airworthy
Posts: 752
Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2001 7:05 am

Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 12:59 am

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.
 
FlyingTexan
Posts: 2998
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2003 8:30 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 2:30 am

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).



"Wouldn't your boss like to fly home nonstop at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon?" -Airline Exec to Congressional Staffer
 
jhooper
Posts: 5560
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RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 2:52 am

How does seating assignments make a difference?
Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
 
ScooterTrash
Posts: 553
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2001 10:39 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:04 am

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.
 
goingboeing
Posts: 4727
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 1999 1:58 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:54 am

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.
 
Cody
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Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 12:16 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:55 am

I agree with everything Scootertrash said. The funny thing is, Southwest learned everything they know from PSA.
 
goingboeing
Posts: 4727
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 1999 1:58 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:57 am

no they didn't cody...they skipped the lesson in "merge with another airline".
 
FlyingTexan
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Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2003 8:30 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 4:15 am

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
"Wouldn't your boss like to fly home nonstop at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon?" -Airline Exec to Congressional Staffer
 
masseybrown
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Joined: Wed Dec 11, 2002 2:40 pm

RE: CoEx: CLE-AUS And CLE-SAT

Mon Feb 17, 2003 4:15 am

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.
 
sllevin
Posts: 3312
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2002 1:57 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 9:34 am

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
 
Tango-Bravo
Posts: 2887
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2001 1:04 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 2:05 pm

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.
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:09 pm

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.
 
Dash8King
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Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2001 8:45 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:16 pm

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?
 
FlyingTexan
Posts: 2998
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2003 8:30 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 3:36 pm

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!!!
"Wouldn't your boss like to fly home nonstop at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon?" -Airline Exec to Congressional Staffer
 
Ciro
Posts: 639
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RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 8:24 pm

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.
 
LoneStarMike
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Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2000 1:02 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 10:19 pm

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

 
goingboeing
Posts: 4727
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 1999 1:58 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Mon Feb 17, 2003 11:40 pm

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?
 
ti717
Posts: 220
Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2000 11:33 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Tue Feb 18, 2003 3:48 am

>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!"
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Tue Feb 18, 2003 10:04 am

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.
 
travatl
Posts: 1943
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2001 4:57 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Tue Feb 18, 2003 10:23 am

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
 
gigneil
Posts: 14133
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2002 10:25 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Tue Feb 18, 2003 10:28 am

The number 1 secret to southwest's success:

Happy employees that want the company to succeed.

N
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Tue Feb 18, 2003 11:07 am

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.
 
LoneStarMike
Posts: 2802
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2000 1:02 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Wed Feb 19, 2003 3:01 am

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

 
penguinflies
Posts: 932
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2000 12:00 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Wed Feb 19, 2003 9:38 am

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.
 
adh214
Posts: 346
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 1999 6:07 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Wed Feb 19, 2003 9:55 am

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.
 
737doctor
Posts: 1291
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2001 4:52 pm

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Wed Feb 19, 2003 10:02 am

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.

Did I not mention stock options and profitsharing?

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?


Did I not give the mechanics' pay rates of AA, NW, UA & SWA?

Is this thing plugged in?  Confused
Patrick Bateman is my hero.
 
ont 737
Posts: 606
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2001 10:19 am

RE: Secrets To Southwest's Success?

Wed Feb 19, 2003 10:07 am

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 costs almost just as much to keep a partimer as it does a FT employee, (benefits, admin stuff, etc) and you only get half the hours out of them. Another thing is that I see (but not in all) is that their company loyalties are not quite as strong. To them it is just a partime side job so they can get flight benefits. Also, I know some partimers that make just as much (or more) than FT employees. They just work their 20 hr/wk schedule and pick up another 20hr+ of open shifts and guess what..... those extra shifts will pay 150-200% of their normal pay. In CLE we have 2 flights a day, (finally adding a 3rd in a few months) take a guess how many employees we have there......... 34 (give or take a few)