In October 1974, a significant milestone in becoming a profitable airline was reached when what would become our fourth aircraft went into revenue service. N24SW, the first 737 built by Boeing following an order from Southwest, would become the first time our “H4” customer code was affixed to an aircraft rolling off the factory floor for delivery.
The first three aircraft used in our initial service on day one had been built for other airlines, which for a variety of reasons were not in a position to take possession of. Thanks to their immediate availability and a great financing offer from Boeing, we were able to place them into service just a few weeks later. Later in 1971, another aircraft (N25SW) came on board, but had to be sold shortly after in order to stay in business. Since the schedule published for four aircraft had to be maintained with just three, our legendary ten-minute turn was implemented to keep the operation alive. And thanks to the tireless work of our original Employees, not only did it keep us in business; it also help turn the first profit.
After our first annual profit, Southwest was in a position to finally consider additional service. In order to grow, both in frequency and a possible fourth destination, a new plane would be required. Being in a position to place an order with a manufacturer for one of the biggest capital investments an airline makes was a big deal, and helped forge our partnership with Boeing that remains strong today. It’s a process that has been repeated hundreds of time since over the last 44-plus years, and will continue for many more as the largest operator of 737s anywhere in the world. We’ve come along ways from just four planes to a fleet of 700 today.