Today is Southwest Airlines’ 40th birthday. The airline traces its first lineage all the way back to the 1967 incorporation of Air Southwest Co., by Herb Kelleher and Rollin King. However, the name change and first flight of Southwest Airlines happened 40 years ago today.
In the beginning, the intent was to serve only Texas. In this way, Kelleher and King believed the company could avoid federal regulation. In those formative years, Trans-Texas, Braniff, and Continental tried to put Southwest out of business. Southwest won legal action that lasted more than three years.
After the court fight and name change, Southwest based in Dallas and began offering service between the Texas cities of Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. They only had three jets at the time. Later they would acquire another, but would have to sell it to cover payroll during the financial troubles suffered in the early days.
One aspect in which the airline is very successful is in promotion of the corporate culture. Everyone working for the company seems to be very pleased and happy to be part of the Southwest family. The company emphasizes teamwork and communication, as well as a whimsical attitude when dealing with the public.
Pilots’ public announcements have included gems like, “Remember, all of Southwest’s flights are non-smoking, but if you insist, we’ll let you sit outside on the wing.” Cabin announcements are just as funny and fun. On other airlines, people seem to ignore the safety brief, but on a Southwest jet, the cabin crews competitively present their best entertaining briefs to make the passengers stop, take notice, and become more educated in the safety features of the Boeing 737.
Another thing about Southwest is the amazing foresight of Kelleher and the other leaders of the company. This includes the purchase of fuel, airplanes, and the company’s expansion.
As the airline developed, the company went from covering Texas, to serving the southwest region, to their present route structure, which includes more of a national reach. Over the recent years, Southwest has acquired other airlines in their quest for a larger market. These other companies included Muse Air, Morris Air, ATA Airlines, and Air Tran Airways.
One mark of a great company is the lines it has developed at Wall Street. When looking at the lines for Southwest and comparing them to all the other carriers, none can hold a candle to the record of Southwest.
Here’s to another great 40 years!
© 2011 J. Clark