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Three Decades of Southwest Airlines

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I’m amazed that I’m old enough to have been working for 30 years, let alone 30 years at one company.  I began training to be a Reservations Sales Agent at Southwest Airlines in 1981 at our Consolidated Reservation Center.  Over the next quarter of a century I worked in our Dallas Reservation Center (1997), the Utah Reservation Center (1998), the Albuquerque Reservation Center (2004), and moved to Dallas to join the Customer Relations Writing Team in Dallas (2007).

The “way it was” 30 years ago:

  • There were no jetbridges, and our Customers boarded with air-stairs
  • Nonrevenue passes were yellow, four-part carbon paper
  • None of our flights were affected by the Wright Amendment because we didn’t fly into a state that didn’t border Texas
  • What is now CS&S (Reservations) was part of the Ground Operations Department
  • Prepaid Customer tickets were recorded by hand on index cards
  • Our approximately 3,000 Employees split the yearly profits equally, and we each received an annual bonus check
  • Union enrollment was optional
  • Future date Group Desk reservations were recorded in a notebook
  • Reservations Sales Agents advised every Customer that their receipt was their roundtrip ticket and lost tickets were not replaced
  • Our flight schedules were in a paper notebook, not in the Bunker Ramo computers
  • Reservations were held without the Customer’s first name or phone number, and we had no confirmation numbers
  • We used one-letter airport city codes instead of three-letter codes
  • We did not have a toll-free number as each city was served by a local number
  • Checkin meant that our Customers would say their name into an audio cassette player at the gate, creating a manifest.  Once the flight landed safely, the “Ticket Agent” would reuse the tape for another flight.

Events that are etched in my memory and my heart: 

  • Attended the first San Antonio Message to the Field
  • One Chili Cook-Off was held on a grass runway airport in Denton with some guests arriving by parachute
  • Watched Herb accept his Harley Davidson motorcycle at a Chili Cook-Off held at Southfork Ranch
  • Seeing Herb dress up like a Cupid doll and sing Tea for Two with Jim Wimberly
  • Being part of a moving patriotic celebration for the delivery of our 500th aircraft
  • Surviving the aftermath of September 11and cheering with URC when our first aircraft took off from SLC
  • Attending the Barbara Cuff Memorial SRC vs. DRC Softball Tournament in SAT  benefiting the Ronald McDonald House
  • Being kissed by Herb at my Fifth Anniversary Award Banquets
  • Witnessing URC Zazoo win the Talent Contest at a Chili Cook-off
  • Being there when Herb received the Key to San Antonio
  • Helping build a Ronald McDonald House Good Shop Lollipop float with SRC Friends  for the San Antonio Fiesta Parade
  • Attending a KENS vs. SRC Basketball game at Churchill High School in San Antonio with Roger Staubach, some Spurs players, and Drew Pearson
  • Wearing a tie at SRC on Gary Delane Day
  • Seeing my name on the Triple Crown aircraft
  • Working in the “LIDS” Department (now Revenue Management) setting the booking levels
  • Knowing that my invitation to the delivery of our first 737-300 is autographed by Chuck Yeager, who piloted the aircraft from Dallas to Houston in 1984.  The Kitty Hawk now resides at the Frontiers of Flight Museum near Love Field
  • My husband, Larry, wrote a song called Non Rev Blues based on our tip with SRC friends to the SouthFork Chili Cook off
  • The honor of serving dinner at Ronald McDonald House in every city I’ve worked in as a SWA Employee
  • The memory of getting our first personal computer with Lotus software installed at SRC, and no one knew how to use it
  • Of the 22 Reservation Sales Agents in my training class, HOU CS&S

Representative, Debra Tolliver Duhon, HOU CSS and SC CS&S Representative, Laura Ames, and myself remain Employees.

Karen and Laura

All that said, I have a few new memories.  One is that my son-in-law recently started with for SWA in CS&S, and I recently had the pleasure of meeting my AirTran WingMate, Andy Robb, Ramp Sup in TPA.  I thank all my friends over the past three decades for making “work” so fun.  It’s the people that I’ve met along the way that make it all worthwhile.

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Karen, Congratulations to you - and Larry - for this great accomplishment. It was really fun to read how Southwest operated 30 years ago - and yes, we remember a lot of those procedures when we'd fly on Southwest. Our best wishes always.
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Congratulations, Karen!!! I am so happy to be one of the people you met along the way! 🙂
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Yes--it's hard to believe it's been 30 years and our entire adult life. We've seen a lot during our career at SWA and I'm proud to say we've survived the storms and look forward to a bright future. Rock On !!!
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Karen, Congrats Girlfriend! I have been one of your(found along the way friends) We can all thank Lyric for this! lol Love ya GF can not wait to see ya'll.
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CONGRATS Karen. . .I am so glad to have had the pleasure of meeting and now working with you!
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Karen! You should be on tour ! You are a wealth of history that should be shared with all of the Employees from coast to coast. I so loved working with you back in SLC and often think about those times. (nice mention on Zazou) Congratulations and please know that its not how much Southwest has touched your heart but how much you have touched the heart of so many through Southwest .....we luved u then and and we Luv you even more now!
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Karen & Larry, you have blessed our lives for so many years. Not only have you been a wonderful friend to our Roy, you have been a 'daughter' we never had. Congratulations on this milestone. We love you. Bonnie & Walt
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Awesome!!!!! What a tremendous accomplishment. It was a pleasure reading your journey. You have touch many lives with great joy. Your Warrior spirit beams throughout each day and I very much enjoy working with you!!!!!!! Uylandras
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Congratulations! I know it has been an amazing 30 years for you. Some ups and some downs (more ups I'm sure). I know you've enjoyed the benefit of being able to travel so much. Wish I had gone that route myself! Take care.
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Karen, I can't believe that you've worked for that wonderful company for 30 years, I only wish I would have been able to have done that too! I learned an awful lot just now about what it was like for you to start there 30 years ago without computers etc. Thanks for sharing that with us and congratulations
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No wonder SWA is my favorite airline, Karen is behind the scenes making it happen with the rest of the dedicated staff!!!!