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Southwest pilots demand new CEO and COO

Staff Writer | August 1, 2016
Southwest Airlines pilots called for the replacement of CEO Gary Kelly, saying a "misguided focus on cost control".
Southwest Airlines
Airline   A "misguided focus on cost control"
That meant the company failed to invest in critical technology that could have prevented canceled flights and stranded passengers.

"We believe that a change is needed for the best interests of Southwest Airlines and the loyal customers we serve," Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association, said in a statement Monday, which also called for chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven to step down.

"We encourage, effective immediately, their replacement in order to secure a more stable, sustainable and profitable future."

Senior executives have used record revenue to buy back "excessive shares of stock" rather than invest in the airline and its employees, according to a resolution by the union's board.

The union, which is in contract talks with the Dallas-based carrier, cited technical breakdowns during the busy summer and holiday travel seasons over the past several years, including a computer-system outage last month.

Executives also boosted maintenance costs and hurt flight reliability by operating the airline's oldest planes too long, said the union, which represents more than 8,000 pilots.

Southwest in June said it would speed up the retirement of its so-called 737 Classic fleet to late next year.