Howard Putnam
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Howard Putnam
Key Topics:
  • Motivation
  • Achievement
  • Perseverance
  • Bio Info:

    As the former CEO of Southwest and Braniff Airlines, Howard Putnam is a veteran of one of the most volatile industries in today's business world. He played an essential role in developing Southwest into the only airline to produce a profit in every quarter over the course of 25 years. He was also successful in leading Braniff International through the rigors of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This experience provides the foundation of Putnam's work as a keynote speaker, author, and consultant. In these roles, and as summarized in his book, "The Winds of Turbulence," he shares his insights into such essential corporate concerns as leadership, customer service, change and transformation, crisis management, and ethics. His personal story is exemplary, too. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, where he first learned to fly in his father's old Piper Cub. He entered the airline business at the bottom, as a baggage handler at Midway Airport, in Chicago, and rose to the highest levels of the industry. The energy and warmth of those early years on the farm come through in his presentations, which now reflect the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of a distinguished business professional.

    Howard Putnam is the former CEO of Southwest and Braniff Airlines and Group VP Marketing for United Airlines. Howard is a business and motivational speaker, author, consultant, commentator, and online mentor on Leadership, Customer Service, Change, Transformation and Ethics.

    Today, he is also Co-founder and Chairman in 1998 of AIR, Aircraft Interior Resources in Houston

    Howard was raised on an 
    Iowa farm and learned to fly out of a pasture in his Father's J-3 Piper Cub. He entered the airline business as a baggage handler at Midway Airport in Chicago for Capital Airlines at age 17. Capital was soon merged into United and Howard held thirteen different positions in sales, services and staff assignments in several cities, before being named Group Vice President of Marketing for United Airlines, the world's largest airline, in 1976. In 1978 he was recruited to become President and CEO of fledgling Southwest Airlines in DallasTX. While at Southwest Howard and his team tripled the revenues and tripled profitability in three years. They also successfully guided Southwest through airline deregulation and Southwest was the first air carrier to order the Boeing 737-300, which later became the largest selling aircraft ever for Boeing. 

    Howard led the visioning process at Southwest as well as further developing the "fun" culture and excellent customer service that Southwest is still known for today. Southwest has been profitable in every quarter for over twenty-five years, a record unsurpassed by any airline. In 1981, Howard was recruited by the board of directors of Braniff International to come aboard as CEO and save and/or restructure the financially failing airline. He was the first airline CEO to successfully take a major carrier into, through and out of chapter 11. Braniff flew again in 1984. 

    Howard is the author of "The Winds of Turbulence" on leadership and ethics. 
    Harvard University wrote a case study on his experiences at Braniff, "The Ethics of Bankruptcy" as a model as to how to handle stakeholders in crisis. He has since been an entrepreneur, the Chairman of a startup investment company and in 1998, the co-founder and chairman of AIR, a commercial airline seat refurbishment company. He is a founding faculty member and board member of, an online education and mentoring site.



    Fee Info (subject to change)
    Travels From:
  • Successful Strategies Through Turbulence
  • Hire Attitudes: Teach Them the Skills
  • Transforming Organizations Successfully
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