Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines Co.  is an American airline based in Dallas, Texas. Southwest is the largest airline in the United States, based on domestic passengers carried, as of June 30, 2010 Southwest operates more than 3,400 flights a day, as of March 2011 has a fleet of 690 aircraft.

Southwest is the United States most successful low fare, high frequency, point-to-point carrier. It is the best working model of it’s type anywhere in the world. 

Southwest keeps its fares low by special attention to its costs through operation of only two aircraft types on high-density routes throughout the United States and offering few traditional airline services including first class seating, airport lounges, reserved seat assignments, and video and audio programing. Southwest claims that by not offering these services, it can offer lower fares and produce a higher return on invested capital than other airlines

We like it’s low fares,  it’s commitment to charities and environmental concerns.  It’s crew are friendly, they can personalise the safety briefing if they wish, which has lead to many very amusing briefings and opened up other avenues for some staff members.  The seats are mostly leather, have a pitch of 32-33 inches and most have a little recline.  They offer complementary soft drinks, tiny bags of pretzels and peanuts, whilst other drinks are available for purchase. They are also rolling out wifi on the fleet over the coming months,  so far the charge is $5 each connection,  but this is likely to go up toward the end of the year.  It should be noted that they do not accept cash on the aircraft.


Our Rating 4 stars
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 (N626SW) landing at McCarran International Airport pictured in the company's current Canyon Blue livery.
Southwest Airlines traces its roots to the March 15, 1967 incorporation of Air Southwest Co. by Rollin King and Herb Kelleher to provide service within the state of Texas.
On March 29, 1971, Air Southwest Co. changed its name to Southwest Airlines Co. Operating from its Dallas, Texas headquarters, Air Southwest began customer service on June 18, 1971, offering service to the Texas cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio using three Boeing 737 aircraft.
Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher studied California-based Pacific Southwest Airlines extensively and used many of the airline’s ideas to form the corporate culture at Southwest, and even on early flights used the same "Long Legs And Short Nights" theme for stewardesses on board typical Southwest Airlines flights. The original flight attendants that worked for Southwest Airlines were chosen by a committee of individuals that included the same person who had selected hostess for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy jet. The selection resulted in a group of female flight attendants that were described as long-legged dancers, majorettes, and cheerleaders with "unique personalities". Southwest Airlines and Herb Kelleher proceeded to dress these individuals in hot pants and go-go boots.
Early losses and financial troubles
The rest of 1971 and 1972 saw operating losses. One of the four aircraft was sold to Frontier Airlines and the proceeds used to make payroll and cover other expenses. Southwest continued to operate a schedule predicated on four aircraft but using only three, and in so doing the "ten minute turn" was born, and was the standard ground time for many years.
Wright Amendment
When airline deregulation came in 1978, Southwest began planning to offer interstate service from Love Field. This caused a number of interest groups affiliated with Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, including the city of Fort Worth, to push the Wright Amendment through Congress to restrict such flights. Under the restrictions of the amendment, Southwest, and all other airlines, were barred from operating, or even ticketing passengers on flights from Love Field to destinations beyond the states immediately surrounding Texas. In effect, to travel through Love Field, a passenger and luggage would have to deplane and fly on a separate ticket, on a separate aircraft.
The Wright Amendment’s restrictions did not apply to aircraft configured with 56 or fewer seats. In 2000, Legend Airlines attempted to operate long distance business-class flights using older DC-9s with 56 seats, but did not have the resources to survive American Airline's legal and marketing attacks, and quickly ceased operations. Southwest did not use the 56 seat loophole, even with its market strength at Love Field and the availability of more modern regional jets such as the CRJ-700/900 and the Embraer ERJ 145 family.

