During the mid to late 1980s, I traveled a great deal to client sites for extended engagements and my number one choice of aerial transportation was Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines, based out of Love Field near downtown Dallas, was created by the creative genius Herb Kelleher in the 1960s. His mission was simple: offer affordable plane trips to customers and make it fun! By keeping overhead at a minimum and processes simple (i.e. the frequent mile program consisted of a heart shaped punch hole in your Rapid Flyer card, offered employees abundant travel perks in lieu of high salaries, etc…) Kelleher created a dynasty that often times was the only major airline to show a profit.
Southwest’s early years were plagued by financial problems, political and governmental restraints as well as an identity crises for many years until finally growing into acquisition mode and buying up the likes of Muse Air, Frontier, ATA and recently AirTran Airways.
Being one of the top employers in the nation for employee satisfaction year upon year, Southwest has kept their mission alive and remained competitive through even the worst times the industry has seen.
Of course they’ve had their share of negative issues like when the old fleet of 727s began to show wear and tear within a relatively short period of times and when the bad publicity hit them regarding extra charges for additional carry-ons (additional to the free carry-ons in their promotions) and the incident regarding the mis-treatment of an obese passenger taking up 2 seats on the plane and being charged accordingly, but all-in-all, Southwest is still thriving and remains my number one choice for flying.
It’s great to be “free to fly about the country”.