I had a chance to sit down with Howard Putnam at the Hugh Shelton Leadership Forum today. Putnam is a former CEO of Southwest Airlines and was a VP at United Airlines for more than 20 years.
He expects more consolidation among the large airlines and says (no surprise) that prices will continue to rise.
I asked a number of questions about U.S. Airways because of the huge hub in Charlotte. He said that the airline needs to do much more to integrate America West because two years after the merger he thinks they are still operating more like two separate airlines. He says management needs to refocus on employees and service.
What was interesting was he admitted he never said the customer was number one. He said employees are number one and if treat them with respect and family then customer service will take care of itself because you have happy employees.
It sounds like a simple theory but how often is that not followed when you think about it.
Putnam also believes regional carriers will have a major role and success in the future to help provide reasonable rates.
Ironically, his flight on U.S. Airways from Reno (his home) to Raleigh was cancelled and he could only get a flight on Southwest!
Have a great weekend! I'm visiting with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Monday who's in town to talk school bus safety, but I obviously have a few other questions for her too!!