Southwest Airlines



Introduction

While flying home to Texas last summer with Southwest Airlines, I had the most fun and unique experience with an airline that I could ever remember. It all started out quite oddly enough in the lobby just before takeoff. As I was checking in at the ticket counter, the representative asked me if I wanted to play a game that could get me free round trip tickets. "Sure, who wouldn\'t," I exclaimed. As she gave me my boarding pass she said, "Great, how many holes do you have in your socks?" Initially caught off guard, I responded, "Excuse me!" "The free tickets are being given to the customer who has the most holes in their socks," she explained with a perky smile. It was just my luck that I was wearing sandals. I told her, "Too bad your not checking underwear, because I\'m sure I could be in the running for some free tickets with that sort of game."
The remainder of the flight was filled with jokes and gags yet quality service from the pilot to the flight attendants. I can remember our flight attendant, dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes along with the rest of the staff, enhanced the safety announcements with the remark: "There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways to leave this aircraft."
Having fun is obviously a big part of Southwest Airlines formula to success. It all starts from the top with their childish yet brilliant boss Herb Kelleher. Kelleher, the company\'s CEO, is the "nut" behind these shenanigans. This chain-smoking, Wild Turkey-drinking Texas transplant from New Jersey has:
· Dressed for employee celebrations as Roy Orbison, Elvis, a medieval knight and a teapot;
· Passed out the peanuts himself on board his orange and brown 737s
· In front of cheering employees, arm-wrestled another CEO for the right to use the slogan "Plane Smart." (He got whipped, but he used the slogan anyway.)

This man, once called "The High Priest of Ha Ha" by Fortune
Magazine firmly believes: "If you feel real good about coming to work,
if you feel real good about what you\'re doing, if you feel you are doing
something for a meaningful cause and you\'re having fun while you\'re
doing it, then you look forward to coming to work. You don\'t succumb to
stress as easily and you cooperate with other people more quickly and
more easily. If you have a sense of humor . . . it tends to not allow
you to make mountains out of molehills." 1
Kelleher, known as Herb to the troops and his partners, reinvented air travel twenty-five years ago with its low fares and zany irreverent style.
This paper will give a historical overview of the company, discuss the ingredients to the company success, offer some financial strengths and present a final conclusion.
Section I: Southwest\'s History
Twenty-seven years ago, Rollin King, a San Antonio entrepreneur who owned a small commuter air service, and Kelleher, who was a lawyer at the time, got together and decided to start a different kind of airline. They began with one simple notion. If you get your passengers to their destinations when they want to get there, on time, at the lowest possible fares, and make certain they have a good time doing it, people will fly your airline. And you know what? They were right.
Within those 27 years, Southwest Airlines became the fifth largest major airline in America. Today, they have flown over 50 million passengers a year to 54 cities all over the southwest and beyond. They do it over 2,300 times a day with over 267 of the newest jets in the nation and fly only one type aircraft; the B-737. The average age of their fleet is only 8.4 years and they own over sixty percent of them.
In May 1988, they were the first airline to win the coveted U.S. Department of Transportation Triple Crown for a month - Best On-time Record, Best Baggage Handling, and Fewest Customer Complaints. Since then, they\'ve won it thirty-one times, as well as five annual Triple Crowns for 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996.
They have been an airline whose has led to the advancement of the commercial airline industry. They were the first airline with a frequent flyer program to give credit for the number