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Flashback Fridays: Early Southwest Print Advertisements

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In keeping with our 40th Anniversary year, let’s take a look at some of our earliest print advertisements.  As anyone who has studied or experienced Southwest Airline’s earliest days will know, our cash was short, but we were long on creativity and gumption, which really shows in some of these advertisements.

Above is a small portion of one of our earliest and splashiest advertisements, which was timed to coincide with our first flights.  The two-page newspaper ad served as an introduction to the differences between Southwest and the existing airlines.  The copy next to the Flight Attendant is really the first definition of what we call the Southwest “Fun-LUVing Attitude,” and it says:  “She will not plee-aze you.  Plee-aze is stiff, formal, and very affected English for please.  People who say plee-aze to you are trying very, very hard to be nice to you.  Too hard.  And it isn’t real.  It’s like plastic flowers vs. real flowers.  You can feel the difference.  That’s why in our hostess school, we haven’t taught our girls how to be nice to you.  We figure if they didn’t already know, they weren’t for us.”  A company would never call its women Employees "girls" these days, but you have to keep in mind that society was much different in 1971, and our primary Customers were businessmen.

The picture above offers ample proof of our target audience.  The copy for this Houston-based ad explains that you should be able to walk up to the gate and board the flight you want without a reservation.  Our loads at the time were so low that we could advertise, “Don’t worry about reservations when you fly Southwest Airlines.”  And, we went on to explain that, if for some reason the flight should be full, we would guarantee you a seat on the next flight for free.  All you needed to do was to arrive at Gate 31 in Terminal B at Houston Intercontinental at least five minutes before departure time.

Above we see a slightly later full-page ad from the Dallas area, and it proclaims that you could save up to $16 by flying Southwest instead of the other guys.  The small copy that is unreadable with this size photo offers suggestions on what that $16 could buy instead of air fare.

Not all of our advertisements were full pages or even branded with the Southwest name.  Above is a collection of small advertisements that would be placed throughout the newspaper, and the ads contain only our old reservations number, along with some humorous and suggestive advertisements.  Some of the sayings read:  “Our girls have a way with men,” which referred to Customer Service from our Flight Attendants.  “Call this number and get physically elevated,” referred to taking off in an airplane, and “$20 can buy you love,” was the cost of a ticket to Houston and an early reference to the “LUV airline.”

In a similar vein, this later 1970s advertisement doesn’t mention Southwest either, but the heart and the “love” reference leave little doubt about who is behind the copy.

7 Comments
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No other place to put this, but, way to go SW in getting the grandfather to his grandson on time.
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I love Southwest. i want to work for them. A summer internship would be amazing... but there are no positions opened... Can you help me out?
Active Member
Another blast from the past :-) Assuming you take requests Brian, how about an article/ad on the old name for SW's peanuts, "Lovebites" if memory serves. Paul In CRP
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Thank you for the great posts! Brian, I just wanted to tell you, I think these posts, flashback fridays, are some of the most interesting blog posts. It's always to so interesting to see how operations or processes occurred in the past. Thank you for taking the time to write them! Rich
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Hi Diego, If you haven't already, I'd suggest uploading your resume to www.southwest.com/careers and set up job notifications so you can know when we're accepting intern applications. Hope that helps!
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From the start, and throughout, Southwest's business model has been the best: keep it simple!! Nothing fancy, just plain good value, and downhome service. No add-ons for luggage, change fees, premium fees for exit rows or aisle seats, fastest turn-arounds in the industry, best schedules, most reliable on-time service, best baggage handling, friendliest staff ... I'm a Million Miler with several legacy carriers, and domestic I'd rather fly with Southwest than ANY of them.The best single move you ever made was the "A", "B", "C" boarding passes .... if you can't remember to print your boarding pass a day ahead, well, "too bad pardner"! It got rid of the long skanky lines forming at your gates. My only (minor) gripes: STILL no pre-mixed Margaritas (c'mon, those i***ts at Continental have had them for years!), and dropping the drink coupons is a step back -- do you really want the cabin staff to have to be foolin' with credit card swipers on 55 minute flights? What's that all about? Otherwise, you guys and gals are the best, and I was there from the start, Love to Hobby! Go, Southwest!!
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Thanks for the kind words Rich. I really enjoy writing these posts.