As we approach the first anniversary of the horrible destruction wrought on the New Orleans area by Hurricane Katrina, I thought a bit of celebration might be in order.
Along with all of Southwest Airlines, as well as the entire human community, I celebrate the spirit of survival that so many in New Orleans and all of the Gulf Coast displayed through their ordeal. Despite their tribulations the fact that so many survived is a miracle of astonishing proportions.
I celebrate the progress that the City of New Orleans has made in just one year since such a cataclysmic event. It is truly amazing that so much damage and destruction has been addressed in one short year. It is also jarringly sobering that so much remains to be done–so to that end, I celebrate the Spirit of the City of New Orleans and hope that it can rebuild all that was lost in the storm–better and safer than ever.
I celebrate with deeply abiding LUV what the Employees of Southwest Airlines in New Orleans have accomplished in this year. They have wonderfully, and faithfully, served our Customers on a reduced flight schedule and reduced headcount, yet still turned in incredible, Positively Outrageous Service. Through periods of under-staffing, facility reconstruction, and changes in Leadership, they have displayed the ownership and Southwest Spirit that has made ours an amazingly successful Company. They accomplished this amazing feat while rebuilding their own lives. The word "dedication" simply pales.
Finally, I celebrate how far Southwest has come in restoring our previous level of service to Louis Armstrong New Orleans Int'l Airport. Prior to the storm, we offered 57 nonstop departures each day to 17 airports across the country. As Katrina was bearing down on the Big Easy, we waited as long as safely possible to shut down our operation, and our last departure from the airport was a ferry flight full of Employees evacuating from what was at that point a Category 5 storm. We were not able to resume our operations there for over a month.
Our initial return to the city was only two departures a day to Houston Hobby on October 17th, 2005 (my 47th birthday!)–but we've built back up much of our service since then. We're now operating 24 departures daily to 10 Southwest destinations. That will increase to 26 departures a day by the end of 2006, and we have every hope and aspiration to continue to rebuild our presence in New Orleans in 2007 as conditions continue to improve.
This event, in so many ways, is unprecedented in our history–in the history of Southwest Airlines, the history of the Gulf Coast, and the history of our nation. We've never seen a city, particularly one heavily dependent on tourism for its livelihood, decimated. So, at the one-year anniversary of the arrival of Katrina, I hope we all take a moment to breathe–reflect–and celebrate those who were lostÃ¢â‚¬¦.those who survivedÃ¢â‚¬¦.all that was destroyedÃ¢â‚¬¦.all that has been, and will be rebuiltÃ¢â‚¬¦.and what we all can accomplish when we come together as a family with a common goal.
Thank you, New Orleans, for what you've given us in the past, and what you give us now. And, the best is yet to come. As y'all say down thereÃ¢â‚¬¦..Lasseiz Le Bon Temps Rouler!