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Howard Putnam was raised on an Iowa farm and learned to fly in his father's J-3 Piper Cub. At age 17, he entered the airline business as a baggage handler at Midway Airport in Chicago for Capital Airlines. Capital Airlines was soon merged into United and he 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, Mr. Putnam was recruited to become President and CEO of fledgling Southwest Airlines in Dallas, Texas. While at Southwest, he 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 Putnam 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 every year for over thirty years, a record unsurpassed by any other airline.
In 1981, Mr. Putnam 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 take a major carrier into, through, and out of chapter 11, successfully. Braniff flew again in 1984.
Howard Putnam 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.
Mr. Putnam has also been an entrepreneur, serving as Chairman of a startup investment company and two small manufacturing and distribution companies. He and his wife have a son, a commercial airline captain, and a daughter in public relations and marketing.
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