Southwest Airlines announces key leadership changes

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 with landing gear down.
Acroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

US carrier Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) has recently announced several significant leadership changes across the organization.

These leadership adjustments are effective immediately, and mark a continuation of the strategic restructuring efforts that commenced in September 2022 and have extended into 2023.

Lori Winters – Total Rewards

In a notable move, Lori Winters has been promoted from Managing Director of Culture & Employee Experience to Vice President of Total Rewards at Southwest Airlines.

In her new role, Winters will oversee the airline‘s Compensation, Retirement, Labor, Benefits, Travel, and Perks strategy. Her journey at Southwest began in 2006 as Customer Support & Services Strategy and Projects Director.

Over the years, she has played a pivotal role in the company’s development, introducing innovative capabilities such as Change Leadership, Employee Experience, and Employee Insights. Winters has significantly contributed to various large-scale projects during her tenure.

As the Managing Director of Culture & Employee Experience, she led initiatives related to Employee Experience Strategy and Delivery, Employee Insights, Awards & Recognition, and Culture & Engagement Teams.

Lori Winters holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Baylor University and a master’s degree in communication studies from the University of North Texas. Her new position was previously held by Danny Collins.


A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 on the taxiway.
Photo Credit: Sixflashphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jon Stephens – Fleet Management

Jon Stephens, with an impressive 24 years of experience at Southwest Airlines, has been promoted from Managing Director of Fleet Management to Vice President of Fleet Management.

In this role, he will provide strategic direction and oversight for the management of the Southwest Airlines Fleet Plan. Stephens has spent 12 of his 24 years with the airline in the Fleet Team, where he played a vital role in shaping Southwest’s aircraft and engine fleet strategy.

His journey at Southwest began in the Tax Department, and he later transitioned into leadership roles, initially in the Financial Planning & Analysis Team in 2001, followed by the Fleet Transactions Team 11 years later.

Before joining Southwest, Stephens held various positions in leadership and operations with Union Pacific Railroad. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Texas at Austin.

Steve West – Network Operations Control

With a remarkable 40-year career at Southwest Airlines, Steve West has been promoted from Managing Director of Operations Control to Vice President of Network Operations Control (NOC).

In this new role, West will focus on day-of operations and support Southwest’s safe and efficient flying schedule.

His extensive career includes more than 20 years in leadership roles, during which he has been responsible for the daily oversight of the NOC, ensuring the safe and compliant operation of more than 4,300 daily flights to 121 destinations.

West’s journey with Southwest began in 1983 as a Ground Ops Employee in Phoenix. Ten years later, he transitioned to the NOC as a Flight Dispatcher, eventually becoming the Chief Dispatcher in 2001 and Director of Flight Dispatch in 2005.

West continued to provide strong leadership within the NOC, holding positions such as Senior Director of Operations Coordination Center in 2006, Network Director in 2014, and Managing Director in 2015.

Notably, West holds an FAA-Licensed Aircraft Dispatch Certificate. His promotion to Vice President NOC follows Matt Hafner’s retirement and move to an Executive Advisor role.

Southwest Airlines unveils a Trolls themed aircraft. Photo: Stephen M. Keller

Promotions in Network Planning

Southwest Airlines has also witnessed key promotions in its Network Planning department. Brook Sorem has been elevated from Managing Director of Schedule Planning to Vice President of Network Planning.

In his new role, Sorem will be responsible for Network Planning, schedule creation, capacity planning, and airline partnerships.

Sorem’s journey with Southwest Airlines began in 1990, and over the course of more than 30 years, he has contributed significantly to Network Planning, addressing complex industry challenges.

Sorem holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Simultaneously, Matt Muehleisen has been promoted from Managing Director of Network Planning Initiatives to Vice President of Network Operations Planning.

He is tasked with ensuring that the plans received by the NOC are fully executable, allowing the day-of Team to remain focused on operational efficiency.

 Muehleisen has been with Southwest since 2001, and his various roles within the company include Future & Current Schedules, Schedule Design, Optimization, Operations Planning, and Network Initiatives.

His leadership has been instrumental in the development and implementation of industry-leading Network Planning software in collaboration with Amadeus.

Muehleisen holds a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from Oklahoma State University and is a commercial rated pilot.


In the words of Bob Jordan, President & CEO at Southwest Airlines, “Strong Leadership is built upon serving, and Southwest Airlines boasts a longstanding tradition of remarkable Leaders who consistently prioritize the needs of our Employees and Customers over their own.”

“I extend my sincere appreciation to Matt Hafner for his 35 years of service at Southwest Airlines. I’m also thankful to Lori, Steve, Jon, Brook, and Matt for assuming crucial roles that significantly contribute to our ongoing success.”

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 7 Min Read
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