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Teamwork

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Jerome Schaum is a Baltimore/Washington-based First Officer How can Southwest Airlines turn an airplane in 25 minutes?  The answer is Teamwork.  Like a NASCAR pit crew, Ramp Agents, Fuelers, Provisioning Agents, Mechanics, and service personnel swarm the airplane as soon as it parks at the gate.  In the cabin, Flight Attendants clean each row of seats as soon as Customers vacate them.  In the terminal, the Gate Agents are helping more Customers checkin, while the Operations Agents are preparing to begin the boarding process.  In the cockpit, the First Officer is busy preparing the aircraft to fly to the next destination.  Meanwhile, the Captain is assisting in cleaning the cabin or aiding in the preboarding of Customers with disabilities. Even the boarding Customers are helping by lining up in the boarding groups. Everyone is working--and--working hard--from the sweat-soaked Ramp Crew to the Captain.  This is the Southwest Airlines that we don't advertise:  No cute commercials, and no self-deprecating wit.  Just hard work...and plenty of it.  With over 3,200 daily departures, this collective, cooperative effort unfolds daily in all four corners of this country. Of course, it doesn't seem like work when you are having fun.  There is a satisfaction in knowing you are part of a Team, a combined effort producing a greater result than any individual effort.  Yet a Team is only a group of individuals dedicated to a common goal, ably led, competently trained, and reasonably empowered.  These are the real reasons why we can turn an airplane in 25 minutes:  Leadership, training, and dedication!  
14 Comments
Chris3
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It's also the reason that Southwest has been able to turn a profit every year since 1973. This kind of efficiency and teamwork is something any company should envy. If I was starting ANY KIND OF BUSINESS, I would love to talk to Herb just to get his insights on what to do to create a successful one. My roomie is a ramp agent for Continental and admits that they could never turn planes this fast. Incidentally, Southwest is about the only other airline that he respects.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jerome, What an excellent post! Your well-written and passionate explanation of some of the wonderful examples of the Employee Warrior spirit is an inspiration to us all, and is surely an eye-opener for folks who don't quite realize, and probably don't see, the collective efforts that are a part of what makes Southwest the GREATEST airline in the world!! Best wishes and safe travels, Kim 🙂
Dwayne
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Great article! If only I could get our team as 'ramped up'. I'm an aircraft loadmaster in the Air Force (retiring soon!) an have always wondered how LUV can turn a jet in 25 minutes.... yet there are many times when we have to sit on the ground wondering Who, What, When, Where, and Why... Anyway, thanks for the great work folks! V/r Dwayne
Karleen
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Ever since I studied the SWA business model in b-school I have been an admirer of the turnaround time. I don't know how many times I've stood in the A line listening to nervous novice passengers as they check their watch. "We can't be leaving on time -- there's no plane out there!" they start muttering as much as an hour early. (Yep, I'm one of the ones who lines up an hour early -- I'll be sitting during the flight anyway.) Some of these folks probably think I'm nuts, but I usually seize the opportunity to tell them exactly how long it will take to turn the plane, what that has to do with those of us standing there so early, and why this makes SWA so darn good. I've even taken a few good natured [non-monetary] bets on this and so far, SWA has not caused me to lose. If only I could find the same level of consistency in other parts of the road warrior experience!
Garrett1
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yup yup, and I still find it funny that ryanair said it was impossible to clean a plane in 25 mins, when you do it all the time. SWA is the best..
Mark12
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I LUV most things about Southwest! If they can turn a plane in 25 mins why can't they deliver the baggage in 25 mins. I fly out of Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale often. The last 10 times it has taken almost an hour to get your bags.....the flight from Baltimore to Lauderdale is only 2.5 hours. Long delivery times existed before the latest security threat caused people to check more bags. In Baltimore, SW has a brand new terminal so luggage delivery ought to be a no brainer. I am glad however that SW has a liberal bag/weight policy. Most European low cost airlines charge you for more than 1 bag and over 20 kilos which we in the US are not used to. Makes you appreciate the little things in life cause overweight fees hurt (last one was US 190 flying Easyjet....
Maegan
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As a SWA Customer Service Agent I have seen the scenario that Karleen talks about every single day. I will be at the gate and for every flight there is at least one "novice" SWA customer who will approach the desk and ask "Are we leaving on time? I don't see a plane out there!" And 90% of the time they don't believe me when I say that we will leave on time. When a flight comes in, everyone knows what is expected of them, the rampers, the crew, the ops agent and customer sevice agent, and we hop right to it. My job is to make sure the passengers know we are boarding their flight, what gate that flight is boarding at, to look for who is missing once we are boarded, and get any stand by passengers on if there is room...never mind if the flight oversells, or any special passenger issues! So, when you think about it, it really is amazing that we turn those planes in 25 minutes. Like everyone else, I am proud to be part of such an amazing team! ~Maegan, MHT CSA
Leah4
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Would helping serve peanuts count as teamwork, even though I'm not (yet) an FA? I've done it before & I had so much fun-really! 🙂
Jay_Mathis
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I screwed up, having to fly on Christmas Day, i booked the non stop on American from Portland to Dallas. So we start boarding 30 minutes before departure time, the plane backs from the gate 15 minutes after departure. Landing in Dallas was on time, we touched down at 8:11, whoops we are early no gate, captain says 5 minutes, 25 minutes later we pull into the gate, i get my bag from baggage at 9:15. Whoops we landed at the A concourse and I'm parked at the C concourse. 9:30 I'm in my car. I figure if I'd flow SWA through Albuquerque, I'd have made it home quicker with about 1.5 hours less on and airplane.
Jim8
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How many airlines have pilots who help bring customers in wheelchairs onto the plane? How many airlines have station managers who are happy to search a plane for a cell phone or jacket left by a deplaning passenger. How many airlines have flight attendants who after quickly cleaning the cabin of the plane then ask if they can help by escorting the unaccompanied children down onto the plane? How many airlines have ground personnel who order pizza or sandwiches from off property for flight crew members who are still working delayed flights long after the airport restaurants are closed for the night? How many airlines have vacationing employees from different stations come up to the agents working a flight and ask if there is anything they can do to help? I work for Southwest and I see examples like this every day.
Freddie_John_Wi
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Hi, I checked you all out about flying to austin from beaumont tx. The only flights I could find were from houston hobby to austin and back. For me and my six year old son it was 79 dollars one way ++ or a total of 358 dollars. We recently went to visit his grandfather where the roundtrip was over 6000 miles. The air fare roundtrip for one of us was almost the same as the price of what it would cost both of us to go round trip to austin. Needless to say we are going to turn down your price to go to austin for a few hours. I think that you should have a place to email correspondence to. May GOD bless us all. john wieder
Rev_Bilal
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Great article. Teamwork is indeed very important and essential for any enterprise. Oh btw, I strongly recommend reading the following article on work. It is very useful: http://www.cvtips.com/working_as_a_team.html
Jon111
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Anyone know where to find the following on Southwest? Ã
Brian_Miller1
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As a recent passenger on Southwest I was very impressed to see the Captain in the back cleaning the cabin with a smile on his face. I saw another first on that flight - a Captain standing in front of all the passengers explaining a delay over the flight attendant's PA microphone. Then he asked....."Any questions?" What a brave soul to see if any of the 150 some passengers had any questions about the delay. Obviously people like this Captain care about their customers. Southwest isn't fancy but they get the job done better than most airlines. People like Jerome that are "having fun" while working are why I feel good about giving Southwest my business. The pilots also know how to fly. They are not afraid to fly the aircraft, help out ATC by speeding up/slowing down or making a visual approach. They are PILOTS not autopilot operators. Brian Miller