Executive promotions announced by Southwest

Southwest Airlines has announced the promotion of three executives in ground and maintenance operations.

Jack Smith, currently Southwest’s vice-president of ground operations, is being promoted to senior vice-president of operations, overseeing technical operations, ground operations, and cargo and charters. Smith is an industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience, joining Southwest from AirTran Airways, where he served as senior vice president of customer service. His aviation career includes leadership roles in ground operations, inflight, cargo, reservations, and customer relations.

Steve Goldberg, currently managing director of ground operations, is being promoted to replace Smith as vice-president of ground operations. Goldberg joined Southwest in 1996 and has served as managing director since 2013. He will oversee airport operations at Southwest’s 93 airports, including responsibility for 15,000 ground operations employees.

Jim Sokol, the company's longtime vice-president of maintenance operations, has announced his decision to retire, effective 15 September 2014. “Jim’s contributions to our operation, our fleet, and our people guided the maintenance operation through the most challenging years our industry has experienced,” remarked Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s chief operating officer. “Under his leadership, Southwest has remained a resilient and efficient operation benchmarked by companies around the globe.”

Landon Nitschke will step into the vice-president of maintenance operations role opening as a result of Sokol’s retirement. Nitschke currently serves as senior director of maintenance. Prior to Southwest, Nitschke’s airline career included the position of managing director of line maintenance at Northwest/Delta Airlines. His responsibilities in the new role include ensuring safe and reliable aircraft to Southwest customers and crew members. This includes maintaining a fleet of nearly 700 aircraft.

All three promotions are effective 1 July 2014.

“This is a pivotal year for Southwest, and these individuals possess the leadership we need in the face of increasing operational complexity,” added Van de Ven. “I am confident that these are leaders who will position Southwest for new opportunities and future growth.”

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