tomorrow at Southern Methodist University, featuring speakers such as Container Store CEO Kip Tendell, Sean Carlson from Google, and James M. Monroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News.

Campus News Blog: Southwest Merger with AirTran May Benefit You

September 30, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Kassi Schmitt

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced Monday that it is buying AirTran for $1.4 billion. The merger of these two airlines will become the nation’s fourth-largest carrier, but what does that mean for you?  

1). Better service! We all know Southwest employees ensure great service, whether you’re on the ground or thousands of miles in the air.

2). The new airline would expand its locations and operate from more than 100 airports and serve more than 100 million customers according to an article from The Dallas Morning News. (However, the deal would remove AirTran from DFW, currently one of the cheapest carriers because of a deal with Southwest at Love Field.)

3). It’s great news for your wallets as Southwest and AirTran don’t have much flight overlap, so the merger won’t lead to higher fares.

4). Who’s in for some fun in the sun? Southwest would become an international airline if it keeps AirTran’s flights to Aruba, the Bahamas, etc. 

5). Because it’s only inevitable, if your flight is delayed or canceled you can now be re-routed thanks to a much larger route structure.

6). Unfortunately, it’s goodbye to AirTran’s business class cabin seats as Southwest will most likely move the airline to its one-cabin model and open-seat boarding process.

6). This also means that AirTran will lose its brand and will operate entirely under Southwest’s logo and colors.

The merger will NOT take affect right away. Southwest and AirTran hope to combine their operations within 24 months of the closing deal, according to Southwest chief Gary Kelly.

But if this new merger is really as good as it sounds- better service, more flights around the world at no increased cost- what’s your next vacation destination going to be?