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Southwest Airlines board of directors backs CEO Gary Kelly

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly gives thumbs up to after closing the cabin door for flight 1013 to Denver, the first non-restricted flight out of Love Field, in Dallas, Monday, October 13, 2014.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly gives thumbs up to after closing the cabin door for flight 1013 to Denver, the first non-restricted flight out of Love Field, in Dallas, Monday, October 13, 2014. Star-Telegram

Southwest Airlines’ board of directors strongly backed chief executive Gary Kelly in a letter sent to the four unions that are calling for the CEO’s resignation.

“Taking into account this record of company accomplishments under Gary’s leadership, your public expression of ‘no confidence’ is without merit, reckless, and fails to take into consideration its potential consequences,” said the letter sent on Friday to the pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and ground workers unions.

Earlier this week, the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association board voted 20-0, saying they had “no confidence” in Kelly and th at he and chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven should be replaced. The ‘no confidence’ vote, which was supported by the other three Southwest unions, came two weeks after the Dallas-based carrier suffered a computer outage that led to thousands of canceled flights and stranded passengers.

The letter said it is the the board’s responsibility to determine who is the CEO and not the unions. It also listed several accomplishments Kelly has achieved since becoming CEO in 2004 including the acquisition of AirTran Airways, adding 40 new destinations and hiring 20,000 new employees.

“Let us be equally clear we have no intention of removing Gary Kelly or Mike Van de Ven from their positions,” the letter said.

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Southwest’s pilots, flight attendants and mechanics unions are all in contract negotiations with the carrier. The pilots and flight attendants both rejected contracts that included double-digit pay raises. In February, the ground workers narrowly approved a five-year contract that included pay raises of more than 20 percent over the life of the deal.

“Rather than continuing on this contentious and unproductive path, we strongly recommend each union currently in negotiations focus its efforts on working in good faith with the current management of the company to achieve contracts beneficial to both your members and to the company,” the letter said in closing.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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