Southwest Airlines Announces Leadership Changes

Southwest Airlines Co. today is celebrating the contributions of President & Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven, an industry veteran and proven Leader, who announced plans to step down from his role as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the end of September and from his role as President at the end of December. Mike will become an Executive Advisor for the Company at the start of 2023. With this announcement, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Jordan will assume the additional role of President, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

“I want to thank Mike for nearly three decades of Leadership and his unwavering commitment to the cause that is Southwest Airlines. We would not be where we are today without his countless contributions,” said Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan. “Mike has spent more than 16 years overseeing our operation as Chief of Operations and Chief Operating Officer, helping to usher in a new era for Southwest Airlines through a series of major initiatives, including modernizing our fleet, achieving ETOPS certification, and allowing us to expand our footprint to Hawaii—just to name a few—all the while serving as a champion for our People.”

The transition paves the way for several other leadership changes, effective Oct. 1, 2022:

Andrew Watterson is promoted from Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer to Chief Operating Officer (COO). Watterson joined Southwest Airlines in 2013 with a wealth of commercial and operational experience—from time serving the U.S. Army, to consulting air carriers across the globe in airline operations at both Oliver Wyman and Ernst & Young, and in leadership at Hawaiian Airlines. In his new role, Watterson will provide Executive Leadership to Flight Operations, Inflight Operations, Crew Scheduling, Cargo & Charters, Customer Support & Services, Ground Operations, Hospitality Operations Support, Labor Relations, Network Operations Control, Regulatory Programs & Compliance, Operations Strategy, Performance & Design, Safety & Security, and Technical Operations. Additionally, he will continue to oversee the airline’s Network Planning Department. Watterson holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s in business administration with a concentration in Operations Management from Vanderbilt University.  

Ryan Green is promoted from Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer to Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer. In addition to his continued Leadership of the Marketing and Customer Experience & Engagement departments, Green will provide oversight to the Commercial Planning, Revenue Management & Pricing, and Southwest Business departments. Green is a 20-year Southwest veteran, where he has served in a number of capacities focusing on fostering brand loyalty while looking toward future growth and revenue opportunities. Green holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Texas A&M University. 

Linda Rutherford is promoted from Executive Vice President People & Communications & Chief Communications Officer to Chief Administration & Communications Officer. Rutherford currently leads Southwest’s Communications & Outreach; Culture & Engagement; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; People (Human Resources); Southwest Airlines University; Talent & Leadership Development; and Total Rewards departments. In addition to these responsibilities, she will provide Executive Leadership to the Technology and Internal Audit departments, and Southwest’s Chief Information Officer and Internal Audit Vice President will report to Linda. She is a 30-year Southwest veteran with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Texas Tech University.

Jordan continued, “Mike has led with heart while playing a critical role in transforming our operational capabilities to enable our growth and prosperity. He, alongside his Teams, have laid the foundation to modernize many areas of our complex business and his guidance has kept us moving forward—momentum we can build upon for generations. Mike will spend the next several months working alongside me, Andrew, Linda and our operational Leaders as he works to transition his existing duties. We are so fortunate to have a deep and talented bench of Leaders to carry on our Legacy and take us to new heights, and I want to congratulate Andrew, Ryan, and Linda on their well-deserved promotions. We are in good hands with their expertise, Leadership, and LUV for our People.” 

“The entire Southwest Family—past and present—owes Mike a tremendous debt of gratitude for his steady Leadership, resolve, and fortitude all these many years. He is a Servant Leader for our People, a trusted confidant to our Leadership Team, and a wonderful ambassador for Southwest Airlines. I, too, am grateful that he will continue to contribute to our ongoing success in his new role,” said Southwest’s Executive Chairman Gary Kelly. 

Southwest Airlines Co. operates one of the world’s most admired and awarded airlines, offering its one-of-a-kind value and Hospitality at 121 airports across 11 countries. Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2021, Southwest took flight in 1971 to democratize the sky through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel and now carries more air travelers flying nonstop within the United States than any other airline1. Based in Dallas and famous for an Employee-first corporate Culture, Southwest maintains an unprecedented record of no involuntary furloughs or layoffs in its history. By empowering its more than 62,0002 People to deliver unparalleled Hospitality, the maverick airline cherishes a passionate loyalty among as many as 130 million Customers carried a year.