Southwest’s efforts to repeal or even alter the Wright Amendment were met with opposition from American Airlines and Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport. Both American Airlines and DFW contended that repeal of the Wright Amendment restrictions would cripple DFW, while Southwest contended that repeal of the Wright Amendment would be beneficial to both Love Field and DFW. Continental Airlines has a successful hub and spoke operation at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport despite unrestricted competition from Southwest at Houston Hobby Airport.
In 1990 the airline registered its aircraft in Houston so it could pay aircraft taxes in Houston, even though the actual corporate headquarters were in Dallas. Southwest was not physically relocating any assets, but Texas state law allowed the airline to choose either Dallas or Houston as the city of registry of its aircraft.
In 1997, Southwest’s efforts began to pay off with the Shelby Amendment, which added the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas to the list of permissible destination states. Southwest began offering non-stop service between Dallas Love Field and Birmingham, Alabama, which it could not do prior to the enactment of the Shelby Amendment.
In late 2004, Southwest began actively seeking the full repeal of the Wright Amendment restrictions. In late 2005, Missouri was added to the list of permissible destination states via a transportation appropriations bill. New service from Love Field to St. Louis and Kansas City quickly started in December 2005.
At a June 15, 2006 joint press conference held by the city of Dallas, the city of Ft. Worth, Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, the said parties announced a tentative agreement on how the Wright Amendment was to be phased out. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed Wright-related legislation on September 29, 2006, and it was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 13, 2006. The new law became effective on October 16, 2006, when the FAA Administrator notified Congress that any new aviation operations occurring as a result of the new law could be accommodated without adverse effect to the airspace.

Southwest started selling tickets under the new law on October 19, 2006. Highlights of the agreement are the immediate elimination of through-ticketing prohibitions, and unrestricted flights to domestic destinations eight years after the legislation takes effect. Because of the agreement, nationwide service became possible for Southwest; the law also defined the maximum number of gates at Love Field. Southwest controls all of the Love Field gates except for four gates controlled by American Airlines, Continental Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. The future of the Legend Airlines terminal for use by commercial airlines is in doubt because of the limit on number of gates.
Southwest remains the dominant passenger airline at Love Field, maintains its headquarters, hangars, training centres, and flight simulators adjacent thereto, and reflects its ties to Love Field in its ticker symbol (LUV).



