Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The End of a Fun Era in Aviation

It was a big day in the airline industry, as outgoing Southwest Airlines chairman Herb Kelleher chaired his last meeting under that title before stepping down and becoming an "ordinary employee" tomorrow:
This is an obituary for a guy who hasn't died, a retirement story for a person who hasn't retired, a goodbye for someone who isn't going anywhere.

Chairman Herb Kelleher, 77, will chair his 31st and last Southwest Airlines Co. annual meeting Wednesday, ending one of the longest and most colorful tenures for a head of a U.S. airline.

[...]And Mr. Kelleher says he expects to still be coming to work every day in 2013, when he turns 82.

"I would guess so. I enjoy it. I enjoy work. You can refer to me as a drone, a worker bee. I always have enjoyed it," Mr. Kelleher said Friday, adding, "I hope I can still be useful."
Oh, I'm sure they'll put him to good use. He's been pretty useful thus far. Known as the "crazy" chief executive in an industry usually dominated by stuffed shirts, he made Southwest in his own image, and it became famous as the airline that was fun to fly and appeared to be fun to work for as well. This morning on the radio, even some of the union officials were saying nice things about him. (Contrast this, if you will, with what they were saying about American Airlines in front of its own board meeting across town today.)

Flying hasn't become any easier recently, and it's not getting any cheaper either. It's always been refreshing to me to have the "fun" airline so close to home. (And yes, besides the fact that I'll take "fun" over "stuffy corporate" any day of the week, I also very much prefer the ease of Love Field vs. the congestion and expense of DFW.) And a lot of the fun element of Southwest came courtesy of the man that everyone evidently simply calls Herb. (I hope you enjoy those weekends off now, Herb.)

UPDATE: This post was linked at a site called Topix; thanks to whomever is responsible.

Flying the unfriendly skies: In case you missed this last week, a JetBlue passenger is suing the airline because a pilot made him sit on a toilet for three hours so a flight attendant (who thought that the "jump seat" assigned to her was uncomfortable) could have his seat.

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