Southwest hires its first new lobbyist in years amid multi-prong controversies


Southwest Airlines has brought on new lobbying firepower for the first time in almost half a decade, as the airline weathers new scrutiny in Washington over the scheduling meltdown last month.

The carrier hired former Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) earlier this month to lobby on the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, according to disclosures filed over the weekend. The Illinois Democrat, who left Congress in 2013 after 25 years in the House, previously served as chair of the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel.

The airline spent $1.1 million on federal lobbying last year — the same as in the previous year. But Costello’s firm is the first new addition to Southwest’s roster of outside lobbyists — which already includes fellow former lawmakers Kit Bond and Kenny Hulshof — since 2018, when lawmakers were crafting the last FAA reauthorization.

The hire comes as Southwest faces pressure on numerous fronts in Washington.

The Transportation Department announced last week that it had opened an investigation“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”00000186-04dc-d0d5-aba6-f7dd2dd30000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000186-04dc-d0d5-aba6-f7dd2dd30001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}’>had opened an investigation into Southwest’s scheduling practices and whether the airline set schedules it knew it couldn’t properly staff.

While a winter storm just before last month’s holidays forced other major airlines to cancel or delay flights, Southwest canceled more than 16,000 trips as it struggled to recover from the storm.

Southwest executives announced on an earnings call that the airline had already lost $220 million“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”00000186-04dc-d0d5-aba6-f7dd2dd30002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”00000186-04dc-d0d5-aba6-f7dd2dd30003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}’>the airline had already lost $220 million as a result of the debacle, and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, announced that the panel would hold a hearing to examine Southwest’s failures.

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