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"Welcome Aboard the Flight of Your Life"

sabercrombie
Not applicable
I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary with SWA. (Back then they actually hired 12-year olds!) Thinking back to my first day on the job, I remember how excited I was when I walked through the front door of the General Offices. I was about to embark on a new career with a Company with a strong reputation for encouraging its Employees to have FUN on the job, and I'm all about FUN! What I remember most, though is how well I was treated by my peers and how they all wanted to make sure I was comfortable in my new work environment and had the tools and recources to do my job to the best of my ability. I was taken on a tour of the building and was introduced to everyone--even the Officers of the Company. I was also given a list of upcoming events that would initiate me into the unique SPIRIT and Culture of SWA. (Little did I know 20 years ago that I would one day be in charge of organizing and executing most of those events!!) That first day really made an impression on me, and as I drove home through the dense Dallas traffic that evening, I knew I had found a home. In 2005, we hired 2,766 Employees, bringing our total number of Employees to almost 32,000 in 32 states! I wonder how many of those Employees felt that same excitement that I did on my first day? I wonder how many of them actually attended Company events in their first year of employment? I wonder how many Employees actually took a New Hire by the hand and walked them through their work location and introduced them to their Coworkers? Of course we were a much smaller Company back in 1986--we only had 5,819 Employees by year's end, but the attention paid to me by my new Coworkers was what got me engaged and helped me realize that I actually had a career--not just a job. I wanted to stay; I wanted to attend every Company event; and I looked forward to coming to work each day! Realizing how those small gestures of kindness can make or break a New Hire's impression of our Company, the Onboarding Department was formed this year. This group's goal is to instantly engage new Employees and to let them know how important they are to our Company. This group recently held "LUV at First Bite" lunches where New Hires could sit down and have lunch with our Officer group. They arrange these lunches around a Company event in hopes that the New Hires will stick around for the event. These were very successful during our Messages to the Field held in February. They also give each New Hire a lanyard to hold their Company i.d. that reads, "The Flight of your Life." To offset the cost of these lanyards, Employees may "sponsor" a New Hire by purchasing a lanyard and writing a message to him or her on a special card. When an Employee is hired, he or she receives the lanyard and the message welcoming him or her to the Company. At SWA, we feel the investment is certainly worth it! When you think about the costs that go into hiring and training a new Employee, this new endeavor is a win-win for everyone! There are many more initiatives underway to ensure the newest members of our Family feel welcome and appreciated--especially on that very first day!
19 Comments
Leah3
Not applicable
I cannot wait until the day comes when I become part of the Southwest family! I haven't even been asked back for flight attendant training yet-I have a group information session in Dallas on July 13th, so I know it will be awhile before training-but I'm continuing to think positively; I imagine myself as part of the SWA family everyday! 🙂
Anonymous4545
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Hey Sunny, Great post! I am Joe Gonzalez , former employee. I was the co-chairman of the PHX Local Culture Committee with Tamara Bouno. What you wrote is sooo True! I miss working for Southwest, I took on a Full time Job at my church, which i love just as much, and could not handle both Jobs, though i gave it my best for 2 months! Southwest Airlines is a Great company to work for. Thank You for 12 1/2 years if LUV!!! Joe
Matt29
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As one of the lucky few new hires in 2005, I was excited to attend the Love at First Bite luncheon in Baltimore. At what other company would you get to sit next to the VP of Inflight, Daryl Krause (a great guy and a class act if I've ever seen one) and hug the President of the company Colleen Barrett? As for company events, I'm a new hire and I work 6 days a week to earn money. I suppose I'll get to go to the other (LAST!) Annual Chili Cookoffs and Spirit Parties down the road . Mmm..chilli!
Iris_M__Gross
Not applicable
I hope this isn't off-topic, but I was wondering just from the perspective of people who work at Southwest, how does the company feel about "older" workers or career changers? How hard would it be for a 40-something to put in for a job at Southwest?
blusk
Not applicable
Hi Iris, We LUV candidates of all ages, and many of our folks, in a huge range of positions are on their second or third careers at Southwest. I came to Southwest when I was 42, and eleven years late the diversity of our Employees has kept me young. Southwest is the only place where I have looked forward each day to coming to work. (Well, most every day, vacation is very good too!) If you are interested in joining us, please visit our careers page at southwest.com. Brian
FriendofBlogBoy
Not applicable
Sunny -- What a very nice piece you've written about your tenure at SWA! As a "student" of individual, as well as corporate behavior, I can assure you from many years (I'm not quite as old as my bud Brian Lusk, but I ain't far behind! 🙂 ) of observing people and companies, you are in a very special environment. Sadly, there are not very many companies left that value their employees as highly as SWA does. My father, who was a very successful businessman, taught me a number of important principles that he learned in the School of Hard Knocks. During the Depression, his family was only able to afford to send him to one year of college. After that, he worked the rest of his life. In his case, the 'real world' was his learning place instead of college, and he learned well about how to deal with people. Owning his own business for almost fifty years after managing several other companies gave him ample opportunity to interact with a lot of employees and customers. I never knew him to treat one of his employees any differently than he would a member of his own family, and he never looked down on an hourly member of his team as being any less valuable or a lower-class person than the salaried employees or the management. In addition, he told me early on in my career that the common adage "the customer is always right" is nothing short of WRONG!! His approach was that "the customer is always the CUSTOMER", and you treat them with the respect and courtesy that they deserve. But, there are times that the customer IS wrong and you have to deal with those