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.