• Joe Breitfeller

Southwest Airlines Announces Retirements, Key Leadership Appointments

The airline has announced the retirement of two Officers, as well as promotions within their Operational, Finance and Commercial Departments. Effective March 1, 2021, Greg Wells, VP of Daily Operations and Jim Ruppel, VP Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards will retire.

Southwest Airlines EVP - Daily Operations, Greg Wells, Will Retire on March 1, 2021 and Move to an Advisor Role

On Thursday (February 4, 2020), Southwest Airlines announced the retirement of two veteran Officers as well as several promotions across the company’s Operational, Finance and Commercial Departments.

Southwest’s Executive Vice President of Daily Operations, Greg Wells, will retire effective March 1, 2021 and move to an Advisor role. Mr. Wells has a broad background of operational experience, joining the company on the ramp in 1981 and working his way up to Executive Vice President. Over the years he worked for the company in nine different locations before moving to Dallas in 1997. Wells’ experience includes Station Manager (San Jose and Phoenix), Regional Ground Operations Director, Director of Flight Dispatch, VP – Safety, Security and Flight Dispatch, VP – Ground Operations and SVP – Operational Performance. In his new role as a company Advisor, Mr. Wells will provide leadership coaching and mentoring, contribute historical perspectives and insight to various training classes and input into operational training.

Southwest's VP of Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards, Jim Ruppel, Will Retire on March 1, 2021 and Move to an Advisor Role - Courtesy Southwest Airlines

Also retiring on March 1, 2020 is Southwest’s Vice President of Customer Relations/Rapid rewards, Jim Ruppel, after 43 years of service. Mr. Ruppel will move to an Advisor role at the company moving forward. Ruppel started his career with Southwest as a provisioning agent and served in several leadership roles including Manager of Central Baggage Claims and Director of Customer Relations. Mr. Ruppel grew the Southwest Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards program from two to over 400 team members. As an Advisor, he will continue to share his institutional knowledge as the company adapts to meet the changing needs of their guests. With Jim Ruppel’s move to advisor, Tony Roach, managing Director of Customer Experience, will oversee the department.

Commenting on the retirement of the two company officers, Southwest Airlines’ Chairman and CEO, Gary Kelly, said,

“I want to personally thank both Greg and Jim for their decades of servant Leadership and their many contributions to Southwest Airlines, and I'm delighted they will continue their service as trusted Advisors. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a strong Leadership bench to fill their big shoes and help lead Southwest Airlines as we embark on our milestone 50th anniversary year.”

Southwest's New EVP - Daily Operations, Alan Kasher - Courtesy Southwest Airlines

In addition to the retirements, Southwest also announced four internal promotions on Thursday (February 4, 2021).

First, the carrier’s SVP – Air Operations, Alan Kasher, has been promoted to EVP – Daily Operations and will transition into his new role over the next month. Mr. Kasher is a Pilot and joined Southwest over 20 years ago as a First Officer, upgrading to Captain in 2007. Kasher has worked in Flight Operations Safety and held various other positions in within the Flight Operations Department. He previously served as Director of Operations and Managing Director of Regulatory Programs and Compliance as well as VP – Flight Operations, prior to transitioning to his current position. In his new role, Mr. Kasher will oversee the airline’s daily operations including Air Operations, technical Operations and Daily Operations.

Southwest's New VP - Operational Strategy & Performance, Sam Ford - Courtesy Southwest Airlines

Next, Sam Ford has been promoted to VP – Operational Strategy and Performance effective February 1, 2021. In 2007, Mr. Ford joined Southwest in Financial Performance and Analysis (FP&A), where he supported Technology, Marketing and other departments. He has also served in leadership positions on the airline’s Customer Support & Services and Operational Performance teams, before transitioning to his most recent position as Managing Director of Operational Strategy & Performance.

Chris “CJ” Johnson has also been promoted to VP – Ground Operations, effective February 1, 2021. Mr. Johnson joined Southwest in 1993 as a Ramp Agent in Detroit and has since served in several leadership roles including Manager in Orlando, Assistant Station Leader in Oakland, Station Leader (Birmingham, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Phoenix), Station Director, Senior Station Director and Senior Leader of Labor Relations. Prior to his current promotion, Johnson served as Managing Director Ground Operations.

Left to Right: Southwest's VP - Ground Operations, Chris "CJ" Johnson and the Airline's New Managing Director Financial Planning & Analysis, Julia Landrum - Courtesy Southwest Airlines

Finally, effective February 1, 2021, Julia Landrum has been promoted to Managing Director Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A). In her new position, Ms. Landrum will be responsible for ensuring the company’s business plan and budget remain inline with major initiatives, evaluating future trends and opportunities, and providing economic and industry analysis.

Source: Southwest Airlines