When Putnam was 23 years old, he was a sales representative for Capital Airlines. He joined United Airlines when Capital was acquired by United in 1961. 17 years on, he became Group Vice President, Marketing at United Airlines before leaving to head Southwest Airlines.
In 1982, he had a conversation with American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall, in which he was told by Crandall that if Braniff raised their prices, American would too. Putnam declined, but the U.S. Federal Government later brought an antitrust action against Crandall and American based on a recording of the conversation. Putnam was president of Braniff when it ceased operation in bankruptcy on May 12, 1982.
He is currently a motivational speaker and author of The Winds of Turbulence: A Ceo's Reflections on Surviving and Thriving on the Cutting Edge of Corporate Crisis. He also produced a DVD:Pass It On, Share The W.I.S.H., which was scheduled for release on April 1, 2007.
- Stephen Hopspon Interview with Howard Putnam Archived 2011-06-30 at the Wayback Machine.
- Southwest Airlines Southwest Airlines - A Brief History at 1978 and 1981
- Handbook of Texas Southwest Airlines, "In August 1978, Howard Putnam, a United Airlines executive, was hired as president and CEO. Putnam subsequently left in September 1981 to take over the ailing Braniff Airways."
- Time Magazine Dirty Tricks in Dallas By David S. Jackson;John S. DeMott;Allen Pusey Monday, Mar. 07, 1983
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