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Flashback Fridays--Southwest Airlines' Early San Antonio Days

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So far in these weekly series looking back at Southwest Airline’s history, we have devoted a lot of space to Dallas Love Field.  That’s understandable because our Headquarters is here and this was our original Crew and Maintenance base.  Most of the photos were taken here because of that.  However, we have two other cities—Houston and San Antonio—that complete the “Texas Triangle” of original cities.  I’ve found almost zero early photos of our first Houston operation at Intercontinental, but this week, I’d thought we would look at a few I found from San Antonio.


If Dallas has always been our operational home, San Antonio is the place Southwest was born.  Our two Founders, Herb Kelleher and Rollin King, lived there and met there.  Herb was a San Antonio lawyer who helped Rollin liquidate his small airline that was serving the Rio Grande Valley from San Antonio.  Herb’s legal secretary in San Antonio was our President Emeritus Colleen Barrett.  Along the way, and most of it in the bar at the St. Anthony Hotel, the idea for Southwest was born.  If that weren’t enough by itself, San Antonio has produced a large share of our Leadership from Herb and Colleen to our current Chairman, President, and CEO, Gary Kelly.  Ron Ricks, our Executive Vice President Corporate Services and former CEO, Jim Parker all have San Antonio ties.  That’s the tip of the San Antonio “iceberg” at Southwest.

So what did the San Antonio facility look like shortly after Herb and Rollin’s baby took to the sky?  In our archives, I found three very early photos of the airport’s interior.  The first one above illustrates how folks traveled in the early 70s.  Note the Customer with the hat, and look at all the women carrying makeup cases.  It appears there is a businesswoman with her briefcase in the center of the photo, so things were changing.  If you look closely you can see one of the cash register that dispensed tickets.


The ticket counter was located in the original terminal (which is now called Terminal Two), and this side view of our counter shows just how small it really was.  Look carefully because there is no ticket counter to the side of ours.  Am I right in remembering that it was located away from those belonging to the other airlines?  It’s kind of hard to read, given the size limitations we have for photos here, but the signs behind the counter are advertising a fare sale to Dallas.

The gate area above was rather Spartan, and again, if I remember correctly, it had no windows.  You walked through a door in the wall to enter the jetbridge.  The lady standing by herself is giving a suspicious look to the photographer. 

San Antonio has a rich history of individuality and independence.  After all, it is the site of the Alamo where Texans rebelled against the established order.  It really isn’t surprising that an airline founded and led by San Antonians would be unique and rebellious.

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Would have any of the dates of the operation? Dates leases were signed, training began, construction was completed?
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The terminal in which WN began operations in 1971 at SAT will close soon after 57 years of service and be demolished early next year. WN's San Antonio operations moved to Terminal 1 (soon to be renamed Terminal A) in 1984.
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Very cool SWA. I remember walking past that ticket counter like it was yesterday - however my first SWA flight from SAT was after the move to Terminal 1 - alluded to above.
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The location of the SAT ticket counters shown in the early 1970s photos would probably have been in an early 1960s-era annex that was originally constructed for international arrivals. It was located SE of Terminal 2, and was connected to the main terminal building by an enclosed walkway. It was demolished in the early 1980s to make way for Terminal 1 and the parking garage. The Federal Inspection Service had moved to the lower level of the Terminal 2 "satellite" gate area when that addition was completed in 1968.