A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 parked at a gate at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California.
The President and CEO of Southwest is Gary C. Kelly. Kelly replaced former CEO Jim Parker on July 15, 2004 and assumed the title of "President" on July 15, 2008, replacing former President Colleen Barrett.
Former CEO Jim Parker led Southwest from mid-2001, keeping alive Southwest's unprecedented streak of profitability and guiding its growth as it became the largest commercial carrier in the domestic United States. Jim Parker abruptly quit as CEO and vice chairman for "personal reasons" though it's suspected that he stepped down after failing to reach an agreement with the flight attendant union, TWU Local 556, which made their labour strife (and displeasure with the Southwest CEO) public.
Southwest's CFO is Laura Wright. In July 2007, Herb Kelleher resigned his position as Chairman. Colleen Barrett left her post on the Board of Directors and Corporate Secretary in May 2008 and President in July 2008. Both are still active employees of Southwest Airlines.
Southwest hired its first black pilot, Louis Freeman, in 1980. In 1992, he was named the first black chief pilot of any major U.S. airline.
Organized labour
In contrast to non-union competitor JetBlue Airways, Southwest maintains its profitability and low-fare, low-cost business model despite being heavily unionized. The Southwest Airline Pilots' Association, a union not affiliated with the Air Line Pilots Association, represents the airline's pilots. The Aircraft Maintenance Technicians' are represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA).   Customer Service Agents and Reservation Agents are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union (IAM). Flight Dispatchers, Flight Attendants, Ramp agents and Operations agents are represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
As of May 2011 Southwest Airlines has completed four acquisitions which have helped the airline to grow it's revenue base and destinations served.
Muse Air – acquired 1985, divested 1987
Southwest paid US$60.5 million in stock and cash for Muse Air when Muse was on the verge of collapse in 1985. After completing the acquisition, Southwest renamed MuseAir TranStar Airlines. TranStar became a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest and operated as an independent airline. Unwilling to compete in a fare war against Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air, Southwest sold TransStar's assets to Lorenzo in August 1987.
Morris Air – acquired 1993
Southwest acquired Morris Air, a competing airline based in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1992, paying US$134 million in stock. After completing the purchase, Southwest absorbed the capital and routes of Morris Air into Southwest's inventory and service, including Morris' Pacific Northwest destinations not previously served by Southwest. One founder of Morris Air, David Neeleman, worked with Southwest for a short period before leaving to found JetBlue Airways, a competing airline.
ATA Airlines – acquired 2008
Southwest paid US$7.5 million to acquire certain assets from bankrupt ATA Airlines in 2008. Southwest's primary reason for making the purchase was to acquire the operating certificate and New York LaGuardia Airport landing slots formerly controlled by ATA. The purchase did not include any aircraft, facilities or employees of ATA.
AirTran Airways – acquired 2011
On May 2, 2011 Southwest Airlines completed the acquisition of AirTran Airways by purchasing all of the outstanding common stock of AirTran Holdings, Inc.  the former parent company of AirTran Airways. Southwest Airlines first announced the acquisition on September 27, 2010 and received final approval from the United States Department of Justice on April 27, 2011. Southwest Airlines estimates the transaction's value at $3.2 billion and expects one time costs to integrate the two airlines of US$500 million. Southwest expects to obtain a single operating certificate from the United States Federal Aviation Administration in the first quarter of 2012, but expects that full integration of AirTran into Soutwest's operations will take several years.
Southwest Airlines will add AirTran Airways 88 Boeing 717 aircraft to the Southwest fleet and plans to begin changing AirTran liveried aircraft to the Southwest livery beginning in 2012. After the close of the acquisition the combined fleet of the two airlines numbered 690 aircraft.
The purchase expanded Southwest's service to 38 additional destinations including Mexico, the Caribbean, and Atlanta, an AirTran hub and the largest U.S. city not served by Southwest prior to the acquisition. Traditionally averse to hub operations, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly believed at the time the acquisition closed that Southwest needed to fully understand the airline's operations in Atlanta before making any changes at that airport.
Internet presence
On March 16, 1995, Southwest became one of the first airlines to have a website. Originally called the "Southwest Airlines Home Gate", passengers could view schedules, a route map, and company information at The company later obtained the rights to its current home on the web,, from an unaffiliated business. Southwest does not syndicate its fares to fare search sites such as or is the number one airline website for online revenue, according to PhoCusWright. Nielsen/Netratings also reports that is the largest airline site in terms of unique visitors. In 2006, 70 per cent of flight bookings and 73 per cent of revenue was generated from bookings on As of June 2007[update], 69 per cent of Southwest passengers checked in for their flights online or at a kiosk.
Southwest also maintains a website for their in-flight magazine, named Spirit.
Safety violations
On March 6, 2008, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors submitted documents to the United States Congress, alleging that Southwest allowed 117 of its aircraft to fly carrying passengers despite the fact that the planes were "not airworthy" according to air safety investigators. In some cases the planes were allowed to fly for up to 30 months after the inspection deadlines had passed, rendering them unfit to fly. Records indicate that thousands of passengers were flown on aircraft deemed unsafe by federal standards. Southwest declined comment at the time, and US Representative James Oberstar advised a hearing would be held.
On March 12, 2008, Southwest Airlines voluntarily grounded 44 planes to check if they needed further inspection. The FAA claimed that Southwest Airlines flew almost 60,000 flights without fuselage inspection. Southwest Airlines faced a $10.2 million fine if they violated FAA regulations. There have also been rumours that the FAA knew about Southwest Airlines violations but decided not to fine the airline because it would disrupt the service of Southwest.
On March 2, 2009, Southwest settled these claims, agreeing to pay the FAA fines of $7.5 million for these safety and maintenance issues. The original fine of $10.2 million – a sum which would have been the largest fine in the agency’s history – was lowered after a year of negotiations. The FAA gave Southwest two years in which to pay the fine.
On August 26, 2009 the FAA investigated Southwest for installing improper parts on about 10% of its jets. The work was performed by an outside maintenance company. The FAA stated that the parts do not present a safety danger, but the airline was given until December 24, 2009 to replace the parts with those approved by the FAA. The FAA is still determining whether it will fine Southwest or its vendor.
Risk management
Southwest Airlines has gained a reputation for "outside the box thinking" a proactive risk management, including the use of fuel hedging to insulate against fuel price fluctuation. Some analysts have argued against the style of profit-motivated energy trading Southwest did between 1999 and the early 2000s. They suggested that rather than hedging business risk (such as a hedge on weather to a farmer), Southwest was simply speculating on energy prices, without a formal rationale for doing so.

