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Secrets To Southwest's Success?  
User currently offlineAirworthy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 2009 times:

What stuff does Southwest do that helps make it money compared to other bog airlines?

Like, give some examples like, flies to non-busy airports.

26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineFlyingTexan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 1961 times:

There are numerous reasons to SWA's sucess. Here are a few:

- No seating assignments
- One type fleet (Boeing 737)
- Quick turns
- No Frills; no catering, no first class, no top tier check in lines, no lounge clubs at airports
- From my travels: No BS from their employees

There are many, many more, even smaller things like they don't take pets (except service animals).





User currently offlineJhooper From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 6202 posts, RR: 12
Reply 2, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1940 times:

How does seating assignments make a difference?


Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
User currently offlineScootertrash From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 569 posts, RR: 9
Reply 3, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 1929 times:

Another factor is that WN avoids debt like the plague. They do everything they can to aggressively control their cash flow at all times.

High aircraft utilization is another factor. They were one of the first airlines to pay systemic attention to turn-around times. An airplane flying is making money. An airplane sitting on the ground loses it at a ferocious rate.


User currently offlineGoingboeing From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 4875 posts, RR: 16
Reply 4, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1910 times:

Seating assignments make a difference because when someone boards "out of sequence", like he's in row 12 but gets up and boards when row 25 is called, he holds up the rest of the plane in boarding. When more than one person has been assigned the same seat, it takes more time trying to get things straightened out and get the plane away from the gate and into the air. Small little details, but it's the small stuff, like keeping your planes in the air rather than trying to decide which guy holding seat 12A will have to sit in the last row center seat.

User currently offlineCody From United States of America, joined May 1999, 1932 posts, RR: 9
Reply 5, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1908 times:

I agree with everything Scootertrash said. The funny thing is, Southwest learned everything they know from PSA.

User currently offlineGoingboeing From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 4875 posts, RR: 16
Reply 6, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1907 times:

no they didn't cody...they skipped the lesson in "merge with another airline".

User currently offlineFlyingTexan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1891 times:

Seating assignments make a difference big time.

I’ve seen a press release somewhere by Colleen (Barrett ?) that states WN equipment would need to spend X more minutes on the ground per turn, and she goes on to quantify this into we’d need Y more planes resulting in $$$! I’ll look for that press release and link it.

Distant second – smaller issue with seating assignments is customer perception. As we all know, customer perception is a big customer problem. Say a customer books 15A,B on their flight. Airline has equipment change resulting in seat assignment change. Customer calls airline and bitches. This usually happened on the $157.00 round trip LGA-PBI or the $234.00 round trip JFK-SJU or a similar deeply discounted ticket.

When I worked at the airport, this was no big deal. If a customer was at the gate about the board a flight I was working and decided to complain about seat assignment, I’d do my best to fix it. If a full flight, I was usually unable to fix (plus I was normally dealing with more pressing matters). If they continued to bitch, my response was:

“Well, we will just go ahead and give you a REFUND and forget the whole thing even happened”

or

“Why don’t you take the later flight to Chicago, I see there are window/aisle seats available. I’ll change your ticket no penalty.”

THAT usually shut them up.

At AA, I spent many useless hours on the phone trying to please pax disgruntled over seating. That was time wasted.

Say what you want about it:

No assigned seats = lower operating cost

 Smile

JR FlyingTexan


User currently offlineMasseyBrown From United States of America, joined Dec 2002, 5372 posts, RR: 7
Reply 8, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 1888 times:

Predictability is another Southwest virtue. You may not like their level of service, but you will never be disappointed by some failure to deliver a higher standard. It also helps that both their employees and their *customers* are pretty friendly, unassuming people.


I love long German words like 'Freundschaftsbezeigungen'.
User currently offlineSllevin From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 3376 posts, RR: 6
Reply 9, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 1826 times:

Another thing Southwest does is actually get good money for their average ticket. Why there are certainly some of the ultra-cheap fares around, based on their average income per mile (significant) they clearly sell lots of tickets in the mid-to-upper range.

