Southwest Airlines – An Experience

This spring-break (04/2009) our family did a four-day trip to Dallas from April 4th to the 7th. Our flight tickets were reserved early January through Southwest which had the best quote for Oakland-Dallas Love Field route at the time - $245 per person round-trip inclusive of all charges. A point to allow for is that with Southwest there may be new 20-minutes stopovers in addition to those indicated in the flight itinerary. For our flight into Dallas, we had an additional stop-over in El Paso though the itinerary mentioned only Phoenix. Similarly, on the return flight, the reservation implied of a direct flight but they did have a stopover in Albuquerque. While we adults preferred the Albuquerque routing with the one stopover, the kids found the surprise stopovers more to their liking even with the turbulence.

The flights we had anticipated as mundane proved to be anything but that. On the flight from Phoenix to Dallas Love Field, our seatmate was a Southwest captain. We engaged in conversation and he educated us on the causes for turbulence and in particular how the climatic conditions of Phoenix aided turbulence while approaching the airport. We also gained insight about the culture of Southwest which directly accounts for their profitability – Southwest employees are among the highest paid in the industry, which results in higher employee motivation which in its turn nudges up productivity per employee – key factors to avoid a bumpy ride. Operational cost-optimization strategies help them hit the ground running even in the most challenging markets. The strategies include routing optimization that ensure Southwest flights being grounded at terminals only for a brief duration, fuel optimization initiatives, keeping up with the best available technologies for both in-flight and at terminals, and adhering to one airline model (Boeing 737) for the entire fleet. During the stopover at Albuquerque on our flight back, the 2nd captain on the flight invited our family to the cockpit. He enlightened the kids in detail on how the various controls and switches and knobs work together and help the captain navigate the plane in all sorts of weather and visibility conditions. The captain also took time to answer our various questions. That was an amazing experience for all of us and the two Southwest stickers and nametags he gave them mean a lot to us parents. The kids now connect flying to driving and look forward to manning a plane one day. Our frugal mindset results us in sticking with Southwest for most of our flights and this experience helped increase our loyalty by more than a long chalk.

 Last Updated: 06/2009.

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