At present, Southwest has enjoyed much positive press (and a strong financial boost) from its energy trading skills. 
Southwest has been a major inspiration to other low-cost carriers, and its business model has been repeated many times around the world. The competitive strategy combines high level of employee and aircraft productivity with low unit costs by reducing aircraft turn around time particularly at the gate. Europe's EasyJet and Ryanair are two of the best known airlines to follow Southwest's business strategy in that continent. Other airlines with a business model based on Southwest's system include Canada's WestJet, Malaysia's AirAsia (the first and biggest LCC in Asia), Sir Richard Branson's and Australia's Virgin Australia (although Virgin Australia now operates two aircraft types), Qantas's Jetstar (although Jetstar now operates two aircraft types), Philippines's Cebu Pacific, Thailand's Nok Air, Mexico's Volaris and Turkey's Pegasus Airlines. Although Southwest has been a major inspiration to many other airlines, including Ryanair, AirAsia and Jetstar, the management strategies, for example, of Ryanair, AirAsia and Jetstar differ significantly from those of Southwest. All these different management stratgies can be seen as means of differentiation from other competitors in order to gain competitive advantages.

As of March 27, 2011, Southwest Airlines operates scheduled service to 72 destinations in 37 states, the newest being Newark Liberty International Airport on March 27, 2011.
Southwest does not use the more traditional "hub and spoke" flight routing system of most other major airlines, preferring instead the "Point to Point" system. Currently, Southwest serves 71 cities in 36 states, with more than 3,300 flights a day. It has notably large operations in certain airports. Airports with large Southwest operations include Austin (AUS), Baltimore (BWI), Nashville (BNA), Chicago (MDW), Dallas (DAL), Denver (DEN), Houston (HOU), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Oakland (OAK), Orlando (MCO), Phoenix (PHX), San Diego (SAN), San Jose (SJC), Sacramento (SMF), Salt Lake City (SLC), and Tampa (TPA). An average of 80 per cent of Southwest passengers are local passengers, meaning only 20 per cent of all passengers are connecting passengers. This is significantly higher than most airlines, where passengers often connect in hub cities.
As part of its effort to control costs, Southwest tries to use secondary airports which generally have lower costs and may be more convenient to travellers than the major airports to the same destinations. For example, Southwest flies to Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) in Chicago instead of O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) in South Florida instead of Miami International Airport (MIA), Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL) in Dallas instead of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Long Island MacArthur Islip Airport (ISP) & New York-LaGuardia (LGA) instead of New York-John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) and Houston Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston instead of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
Southwest makes exceptions to its practice of serving secondary airports by flying into some larger airports in major cities, such as Las Vegas International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport, Lambert St. Louis International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Philadelphia International, Denver International Airport, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Kansas City International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International, Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Bradley International Airport (Hartford, CT) and Pittsburgh International. In the Baltimore-Washington market, Southwest has limited flights into one major airport (Washington Dulles International Airport) while maintaining their east-coast focus city at the region's other major airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). In the Los Angeles market Southwest flies to both the major city airport, Los Angeles International (LAX), and to three of the four secondary airports, Burbank-Bob Hope Airport, Santa Ana-John Wayne Airport, and LA/Ontario International Airport. With the restoration of service out of San Francisco International Airport on August 26, 2007, Southwest now serves all three airports in the San Francisco Bay Area; the other two being Oakland International Airport and San Jose International Airport.