In all truth, in many markets, travelers don't even compare other airlines -- they just call Southwest and assume that whatever fare they get is the lowest fare for the route. My folks are that way -- they just assume that Southwest will be the cheapest option because they so often are.

THAT is the big win -- mindshare.

Steve


User currently offlineTango-Bravo From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 3803 posts, RR: 29
Reply 10, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 1773 times:

Southwest is successful as much on account what they don't do as because of what they do. Simply put, Southwest from their beginning knew the answer to the all-important question the "full-service" U.S. major airlines are just now starting to ask: what are pax willing to pay for -- and what are they not willing to pay for? Southwest has, from the start, omitted "perks" for which pax are not willing to pay the added costs.

Southwest also keeps their product as simple as possible, which leaves their employees free to the most productive in the industry and to focus on customer satisfaction whereas their counterparts at the "full-service" airlines are largely distracted and bogged down (i.e. less productive) in keeping track of a hopelessly convoluted plethora of rules and restrictions and their applicability in customer service situations. Flying Texan gives a typical example of the whining and sniveling about seat assignments by customers of the "full-service" majors. An inordinate amount of time is wasted (at considerable co$t) on this issue alone every day at the "full-service" majors -- one of many costs that Southwest wisely avoids, while maintaining the highest ranking in customer satisfaction among U.S. airlines.


User currently offline737doctor From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1332 posts, RR: 39
Reply 11, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1751 times:

Yes; great reasons so far. Fleet commonality, high aircraft utilization...

I've got another one...

Excellent employee relations. There is not a huge rift between employees and management like at other airlines, therefore the employees are happier. In addition, the employees feel that they have a genuine stake in the company (through profitsharing, stock options, ESPP, etc.) so they are more productive. The amazing thing is that Southwest is one of the more heavily unionized airlines and yet they still manage to accomplish this feat.

How do I know this? Read my profile...  Big grin



Patrick Bateman is my hero.
User currently offlineDash8King From Canada, joined Nov 2001, 2742 posts, RR: 11
Reply 12, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1743 times:

So if they don't have assigned seating then what happens everyone just runs to the plane and tries to grab their seat before anyone else?( I know that is not how it happens) So can anyone tell me how people are seated?

User currently offlineFlyingTexan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1734 times:

Having worked for two US majors as well as flown WN many times, I could go on and on about every thing that Southwest does not do that saves them time and money (time/money…same thing) and foul customer perception.

Here is one more instance –

I was working New Years Day, 2001. I come across AA 222 in FLIFO. American 222 is the 8:00 AM LAX-BOS Flagship service.

FLIFO reports ‘DIVERSION to PHX’ Reason: DOG IN CARGO, AFT CARGO heat out.

Well, normally this would not be a problem. But, you gotta save the dog. American accepts cargo pets (IIRC) the fee is USD$100.00 o/w.

Well, AA 222 is operated by a Boeing 767. Divert the 767 to PHX. Remove dog from cargo. Fido now gets to ride upstairs with the owner. Back in the air to Boston. Diversion at airline’s expense (although was AA’s mx problem), inconvenienced passengers, late inbounds, mis-connects, etc.

Do you think that diversion cost AA more than USD$100.00. I think so. Just one of the many examples of a frill that wound up costing the carrier $$$. Albeit, a highly unusual circumstance – Diversion due to cargo pet.

This got me to thinking about another rare event in which a cargo pet caused AA big headache and big expense – July 22, 2002. On American 282 (San Diego- JFK), a loose cargo pet chewed cables in the Boeing 757, resulting in the loss of backup communication systems. The aircraft was subsequently out of service for 9 days. Thankfully, no one, no pets were hurt in either instance!

Also see Topic: Pit Bull Chews Through Plane's Wiring

http://www.airliners.net/discussions/general_aviation/read.main/905697/

JR FlyingTexan

*BTW – the dog owner on Flight 222 was extremely gracious for the diversion!!!


