Q&A: 1-on-1 with Southwest COO Andrew Watterson

Exec talks airline accomplishments, future at Cranky Network Awards

By Bob Kerlik

Published February 26, 2024

Read Time: 2 mins


OAKLAND, Calif. – They don’t call it the Cranky Network Awards for nothing.

Aviation industry blog Cranky Flier hosted its annual awards banquet last week, and the event drew aviation leaders from airlines across North America. The event, as usual, contained plenty of airline and aviation industry digs but also dished out awards for everything from Sexiest New Airline Route to Most Improved Network.

Pittsburgh International Airport Air Service Development Director Joe Rotterdam was nominated by the airlines as a finalist for Best Airport Partner.

“It’s always an honor to be nominated for an award, a nomination I share with our tremendous team,” Rotterdam said. “But when that recognition comes from the people you work with, it really means so much. I appreciate their support, and I’m looking forward to our continued partnership in growing air service at PIT.”

Paul Forde of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport was named the winner. For a full accounting of awards and winners, check out Cranky Flier founder Brett Snyder’s X account.

After the event, Blue Sky caught up with Southwest Airlines Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson for a quick Q&A:

Southwest Airlines tails at Pittsburgh International Airport on Dec. 9, 2023. (Photo by Evan Dougherty)

Q: Why do you like coming to the Cranky Flier Awards?

AW: I love to talk shop, and it’s full of airports and AvGeeks and we can shoot the breeze.

Q: It’s an impressive crowd here with all the airlines that come. Why do you think that is?

AW: It’s like a conference without people trying to sell you software or equipment, so that’s what I like.

Q: Tell me about Southwest last year and the outlook for this year. What are the big goals going into the new year?

AW: Well, I think we needed to get our operation in good shape, and we did that over 2023 so we proved we can operate well through the winter and satisfy our customers. Now we’re on to improving our profitability and making sure we are customers’ first choice of domestic air travel. And so far, so good with that.

Q: Southwest is the leading carrier in Pittsburgh in terms of passenger share and saw a lot of growth last year. What’s your outlook for cities like Pittsburgh?

AW: Pittsburgh is a city we have a lot of fondness for. Our chairman, it was the first airport (station) we opened under his watch so he’s always asking me about it. We make sure it gets a lot of attention. We have been adding frequencies around our network and kind of restoring things post-pandemic. And that’s why you saw us come back in a big way in Pittsburgh — and as Boeing delivers aircraft to us this year and next, we intend to plow these into our current network, meaning our current dots on the map will get incrementally more flying as this year and next year goes by.

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