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Southwest Airlines Community

Flashback Fridays: 25 Years of Culture

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It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago when Colleen called 15 Southwest Employees to come together to talk about our Company’s Culture.  It was probably the first official meeting where folks sat around and actually discussed this phenomenon. I was very blessed to be a member of that special group that became known as the Companywide Culture Committee.  At that time in 1990, our Southwest Family had grown to almost 9,000 Employees, and we were starting to plan for Southwest’s 20th Anniversary.  It was the goal of the Committee to ensure our Southwest Culture would continue to grow as we expanded our wings. For the previous 20 years, it was like magical fairy dust had infused our thoughts, behaviors, and values.  From Day One, Southwest Airlines Employees fought very hard for survival.  And we never stopped fighting because we knew what we had created was worth fighting for.  From Day One, we knew all airlines did the same thing—they fly passengers from Point A to Point B.  But we also had this uncanny confidence, or perhaps it was just an audacious attitude, to know that we could be different and stand out from the competition simply by treating our Customers the way they wanted to be treated.  We also treated each other with great respect.  And we knew how to have FUN with our Customers and each other. Something else we knew from Day One was that we—every single one of us—had to watch our costs very carefully.  In those early days, there wasn’t much money in the bank, and we were like a family living from paycheck to paycheck.  But our commitment to our business responsibilities and to each other made us stronger.  And just like a family, Southwest Airlines knew it was important to share the profits when they finally came in 1973.  That’s when Southwest started the first ProfitSharing Plan in the airline industry, and we’ve been profitable ever since. After many years, we finally put a name to all these great values.  We call them “Living the Southwest Way” with a Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and FUN-LUVing Attitude.  Oh, and we gave that magical fairy dust a name somewhere along the way too.  We define it as the Southwest Culture.  It probably seems strange for one of the World’s Most Admired Companies to talk about magical fairy dust.  The word “Culture” does seem more sophisticated.  But I have to confess, I still believe in that fairy dust that seemed to land upon all of the original Employees of Southwest Airlines.  And for almost 44 years, we’ve tried to generously sprinkle it on every New Hire who steps through the doors of Southwest Airlines. I know there are many passionate Employees just like me who believe in this intangible magic that sets us apart, and that’s why hundreds of you have proudly served on the Companywide Culture Committee since its inception 25 years ago!  It’s important that we never lose our great Culture or we would be losing the very thing that has made us special and unique from Day One. Since you now know that I believe in magic, it’s probably not surprising that I also believe in wishes.  And my wish for each of you is that you will treasure our remarkable Southwest Culture and will do everything you possibly can to create, enrich, and protect it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be a part of this one-of-a-kind LUV story that we call Southwest Airlines!