The truth is Southwest almost was a MD80 operator.
Here's the tale: As you know, USAir and Southwest were the co-launch customers for the Boeing 737-300.
Southwest discovered that Boeing had made USAir a better price on the aircraft than they (Boeing) were willing to offer Southwest.
Southwest did not much care for this idea, and told Boeing as much. Boeing hemmed and hawed and offered a few concessions but failed to match the USAir price.
It was about this time that CrAAndall had ordered 175 MD80s. So Southwest called up McDonnell-Douglas and basically said "we've been happy with the 737, and we really aren't in the market to switch, but we're beginning to think on it some. It'll be a long shot but we would like to see the MD80 and see what you can do for us."
McDonnell-Douglas took a MD80 down to Love Field and flew the WN
folks around on it. Then they offered to sell WN
the cookie-cutter standard AA
version of the MD80 atthe exact same price that American was paying...somewhere around 14 or 15 Million, as I recall.
When Boeing found out about this they had people falling all over themselves at Love Field to do whatever was necessary to keep Southwest Airlines as a customer.
And in the long run it was probably good that they did. I have no doubt that WN
would have done okay with the MD80s. But the special deal Boeing made USAir certainly kept them loyal Boeing customers, didn't it?