FAA’s Babbitt Lands at Southwest

Photograph by Paul Sakuma/AP Photo

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt speaks in front of the Oakland air traffic control tower, under construction, near the Oakland Airport in this file photo.

Randy Babbitt, the former head of the Federal Aviation Administration, is returning to his
union roots.

Babbitt, 66, who resigned from the FAA in December 2011 after an arrest on drunk-driving charges for which he later was acquitted, is joining Southwest Airlines Co. as senior vice president for labor relations, the airline said in a statement.

The former FAA chief led the Air Line Pilots Association, the nation’s largest union for flight crews, before becoming a Washington consultant and then joining the FAA in June 2009.

Southwest, which has been more profitable than its major airline competitors, has enjoyed mostly smooth labor relations with pilots and other unionized employees.

“For more than 40 years, Southwest has thrived because of our regard for labor organizations as partners,” Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said in the release. “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.”

The position may be a good fit for Babbitt not only because of his labor background, but because it doesn’t put him in contact with his former agency. Despite the circumstances of his departure, he’s under U.S. ethics restrictions on contacting or lobbying the FAA.

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