SWAFA30, I'm assuming you work for Southwest? Give us YOUR opinion of the PHL decision.
That's a tough question to answer. I have worked for Southwest for close to 8 years and watched the company literally double in size. Since I started working here we have added service to PVD
, ORF, JAX
, and RDU
. I have watched BWI
grow from simply an alternative to DCA
into the engine that has driven our phenomonal success in the northeast. When I started the airplanes were orange, the -300 was our flagship and a 3 hour flight was a long haul. The SWA of today is in many ways, not the company I came to work for.
Management's track record speaks for itself. Their decison making and guidance have produced quarter after quarter after quarter of profitability.
This is especially impressive in light of the economic beating the airline industry has taken over the past few years. It is patently obvious that this teams know how to run an airline.
What is different now, from when I signed on back in 1996 is that we are no longer the only low cost game in town. In years past, the well of LCC demand was deep but the supply was very limited. We had the luxury to take our time and select our markets carefully, knowing that the cities we passed on would be patiently waiting when got around to them. Those days are over. We are not simply competing with the other majors, we are competing with other LCCs who are trying their best to out-Southwest, Southwest.
The industry has changed, drastically. The challenge now is to figure out how to tweak our business model to keep pace with the marketplace and preserve our core strengths. Management has a tough job. There has to be a temptation to morph SWA into jetBlue version 2.0 in the way jetBlue is essentially Southwest version 2.0. The only problem is that while jetBlue's success is undeniable, their long term viability is still a question mark. If we remake ourselves in jetBlue's image and jetBlue falters, then what? On the other hand if we sit out of the game too long and jetBlue continues to flourish...we then find ourselves struggling to play catch up. In some ways our size robs us of the agility that at one times was a major asset. It takes longer to slow and turn a cruise ship than a speedboat.
Stay the course or keep up with the jetBlueses? It would seem that management has decided to do a little of both. They are eschewing pricey frills and making do with less expensive "tweaks" to our product. For example, there are no definitive plans for IFE or assigned seating. We have made livery and interior changes but the overall product remains decidely no-frills. On the other hand with PHL
, you see us straying a bit from the model by making an almost unprecented foray into another carrier's fortress hub. The almost universal opinion is that PHL
is a delay proned headache that we could have easily avoided by going to ABE
. But, management has gone on record as saying that we simply could not let jetBlue get there first. PHL
will be a pivotal station for us. The lessons learned there could help SWA rewrite it's playbook. If PHL
is really as bad as everyone says and we can make it work, really work. Then what major airports that were previously off-limits are now on our radar screen? ATL
? Likewise, we are using the flexibility of the 737 model to branch out into longhaul transcon routes to make sure that we stay in that game too. Jim Paker and Gary Kelly have both been quoted in the press as saying that we are looking at smaller jets. Though it would be tough to let go of our nearly 40 year love affair with a single model...I think if we needed to do so to compete, we would do it when it became an absolute necessity and not a moment sooner.
Overall, I think management is doing an amazing job of trying to stay ahead of the trends in an industry that can turn on a dime. I'm not inclined to fall in lockstep behind a team because they sign my paycheck. However, until they do something to lose it, they have my trust. In my opinion they have earned it. As I said earlier, their track record speaks for itself.
[Edited 2003-11-16 02:42:37]