If you count up the years Wally Devereaux, Southwest
Airlines Managing Director Cargo and Charters, and a 28-year veteran of
the carrier has been a force in air cargo, it is for half that tenure,
fourteen years. But to look at him you might think he is a new kid on
the block. Wally is a youthful and energetic "Mohair Sam" which
is language from the 1940s that was often used to describe someone who
is smart, easy going and always comfortable in his clothes. Here the Texas-born
and bred native talks about Southwest Cargo at full strength the way it
ought to be, and he speaks with some spirit and élan telling us
the way it is right now.
“I started with Southwest in 1992
as a Customer Service Agent at Dallas Love Field. Over
the years I’ve held a number of positions in Ground Operations,
Public Relations, and Marketing, before joining the Cargo Team in 1999.
“Today I’m honored to serve
as the Managing Director of our Cargo and Charters business. I work with
a great team of people to ensure that we provide excellent and reliable
Cargo and Charters services to our Customers, and that we contribute to
the overall success of Southwest Airlines.”
“Every day tends to be different,
with different opportunities and challenges. One constant however is regular
engagement with our department leaders to ensure we’re focused on
the right things and making progress towards our goals as a department.
I also regularly check in with some of our customers to make sure we’re
providing the service they expect from us. I’ve found there’s
nothing more important in this business than the people-to-people relationships.”
The Leadership Role
“I think good leaders are able to
develop and articulate a vision for what could be, why it’s important,
and what’s required to get there. They’re also able to help
folks understand why each person’s role is important to the success
of the team, and they’re good at working with the team to ensure
progress is made.”
The True Customer Experience
“The most important experience we
want our customers to have is that we met or exceeded their expectations,
especially ensuring their cargo arrives as planned. The majority of our
cargo facilities and ramp agents around our system are Southwest Airlines
employees that do an exceptional job at this. Additionally, we continue
to pursue self-service automation that allows our customers to more efficiently
engage with Southwest Cargo.
“Finally, something that I firmly
believe is that our customers continue to place a high value on having
access to our people to resolve issues. Whether that means calling our
Customer Care Center, our cargo facility directly, or someone on our leadership
team, including myself, we’re all here to help. This tends to be
a bit of an old school approach in this day and age, but it has always
been something I think our customers have appreciated.”
What You Don’t Know About
“I don’t think folks often realize
(normally) how much capacity Southwest Airlines has available for air
cargo on a daily basis. We operate more than 4,000 flights a day (during
normal times), on an all-Boeing 737 fleet to more than 100 destinations.
And, with about 750 aircraft, we have a tremendous amount of capacity
“We have a very unique high frequency,
point to point flight schedule that offers significant capacity, countless
routing options, and unmatched redundancy.
“Our schedule and operational style
is highly effective at moving cargo.
“However, the primary reason why folks
should use Southwest Airlines Cargo is our people.
“We are fortunate to have outstanding
folks that have a passion for the cargo business.
“The vast majority of our facilities
and ramp staff are Southwest employees who do a wonderful job moving cargo
and providing hospitality to our customers 'below the wing', and we have
terrific vendor partners in many of our small markets as well. Gary Kelly
often shares that operating an airline is the ultimate team sport and
I truly think our culture of teamwork on the cargo team is exceptional.”
Belly Up For Cargo
“Generally speaking, the point to
point, high flight frequency nature of our network allows us to excel
in highly time critical items, especially in the medical space as well
as other perishable commodities. We offer a significant amount of schedule
redundancy and creative routing options that aren’t typical with
other carriers. This has always been something that has differentiated
us from others and that tends to attract some cargo that might otherwise
wind up in an integrated network.”
Teamwork Is The Key
“The success of our cargo and charters
businesses relies heavily on many different departments at Southwest Airlines.
None more so than our ground operations team, which does a marvelous job
of moving cargo and managing charter flights. Thus, it’s incredibly
important to be engaged and partner with our ground operations teammates
throughout our organization to ensure we’re on the same page and
working towards the same goals.
“It’s also critically important
we understand what challenges they face on a daily basis managing the
fast moving, complex, and dynamic airport operation and how we can best
partner with them to provide for a high opportunity for success. We’ve
developed an excellent reputation for our cargo and charters businesses
over time and that simply would not have happened without the excellent
departmental partners, including ground operations, we have helping us.”
On the COVID-19 Pandemic
What do cargo operations look like for the next months?
“Folks may have a little different
experience in our cargo facility lobbies as we work to make our employees
and customers feel as comfortable as possible. Our flight schedule has
been reduced some as well, but all of our cargo facilities remain open
for business and we still have a significant amount of capacity available
to move air cargo.”
What Lies Ahead
“Going forward, we’ll continue
to focus on reliable and hospitable service, we’ll continue to focus
on improving our automation to make our shipping customers experience
with us as efficient as possible, and we’ll continue to look for
niche opportunities to expand our reach. At the end of the day, it’s
about customers and offering products and services they want from us.”
What has surprised you in 2020?
“The amount and pace of change related
to the corona virus pandemic has been surprising and even breathtaking.
However, I have not been surprised by the response of our team in working
through the challenge. Despite everyone’s world professionally and
personally being turned upside down in a matter of days, our team has
risen to the challenge and performed exceptionally and I simply could
not be more proud and thankful.”