Southwest Airlines has certainly undergone a lot of change in the past year. The carrier completed its acquisition of AirTran Airways in May, with officials expecting a single operating certificate by early 2012. Southwest’s airfreight operations have also evolved, highlighted by the recent appointment of Jim McKeon as strategic advisor of the Southwest Airlines Cargo Management Group. McKeon recently discussed his new role.
1. How has Southwest’s merger with AirTran affected cargo operations?
To date, we have not yet integrated the Southwest and AirTran networks, nor are we utilizing the AirTran network to move cargo. Thus, the Southwest Airlines acquisition of AirTran has not had any impact on our cargo operations. Nevertheless, we hope to start utilizing AirTran flights for cargo at some point during the first half of 2012.
2. You’re acquiring the Boeing 737-800 series aircraft next year. How are you preparing for his acquisition?
The 737-800 has considerably more capacity for cargo than our existing 737-series aircraft and should present excellent opportunities for Southwest Airlines Cargo customers. Our main focus on the cargo side will be to continue providing a great experience to our customers while maximizing the available capacity of the aircraft.
3. What is Southwest Cargo’s stance on the European Union emissions trading scheme?
Southwest Airlines supports the U.S. Air Transport Association’s position on this issue [lowering carbon emissions through a global initiative endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization].
4. What are some of the key goals you would like to accomplish in your new role?
My overall goal is to lead Southwest Airlines Cargo in the development of a strategy that meets the needs of our continuous growth. With the addition of the AirTran fleet and markets, we have an opportunity to add international service. We look forward to not only flying to new destinations, but also to offering new products.
To that end, I have been meeting with employees and customers to learn how Southwest can better serve the marketplace. While we have traditionally enjoyed great success in moving domestic airfreight, we hear our customers and our employees when they tell us that there are numerous opportunities in expanding our product offerings in areas such as cold-chain, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
The bottom line is that my goal is to take advantage of our incredible culture and see that it meets the needs of the international marketplace. I will also help Southwest continue to grow our product offerings by capitalizing on our award-winning service.
5. What else is on the horizon for the Southwest Airlines Cargo Management Group?
Beyond the AirTran integration and the 737-800 series aircraft acquisition, we will continue to invest in initiatives to improve our cargo customers’ experience with Southwest Airlines Cargo. Initiatives are currently underway to improve our tracking-and-tracing technology, which we hope to have deployed by the middle of 2012.
We are also deploying an inline acceptance process in several of our larger cargo facilities, which provides our customers with a much more efficient experience while tendering freight to Southwest.