Southwest CEO's compensation soars despite December debacle

Southwest Airlines CEO Robert Jordan’s compensation nearly doubled last year to $5.3 million after being promoted to the top job during a year that ended with massive flight cancellations that will cost Southwest more than $1 billion.

Southwest disclosed in a proxy filed Thursday that the estimated value of Jordan’s compensation rose from $3 million in 2021, when he was executive vice president.


Southwest Airlines continues effort to earn back consumer confidence after holiday meltdown

The Dallas-based carrier is announcing a three-part plan to prevent another debacle like the one last Christmas that led to the cancelation of some 17,000 flights, leaving passengers and their luggage stranded at airports across the country.

In 2022, Jordan received stock awards valued at $3.6 million, $676,875 in salary, a $195,720 cash bonus and $782,880 in incentive compensation, plus retirement-plan benefits. The eventual value of the stock awards will depend on the company’s financial performance from 2022 through 2024.

A Southwest spokesman said Jordan's cash bonus would have been larger without the December disruptions because of lower scores for financial performance and customer-satisfaction, but the cancellations did not affect his other compensation.

A winter storm just before Christmas caused chaos across the airline industry, but Southwest took longer to recover than any of its rivals, as a crew-scheduling system was unable to keep up. The airline wound up canceling 16,700 flights in late December. The airline said the breakdown cost it about $800 million in lost revenue in the fourth quarter and up to $350 million more early this year.

Bonuses declined for three other executives listed in the proxy, but Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson — who, like Jordan, got promoted last year — got a larger bonus than in 2021.


US investigating December flight cancellations at Southwest

The U.S. Transportation Department said Wednesday it is investigating whether Southwest Airlines deceived customers by knowingly scheduling more flights in late December than it realistically could handle.

Dallas-based Southwest earned $539 million last year despite a $220 million fourth-quarter loss. It posted record revenue of $23.8 billion and retained its investment-grade credit ratings.

Jordan has apologized several times for the holiday meltdown. The airline has announced steps to avoid a repeat, including adding more deicing equipment and staff at key airports and improving its crew-scheduling technology.