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
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.