Colleen's Comments


Aug 21, 2002
By God Indiana
Here's some comments by Colleen Barrett during Thursdays interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

About the prospects of a merger between US Airways and America West Airlines, Barrett said America West Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker and US Airways Chief Executive Officer Bruce Lakefield "must be on drugs. I think they're crazy. I don't know why anybody in today's environment would want to add more woes to what they got. ... I don't know [if] the deal will come to pass."

Would Southwest be in Pittsburgh if US Airways had not pulled so many flights here? "Probably not," she conceded. While she argued Southwest did not cause the problems now faced by US Airways and other older carriers: "We would be foolish not to take advantage. Because if we don't, someone else will."

Referring to the plight of older carriers such as US Airways and United, she said, "The elephant is dying." Their problem was they got "too big for their britches. We have never done that. We don't purport to be all things to all people."

About the Wright amendment, the 1979 law that limits the cities Southwest can serve from its headquarters at Dallas Love Field, Barrett said, "I just hate it." The law, put in place to protect the Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport where American Airlines -- the nation's largest airline -- is the dominant carrier, "is just wrong," she said.

The traffic-clogged Philadelphia International Airport, where Southwest started service last year, is "not as nice an airport" as Pittsburgh International, where Southwest now offers 10 daily flights from two gates. Employees that transferred from Philadelphia to work for the new Southwest operation in Pittsburgh "think they have died and gone to heaven."

Southwest's planes in Pittsburgh are 70 to 75 percent full, according to Allegheny County Airport Authority Director Kent George. While Barrett did not confirm that figure yesterday, she said she was pleased with the local bookings so far.

About her status as the industry's most powerful female executive, Barrett shrugged it off and said "at Southwest, there is no glass ceiling." When Southwest started, 52 percent of its employees were female, she said, and the airline openly used sex to sell seats, dressing its flight attendants in go-go boots and hot pants.

Today the sexual imagery is gone, but many females now fill the airline's upper executive ranks. "I have got them left and right," she said.

Still, Barrett is sometimes introduced as "Herb's Girl Friday," a remark she claims does not bother her. "It is a good-old-boy sort of business," she said.

At each stop yesterday, Barrett left her audience laughing, urging them to give Southwest a try.

"Y'all get out there and get on our airplanes," she told the technology executives at the morning breakfast. "We do need the money," prompting laughs. She promised great service in return, and, "We'll all be happy."

More laughs.

After a speech today to the African-American Chamber of Commerce, a few female colleagues at Southwest are flying to Pittsburgh and joining Barrett for the afternoon. Asked what was on the agenda, Barrett turned to Southwest Senior Vice President Tom Nealon and asked if she should tell the truth.

Laughing, Barrett revealed that part of her afternoon would in fact be spent on some long-delayed relaxation. Her female colleagues have been after her for months to "do the spa thing."

Turning again to Nealon, Barrett joked, "Don't you go telling anybody."