Let’s take a step back in time for a little bit, back to the beginning of 1982 when Southwest Airlines was barely 10-years-old, carrying almost 6.8 million Customers and growing, and flying only about 110,000 flights a year. The little airline that fought so hard to get off the ground in 1971 finally was stretching its wings, and continuing to toward democratizing the sky while making flying affordable for all Americans.
On Jan. 31, 1982, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego were added to the Southwest map, marking the first time Southwest would touch down in those three states. These were our 15th, 16th, and 17th destinations. Four decades later, these three cities are mainstays in the Southwest network, and helped Southwest Airlines become a household name in western states.
1982 Southwest Airlines Route MapThanks to our unique approach to Customer Service, expansion, and winning new Customers, the Dallas-based airline began with a modest flight schedule in each airport, yet eventually would become the top airline in each of the three cities, making them anchor points for continued growth in those three states and beyond. In California, Southwest operates from 13 airports and carries the most people to, from, and within the Golden State than any other airline. Southwest is also the largest airline in Nevada serving both Las Vegas and Reno (Tahoe). In addition, in Arizona, Southwest carries the most people to and from the state than any other airline with service from both Phoenix and Tucson.
Southwest Airlines Employees and local officials cut the ribbon as Southwest begins service on Jan. 31, 1982As Southwest grew, we also saw Employee ranks grow. Today, Southwest employs more than 14,000 People in those three states combined, representing nearly 25% of the airline’s workforce!
Today, Southwest continues to grow throughout the west and beyond, including serving virtually every corner of the country nonstop, including Hawaii, and it would not have been possible without the airline landing at these three cities in the early 1980s.
Later this month, we’ll celebrate equally important 40th anniversaries. Kansas City (MCI) launched service on Feb. 18, Los Angeles (LAX) on Sept. 18, and our first foray into the Bay Area with service from San Francisco (SFO) began on Oct. 31. We eventually exited SFO and returned in 2007.
An artistic rendering of the Southwest Airlines expansion as seen on the cover of the 1982 Annual ReportIf you’re into airline history and want to learn more about the carrier’s growth in the early 1980s, take a look at the 1982 annual report on our investor relations website.