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Southwest Airlines Names Randy Babbitt As Senior Vice President Of Labor Relations
By Daniel Baxter

October 16, 2012 - Southwest Airlines has hired J. Randolph "Randy" Babbitt as Senior Vice President of Labor Relations to direct and oversee the carrier's labor related activities.

Babbitt will report directly to Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven and have responsibility for all negotiation, communication, and ongoing relationships between the Company and the eleven organizations that represent 87 percent of Southwest Employees. 

"For more than 40 years, Southwest has thrived because of our regard for labor organizations as partners," Van de Ven said. "Randy's unique skills and experience at various levels in our industry can only strengthen those partnerships to ensure our Employees continue to play an important role in Southwest's success." 


Babbitt began his aviation career as a pilot, flying 25 years for Eastern Airlines. A skilled negotiator, he served as President and CEO for US ALPA, the world's largest professional organization of airline pilots. While at ALPA, he championed the "One Level of Safety" initiative implemented in 1995 to improve safety standards across the industry. He also promoted the international expansion of ALPA through a merger with the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association in 1997. 

During the Clinton Administration, President Bill Clinton appointed Babbitt to the FAA Management Advisory Council. While in that capacity Babbitt sat on an independent review panel advising the government on aviation safety policy.  

President Barack Obama formally nominated Babbitt to become the sixteenth FAA Administrator on March 27, 2009, after more than eight years on the agency's Management Advisory Council providing guidance to other Administrators on a range of topics ranging from air traffic modernization to regulatory policy and safety oversight within the airline industry and the FAA. 

Babbitt's nomination was confirmed by the US Senate on May 21, 2009; he was sworn in on June 1. Babbitt succeeded Robert Sturgell and Lynne Osmus, who had both served as Acting FAA Administrator since Marion Blakey's term expired in 2007. Babbitt's FAA term was five years. During his confirmation hearing Babbitt stated "My number one priority is to focus on safety. This is a business where one mistake is one too many."



Babbitt was recognized by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine with the Laurels Award for outstanding achievement in the Commercial Air Transport category. On December 3, 2011, Babbitt was arrested in Fairfax City, Virginia, and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Babbitt was about 9 miles from his Reston, Virginia home when he drove on the wrong side of the road, Fairfax police said. Fairfax police issued a press release December 5, in accordance with a department policy of announcing arrests of public officials. Obama administration officials did not learn about the arrest until they saw the press release. 

The day the press release was published, Babbitt requested a leave of absence, which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood granted. Michael Huerta, Babbitt's deputy, immediately took Babbitt's responsibilities. Babbitt resigned as FAA administrator the next day, December 6. Babbitt's drunk driving charge was dismissed May 10, 2012, after a Fairfax City judge found that the arresting officer had no good reason, only a "mere hunch," for pulling Babbitt over. A video of the arrest played in court showed that Babbitt had not, in fact, driven in the wrong direction. After the dismissal, Babbitt said he planned to work in aviation consulting.

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