Southwest Airlines announces leadership changes

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Southwest Airlines Co. announced the following leadership changes.

Tom Nealon, 60, has decided to retire from his duties as President effective immediately, but will continue to serve the Company as a strategic advisor, focusing primarily on the airline’s environmental sustainability and carbon emissions reduction plan.

Nealon has held numerous leadership positions during his tenure with the airline, including Executive Vice President Strategy & Innovation from 2016 to 2017, Director on the Southwest Board from 2010 to 2015, and in a consultant capacity as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer from 2002 to 2006.

“I’m honored to have served Southwest throughout the years in several different capacities, and especially to have been President of the best airline in the business,” Nealon said.

“I look forward to continuing to serve and advise Southwest on strategic initiatives, and most importantly, on the airline’s long-term environmental sustainability plans.”

Gary Kelly, Southwest’s Chairman and CEO, announced on behalf of the Southwest Airlines Board of Directors that Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven, 59, has been named as the Company’s President, effective immediately.

Van de Ven will take on the additional responsibilities of the Company’s Internal Audit, Business Continuity, Emergency Response, and Enterprise Risk Management functions.

“I want to thank Tom for his countless contributions to the cause that is Southwest Airlines over the years—they are many and immeasurable.

I’m grateful Tom will continue serving as a strategic advisor. I’m thrilled for Mike as he assumes his new role as President, in addition to COO.

Mike is as talented and dedicated a leader as one will find, and he has directly contributed to Southwest’s success during his 28 years serving the Company and our People.

“The transition efforts being led by Executive Vice President and incoming CEO Bob Jordan are going extremely well, and as that continues, we are taking steps to shift reporting roles in preparation for Bob to assume the CEO role on February 1, 2022,” said Kelly.

As the transition progresses, the Finance, Commercial, Legal & Regulatory, Operations, and Technology teams that were reporting to Kelly or Nealon will now report to Jordan, also effective immediately.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I’d like to thank Tom for his nearly five-year tenure as President and more than 15 years of service to our Southwest Airlines Employees, Customers, Shareholders, and the Communities we serve,” said Southwest Airlines Lead Director William Cunningham.

“We are extremely proud to have such a talented and robust leadership bench at Southwest Airlines, and are delighted with the announcement of Mike Van de Ven as Tom’s successor.”

Southwest Airlines also announced additional Senior Leader promotions:

  • Laurie Barnett, from Managing Director Communications & Outreach, to Vice President of Communications & Outreach. Barnett is responsible for guiding the efforts of the airline’s Public Relations & Communications, Creative Studio, Digital & Social Business, and Community Outreach functions. She also helped create and provided Leadership support for the Company’s Emergency Response, Business Continuity and Enterprise Risk Management functions.


  • Ryan Martinez, from Managing Director Investor Relations, to Vice President of Investor Relations. Martinez has been instrumental in evolving Southwest’s IR strategies and communications along with the changing economic environment. Under his Leadership, Southwest is well-positioned to continue effectively communicating with investors while the Company manages through the pandemic.


  • Juan Suarez, from Managing Director, Deputy General Counsel in the Legal Department to Vice President Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Suarez serves as Southwest’s executive-level champion for organizational goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion both internally and externally. Among other things, Suarez is responsible for creating and driving the development of diversity initiatives that align with our business objectives and advises on policies and practices involving diversity, equity, and inclusion. He will partner closely with peers throughout the Company on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts as it applies to, among other things, supplier diversity, diversity hiring and recruiting, and training.


  • Marilyn Post, from Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Secretary to Vice President Legal and Corporate Secretary. Post heads the Legal Department’s Corporate & Transactions Team, which is responsible for assisting with the legal aspects of all of Southwest’s securities and transactional matters. She also serves as a senior advisor to the Company’s Board of Directors and Executive Team on corporate governance, executive compensation, and SEC matters.


  • Lauren Woods, from Managing Director Technology, to Vice President Technology-Technology Platforms. Woods and her Teams are responsible for delivering stable technology platforms and driving transformation efforts across Technology. Under her leadership, the Technology teams will continue to focus on building out new modern foundational platforms used and leveraged by development Teams to increase efficiency and speed to market.


“I am pleased with the Team’s flexibility and support as we continue the steady pace of our Leadership transition efforts,” Jordan said.

“I am looking forward to working with Tom on our sustainability imperatives and collaborating with Mike as we set the agenda for the Company moving forward.

“I know Gary joins me in congratulating Lauren, Laurie, Marilyn, Juan, and Ryan on their well-deserved promotions; we are fortunate to have a deeply talented bench of Southwest Leaders.”