User currently offlineCiro From Brazil, joined Aug 1999, 662 posts, RR: 6
Reply 14, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 1688 times:

All this is true, but no doubt the fact that Southwest has much lower wage costs than the majors is certainly a huge advantage, thus the secret of its success.


The fastest way to become a millionaire in the airline business is to start as a billionaire.
User currently offlineLoneStarMike From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 3811 posts, RR: 34
Reply 15, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 1673 times:

Regarding no assigned seating, it not only speeds up the boarding process, it also speeds up your wait in line at the ticket counter. You don't have a bunch of people in front of you asking if they can get three seats together, or trying to change their seat assignment for something better, or trying to see if they can snag a seat in the exit row, or checking to see if their upgrade cleared.

I'll never forget a few years ago I walked into Love Field to check luggage for a flight back to AUS after the Christmas holiday. There had been a real bad ice storm the night before, and although Dallas was ok, places like OKC, TUL, AMA MAF, LBB, and LIT got it bad and flights wre either delayed or cancelled all over the place. I have never ever seen the lines so long. The line to the ticket counter snaked back and forth and then went out into the lobby all the way to the statue of the Texas Ranger. There had to be 150 - 200 people in line ahead of me. It still only took 17 minutes to get to the head of the line.

Here's another example of how Southwest does things more efficiently, saving them time and money and enabling them to provide better customer service than the majors.

They don't use drink carts.

Think about it. They don't have to pay the cost of buying all those drink carts. That saves money. They don't have the extra weight of the drink carts, which, I would assume saves on fuel. They don't have to waste a lot of time loading up the drink cart after take-off, and they don't have to unload it and stow everything prior to landing. They just make the drinks in the galley and bring them out to you on trays.

This is why, on Southwest, you can get a full drink service on a short AUS-DAL flight, whereas on the other carriers, you either get something like Fast Break Service, where your choices are limited, or you hear "Due to the short duration of this flight there will be no beverage service". Plus, you are never faced with a drink cart blocking your way to the lav.

LoneStarMike

User currently offlineGoingboeing From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 4875 posts, RR: 16
Reply 16, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 1647 times:

All this is true, but no doubt the fact that Southwest has much lower wage costs than the majors is certainly a huge advantage, thus the secret of its success.

Really? Why are all the other airlines still losing money, even though they have all agreed to wages well below that paid to SWA employees. The fact of the matter in "wage costs" is this - SWA employees are paid remarkably close (if not more than) employees at other airlines. Their productivity makes the difference. What other airline would allow a pilot to help clean up a cabin between flights without the fear of having a grievance filed against him or her?


User currently offlineTi717 From United States of America, joined exactly 14 years ago today! , 227 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 1604 times:

>So if they don't have assigned seating then what happens everyone just >runs to the plane and tries to grab their seat before anyone else?( I know >that is not how it happens) So can anyone tell me how people are seated?

SWA boards in groups of 30. You get a number (was plastic boarding cards, now paper) when you check in. So the first 30 people to check in boards first. It does help to promote people to get to the airport early. In some airports the loading door is Divided in to 3 rows so you line up in your group of 30 to help load quicker.

SWA has even look at to try to load quick by dual loading a 737. One bridge to the back door and one to front door. It was done at AUS and DAL for mainly the trip between the two cities.

TI717
Fly Texas International



Sir, don't you think we should turn on the runway lights?" "No, that's just what there expecting us to do!"
User currently offline737doctor From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1332 posts, RR: 39
Reply 18, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 1534 times:

All this is true, but no doubt the fact that Southwest has much lower wage costs than the majors is certainly a huge advantage, thus the secret of its success.

Really? Why are all the other airlines still losing money, even though they have all agreed to wages well below that paid to SWA employees. The fact of the matter in "wage costs" is this - SWA employees are paid remarkably close (if not more than) employees at other airlines. Their productivity makes the difference. What other airline would allow a pilot to help clean up a cabin between flights without the fear of having a grievance filed against him or her?

