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Fly the Friendly Skies

December 7, 2011

While many airlines have been struggling with dissatisfied customers, rising prices and employee disputes, one has been staying its course, turning a profit each quarter and doing its best to listen to what the customers want and need. This airline is Southwest Airlines, headquartered in Dallas and providing service to a total of 72 destinations. The company’s founder, Herbert Kelleher, earned his law degree from New York University before relocating to Dallas with his wife.

Kelleher, with the help of one of his law clients, created the concept for Southwest Airlines; and in 1967, Air Southwest Co. took flight. Several giants in the airline industry tried to prevent Southwest from getting off the ground by initiating a legal battle that took four years to resolve. Air Southwest, which would later be renamed Southwest Airlines, started by providing intrastate flights in Texas. Kelleher later expanded operations to include a variety of destinations across the country while targeting many lesser traveled airports such as Chicago-Midway and flying out of Dallas-Love Field, a tiny airport compared with the size and traffic of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

If you’re curious about the secret of Southwest’s success, it’s that Kelleher whole-heartedly believes in listening to his customers by being open and by possessing a sense of humor. He often flew on Southwest flights and asked passengers what the airline could improve. Members of Southwest’s flight crews often sing the safety announcements and crack jokes while flying safe, efficient flights. Kelleher also refuses to pay to be a part of online reservation sites and does not channel all Southwest’s flights through their hub which has been proven an effective business model.

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