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New president and COO for Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines chairman and chief executive officer Gary C. Kelly has announced changes to the company’s executive leadership ranks with Thomas M. Nealon named as president and Michael G. Van de Ven named as the airline’s Chief Operating Officer. These changes are effective immediately.

In his role as president, Nealon, 55, will report to Kelly and have responsibility for the commercial, finance, technology, corporate delivery, and corporate strategy departments. Commercial and finance functions will transition to Nealon later this year.

Nealon re-joined Southwest a year ago as Executive vice president strategy & innovation. He had previously been a member of Southwest’s Board of Directors from 2010-2015 and also served as Southwest’s chief information officer from 2002-2006. Nealon began his career in 1983 and in addition to Southwest has worked in a variety of roles for Frito-Lay, The Feld Group and JCPenney. Throughout his career, Nealon has held a wide range of executive roles, including, technology, e-commerce, strategy, digital ventures, and innovation. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Fossil Group.

As chief operating officer, Van de Ven, 55, also will report to Kelly and expand his operational responsibilities, by adding customer support & services, hospitality, and the company’s president’s council. Van de Ven’s current responsibilities for ground operations, air operations (inflight, flight operations, and network operations control), technical operations, safety & security, labor relations, and operational strategy & performance will continue.

Van de Ven is a 23-year veteran of Southwest and has served in various leadership positions in internal audit, finance, and, for the last 11 years, operations. In addition to operations, his experience has included financial planning; fleet planning; operational support and analytics; and network planning. Prior to joining Southwest, he worked for Ernst & Young. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Comerica Bank.

Date: January 14, 2017
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