The airline also once served Stapleton International Airport in Denver but withdrew in 1986 because of excessive ATC delays during poor weather exacerbated by minimal separation between the runways. Southwest returned to Denver in 2006 with service to the new Denver International Airport. Southwest is expanding Denver service faster than any previous Southwest destination at the cost of service to Orlando, Kansas City and Baltimore.
Current fleet
As of April 19, 2011 the Southwest Airlines fleet consists of 552 aircraft, all of which are variants of the Boeing 737. Southwest owns more Boeing 737 aircraft than any other airline in the world and is often cited as an example of an airline containing costs and streamlining operations by flying only one type of aircraft.      Southwest has been a launch customer for all three of the Boeing 737 variants it currently operates and was the first airline to put both the 737-500 and 737-700 into service.
Although known for its flying only Boeing 737 aircraft, Southwest has operated other aircraft at times. Southwest operated leased Boeing 727-200 aircraft during the late-1970s and the mid-1980s and Southwest subsidiary TranStar Airlines operated McDonnell Douglas DC-9s and McDonnell Douglas MD-80s during the mid-1980s. After completing the purchase of AirTran Airlines, Southwest will add AirTran's existing fleet of both 737-700 and smaller Boeing 717-200 aircraft to the Southwest fleet, giving Southwest a fleet based on two different families of airliners.
The interior of a Southwest 737-700 with the airline's leather seating


Southwest Airlines has not had any passenger deaths on any of its planes in its history, but has had eight incidents/accidents with one hull-loss and two deaths on the ground.
  • On August 19, 2004, Southwest Airlines Flight 411, taking off from Los Angeles International Airport bound for Albuquerque, New Mexico, was on the same runway that Asiana Airlines Flight 204, a Boeing 747, was using for landing due to an air traffic control error. The Asiana pilot aborted the landing, saving both planes.
  • On December 8, 2005, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 (pictured above in its end result) skidded off a runway upon landing at Chicago Midway International Airport in heavy snow conditions. A six-year-old boy died in a car struck by the plane after it skidded into a street. Passengers on board the aircraft and on the ground reported several minor injuries. The aircraft involved, N471WN, became N286WN after repairs.
  • On May 12, 2009, one of the starboard rear tires of Southwest Flight 519 from New Orleans deflated upon landing at Houston Hobby Airport. The metal rim of the wheel made contact with the runway, and the resulting sparks ignited the tire. It took about eight minutes to extinguish the fire. There were no injuries.
  • On July 13, 2009, Southwest Flight 2294 from Nashville International Airport to Baltimore-Washington International Airport was forced to divert to Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia, after a hole formed on the top of the plane's fuselage near the tail, resulting in depressurization of the cabin and deployment of the oxygen masks. The aircraft landed safely.
  • On April 1, 2011, Southwest Airlines Flight 812 from Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport to Sacramento International Airport operated with a Boeing 737-300 aircraft registered N632SW, was forced to declare an emergency and divert to Yuma International Airport after a hole appeared in the top of the aircraft fuselage. The aircraft landed approximately 40 minutes after take-off from Phoenix.
  • on April 26, 2011 Southwest Airlines Flight 1919 from Denver to Chicago Midway skidded off runway 13C  when it was landing into the wet grass just before 2 p.m. It came to a stop about 120 ft away from the airport wall at Cicero Avenue at 63rd Street. The 145 passengers where taken off and bussed to the terminal."Southwest plane skids off runway into the mud".

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