A Conversation With Colleen Barrett

Colleen Barrett President Emeritus, Southwest Airlines


Colleen C. Barrett is currently President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines Co., a high-frequency, low-fare, point-to-point airline which prides itself in its excellent Customer Service qualities. As a carrier that enjoys giving 100+ million Customers a year the "freedom to fly", Southwest Airlines has consistently received the lowest ratio of complaints per passengers boarded of all Major U.S. carriers that have been reporting statistics to the Department of Transportation (DOT) since September 1987 (which is when the DOT began tracking Customer Satisfaction statistics and publishing its Air Travel Consumer Report).

Prior to stepping down as the Company’s President on July 15, 2008, Colleen oversaw management, Leadership, and budget responsibilities over the following areas/groups: the Senior Vice President Marketing (Marketing, Sales & Distribution; Online Marketing; Revenue Management & Pricing); the Senior Vice President Corporate Communications (Pass Bureau; Emergency Response; Public Relations & Community Affairs; Community Relations & Charitable Giving; Employee Communications; Legislative Awareness); the Senior Vice President Chief People & Administration Officer (People [Human Resources]; Leadership Development & Training; Manager in Training programs; University for People; Performance Reviews; Talent Development; Onboarding Program); the Vice President Customer Relations & Rapid Rewards; the Vice President Labor & Employee Relations (Labor & Employment Law; Employee Relations; FMLA/ADA; Labor Relations & Negotiations); the Vice President Reservations; the Director Corporate Security; and the Executive Office Staff. She was also a member of the Company’s Executive Planning Committee, and she chaired numerous special Teams, task forces, and committees relating to Internal and External Southwest Customers.

Colleen served as a member of the Board of Directors from 2001 to May 2008 and as Corporate Secretary from March 1978 to May 2008, and she served as Vice President Administration from 1986 to 1990; Executive Vice President Customers from 1990 to 2001; and President from 2001 to July 2008. Prior to joining Southwest in 1978, she worked for several years as an Executive Assistant to Herb Kelleher (Southwest’s former Executive Chairman) at his law firm.

Colleen graduated with highest honors from Becker Junior College, Worcester, MA (1964). She is divorced; has one son, Patrick; and one grandson, Evan Daniel. Colleen is active in numerous civic and charitable organizations in Dallas, Texas; serves on the JCPenney Company, Inc. Board of Directors, the Ken Blanchard College of Business, and the Becker College Board of Trustees; and has served on numerous advisory boards and commissions. Colleen co-authored with Ken Blanchard the book Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Success (2010).