Go Southwest!

While I have a lot of respect for Southwest Airlines, I rarely write about them. That’s probably because I don’t usually fly them and their frequent flyer program doesn’t interest me all that much. Nonetheless, the management style and fantastic employees always impress me and make me kinda jealous (don’t worry, I quickly come to my senses when I realize there are no upgrades or longhaul international partner awards. 😉

Anyway, I just *loved* this video. Southwest gave away a million dollars (post-tax, how awesome is that?) to employees, in chunks of $10,000. Apparently those that won $10,000 were randomly selected from a group of employees that got nominated for going above and beyond.

The quote in the video is all too true: “If we care for the employees, the employees are going to care for the customers.” Too bad many of the legacy CEO’s haven’t take note.

Filed Under: Media, Southwest
  1. I love the Southwest spirit, but (aside from the fact they don’t fly up here to ANC), I don’t fly them for the reasons you mentioned.

    If Southwest could add some widebodies, a premium cabin, and fly to some exciting international destinations, I’d be all over them!

    Lucky, what’s your take on the fun attitude of their staff–specifically, the way the FAs tell jokes and do fun things (I’m thinking of the rapping flight attendant–if you haven’t seen it, watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivjybzdXVmI) during their on-board announcements? I get the impression that FTers are “above” such nonsense, but I really appreciate that atmosphere.

    If a larger carrier had the spirit of Southwest, do you think they’d do well or would they turn off too many serious frequent flyers?

  2. I’ve flown SW almost exclusively for the past two years, and must comment on the “trademark” employees and humor/ good cheer –

    Good humor, a Fun oriented work culture, and something fun on every flight I had thought was the SW Brand. There has been a change, and I’m rarely finding anyone smiles until a full (FULL) load of passengers is departing the plane at the destination.
    The days of impersonations, silly songs, a joke (goodness can we tell one now w/o offending someone), limericks, smiling staff in the cabin seem to be a thing of the past.
    Recently, that is October ’08 through this past week, every seat is full on my flights, and staff is just working their…. off. I extend my sympathies, however can’t help but note that they don’t seem to especially like their jobs, or to be having any fun.
    Yes, this is a bit of improvement from two flights I was on (yes, SW) in the fall of 2006 when staff shouted at passengers to get their bags loaded and sit down (totally uncalled for IMO, and I heard a rumor later that a Portland based crew was replaced that weekend – I hoped it was the crew I’d observed in that Un-Customer-Friendly incident.)
    I continue to choose SW bc even with stress and weather challenges and a lack of smiling happy staffers, there are not a lot of glitches in their systems, they provide non-stop flights from Tucson, and I appreciate selecting my seat as I board. Granted: the fee-free luggage policy is easing the process at the check-in counters.
    Two good stories of humor:
    1) loading flights with families headed to Orlando & fun at the amusement parks there – some joking at the gate
    2) a birthday celebrated in the air – and everyone switched their cabin lights on and off (in place of the candle thing) for the individual

  3. OneMileAtATime – glad to find you on twitter. I’m Amescreativ there.
    Wish I had any experiences of the FAs telling jokes and doing fun things lately.
    Yes, I’d prefer First Class on Singapore Airlines an more widebodies etc, I suppose, yet since I’m flying across the U.S. frequently now – I don’t have Singapore Air on my radar.
    Keep up the good reporting. I’ll remain an optimist, thinking that our feedback might get some attention at the Corporate Headquarters.
    Check out Aloft hotels – new in Chicago, and streamlined, “European” model. I really like this chain (part of the W hotels).


  4. “Serious frequent flyers” shouldn’t be turned off by good customer service. Southwest seems to be the only airline expanding while others are contracting. With Southwest, you know exactly what you get, and that explains their fantastic customer loyalty. Besides, most Americans don’t fly internationally; they only take 2-3 trips a year; and they are looking for cheap transportation. They may not be sophisticated flyers, but Southwest gives them exactly what they want and expect. I don’t personally enjoy Southwest’s product, but I admire them (and their branding and marketing) and feel they will be one of the survivor airlines 5 years or so from now.

  5. Good question, jackal, and unfortunately I don’t really have a definitive answer. Overall I like the “fun” Southwest attitude. Southwest has gone from being the ultimate low cost carrier to our country’s “premium” airline thanks to their lack of fees and upbeat attitude (not to mention profitability), which is great. I think that attitude works well in the markets they serve, since most of their passengers are American, and largely not frequent flyers. I think even the frequent flyers don’t have a problem with the jokes, because the whole Southwest experience is so upbeat and positive. Even if they don’t like the two minutes of jokes, they’ll love the great service, on-time flights, and efficiency. A positive attitude rubs off on everyone, and as a result I think you’ll see a lot less complaints from passengers on Southwest than any other US airline. In a way I’m jealous.

    At the same time, I’m not convinced that “attitude” would work in an international market where you’re dealing with passengers of various nationalities and cultures, at least the jokes. Great customer service works in all markets, however. 😉 What may seem funny to an American might not be viewed as a joke by some foreigners, who may very well take offense.

    At the end of the day my favorite type of service is the professional yet friendly attitude that many premium foreign airlines offer. That might be tough to do in the US, because keeping a workforce motivated while being serious can be tough (especially with unions like the AFA). I guess ideally there would be a compromise, with a “fun” attitude, minus the plethora of cheesy jokes to appease the frequent flyers. I actually find lots of those jokes funny, though (as surprising as it may be).

  6. Ben, loved this particular post as, like you, I don’t generally give much attention to the operation that Southwest runs (and based on the video segment in this post, their managers are certainly making some good decisions).

  7. Thanks so much for sharing our Operation: Kick Tail video. We had so much FUN traveling around the country, giving out money to our hard-working Employees, and showing them our LUV! Please stay tuned to our blog (nutsaboutsouthwest.com) for more nutty Southwest videos!

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