Goingboeing is correct. Here is a little example using mechanics' pay:

Pay rates are for a topped-out (six-year mechanic) in 2003 without line pay.

American-$36.75/hr
Northwest-$34.64/hr
United-$36.71/hr
Southwest-$36.23/hr

Not much difference (and this is before possible concessions which would put Southwest at the top).



Patrick Bateman is my hero.
User currently offlineTravatl From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 2173 posts, RR: 7
Reply 19, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 1531 times:

Actually LoneStarMike -

the drink cart saves more time, but yes does add weight. The carts come stocked and ready to go (i.e...they are not stocked in the air, but are simply, pulled out, doors opened, and down the aisle the cabin crew goes...)

When catering...they are simply wheeled off, and new carts wheeled on. Before we (AirTran) used drink carts, catering took much longer during a turn to complete as the cater had to place by hand EVERY CAN OF SODA put on the aircraft. The carts are much more efficient when it comes to quick turns...

Travis


User currently offlineGigneil From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 16347 posts, RR: 85
Reply 20, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 1524 times:

The number 1 secret to southwest's success:

Happy employees that want the company to succeed.

N


User currently offline737doctor From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1332 posts, RR: 39
Reply 21, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 1512 times:

The number 1 secret to southwest's success:

Happy employees that want the company to succeed.


Yep, read my first post.



Patrick Bateman is my hero.
User currently offlineLoneStarMike From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 3811 posts, RR: 34
Reply 22, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 1447 times:

Southwest is successful because they know how to KISS. (Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

Rather than having 23 different fares in a particular city-pair, they have 7 or 8. Less stuff for the reservations people to have to remember, which cuts down on the time needed to process a reservation, permitting Southwest agents to process more reservations per hour than their counterparts at the majors, plus it makes it easier for the passengers to find the fares that will work for them.

There was a pretty good article by Joe Brancatelli about two weeks ago that discussed this issue.

Why can't the Big Six Kiss?
01/30/2003

http://www.zyworld.com/brancatelli/bf2003/branc013003.htm

Another way Southwest keeps things simple is the way they schedule their flights. All flights are scheduled to arrive or depart at 5 minute intervals i.e. 7:00, 7:05, 7:10, etc. On the majors, they'll show a flight departing at 7:03 a.m. and arriving at 8:49 a.m. I can't really explain why, but to me it just seems more efficient to round your departure/arrival times up or down to the nearest 5 minute increment rather than trying to show the exact minute. Makes it easier for passengers to remember their arrival/departure times, too.

LoneStarMike

User currently offlinePenguinflies From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 988 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 1398 times:

While SWA tops out near the majors, what is the average wage SWA pays?

Aren't their labor costs more inline with industry average instead of industry leading?

I do agree that productivity in SWA is much higher than their competition.

While people said happy employees, IMO what makes them happy employees is they have invested in the airline. It is to their benefit to see the company succeed, because when the company succeeds, they get more $$$ in the form of either dividends or stock.


User currently offlineAdh214 From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 358 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (11 years 5 months 2 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 1394 times:

A few people have discussed Southwest wages. I have a question about wages at Southwest:

1. Does a union pilot, FA or mechanic at Southwest really make that much less than a union pilot, FA or mechanic at AA, UA or DL on a per year basis?

I thought that Southwest people make about the same amount of money per year, it is just that they get a heck of a lot more work done during that year. For example, do pilots at AA and SW both make about $150,000 per year it is just that the SW pilot flies 1000 hours per year while the AA pilot flies only 700 per year?

Personally, I love Southwest but fly American because of the Wright AAmendment. (I live in Dallas and have to go to Boston frequently.) In fact I am AAdvantage Gold on American and I don't see any special perks other than extra miles. I check in at the automated machine and get my boarding pass like everyone else.


25 Post contains images 737doctor : While people said happy employees, IMO what makes them happy employees is they have invested in the airline. It is to their benefit to see the company
26 ONT 737 : One thing I have noticed... Southwest stays clear of partime employees. At my station I would say that almost half of our workforce are partime. It co
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