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.
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?
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.