circumstances accordingly. In much the same way, SWA flies in the face of popular business teaching that says "make the customer number one". Herb very correctly understood that what HAS to be number one in an organization is its people. He makes that abundantly clear not only through expressions of spoken or written business philosophy, but more importantly, through day to day practice. I've seen plenty of companies that tell their employees how important they are, but their actions don't agree with their words. But, results speak very loudly, and the consistent and ongoing popularity and growth of SWA are testaments to they way their people are treated. If you treat your employees well, then you get attitudes like the ones that you and Brian have stated -- they ENJOY their jobs. What better prescription or recipe for getting your employees to treat your customers well than to make sure that your employees are happy? Guess how a grumpy employee treats their customers? Yup -- grumpily. Herb simply put into practice on a large scale the axiom that is well-known among married men. "If Momma ain't happy, ain't NO ONE happy". The inverse is also true; you make Momma (the employees) happy and then everyone (customers/fellow employees/kids/your dog, etc.) will reap the benefits! I'm glad that you and Brian recognize and appreciate what a special and unique situation you have. The fact that you do see it and value it indicates that it is working! There is an expression that "good guys finish last", but Herb has finished way ahead of the pack for years and I am convinced it is not an accident or fluke. The success of SWA, in my opinion, is DIRECTLY attributable to the way it treats its most valuable assets. While the bean counters might disagree, I am not referring to the fleet of 737s! Its you and Brian and all of the other terrific people that share their employer's LUV for them with us! Best wishes, Kim
Karen_Sand
Not applicable
Hi Sunny I enjoyed your comments about your first days at Southwest Airlines! It brought to mind my experience with my First and Last days working for the Company! I had applied to be a flight attendant for 4 consecutive years...and never was hired! Finally, in March of 1981, I dropped off another application at the General Office. I decided to go over to the airport and just look around, and watch the planes take off! I stopped at the bathroom...and Joy Bardo was washing her hands. She had an ID on, so I got brave and asked her to share with me, how to get hired by Southwest Airlines. Joy turned out to be the Station Manager's secretary! Joy took me across the hall. I met Jack Mercer, the Station Manager, and two weeks later at 27 years old, I found myself in Hot Pants and Boots on the Dallas Ticket Counter!! How can I explain that feeling you get every time you drive into Love Field....you know, that feeling of excitement and anticipation, that working for Southwest Airlines, you are a part of something important and magnificent, something so much bigger than yourself! You are are part of a family that has been given the gift to serve the flying public...and make getting to any event, business or pleasure a possibility! Back to what I was saying before......I spent the next 18 1/2 years working in the Dallas Station. The first 3 years as a Customer Service Agent. I will never forget the Air Traffic Controller Strike. W e pretty much stayed at our gates the entire shift. One day Camille Keith came to give me a break. You never knew who would come to relieve you! That day started a great friendship! I remember the first time I met Herb. I was working the San Antonio gate, and the phone rang, and I heard, "This is Herb, show me on the jump seat." ..CLICK...the phone went dead! Thinking someone was playing a joke on me, I ran down the jetway. To my surprise, there was Herb, and he gave me a BIG KISS, and waved as the plane pushed back! This was only the first of many Herb Kisses! If you work for Southwest Airlines, you know that Herb knows your name, and kisses everybody! The next 15 years, I served at a Customer Service Supervisor. If someone asked me to describe what my job responsibilities were...I wonder, should I mention walking Seeing Eye Dogs in the Rose Garden at Love Field (Yes, there is a rose garden!), spending Christmas Eve in the airport (until 6AM) with an Unaccompanied Minor that no one picked up, or digging through a trash dumpster to find tickets to Hong Kong that a Customer had accidently thrown away, or the last flight to Houston on a Saturday night, that we held for an hour and a half for a heart transplant patient. The entire planeload of passengers agreed to wait for this young lady to make the flight. It was the Right thing to do. Taking care of both Internal and External Customers was what I did every day at Southwest Airlines. As an Employee of Southwest Airlines, you are ALWAYS supported. You lead with your heart, and all is well. I almost forgot to mention that I found my husband 20 years ago at Southwest Airlines. Mike is now the Assistant Station Manager in Dallas! I will never forget my last day at Southwest Ailines. I had decided to retire, since our son was ill at the time (He is fine now!) Mike, my husband was getting promoted to Assistant Station Manager, and since you cannot work for your spouse, we decided that the time was right for me to retire. That final day came! Someone at Headquarters had sent over a New Hire from Internal Audit. And guess who he was assigned to!!! So I spent my last day at Southwest Airlines with this New Hire! I was given the gift that day to see everything through his eyes, new and exciting! As I drove out of the airport that last day, I must share that I truely wished that I could change places with this young man,and be the New Hire, just embarking on the Wonderful, Incredible Journey called Southwest Airlines! Sincerely, Karen Sand Emp 3941/DAL PS I am only 52 years young...(my grandmother lived to be 104 years old!) So if I am really lucky, I can have a second career at Southwest Airlines during the second half of my life...You just never know what is going to happen!
Cynthia_Campbel
Not applicable
Hi Sunny, I really enjoyed your post. It made me smile, thinking about how wonderfully I was treated when I arrived in headquarters, two years ago as of July 1st. You and all of the wonderful people in the executive department made me feel really at home. You obviously learned you lesson well, as how to make new hires feel welcome. I am so glad you paid it forward!! I too look forward to the opportunity of paying it forward. The mail room was a great place to learn and meet the great people of SWA Love Ya Much,and still missing you!! Cynthia Campbell
Melainie_Bill
Not applicable
Sunny - Thanks for all you do for our Company!
Kyle_Hamilton
Not applicable
It was on the first commercial flight that I ever flew (much less my first Southwest flight) that I first realized that I could enjoy working for an airline. This was ten years and six months ago (February of 1996), and I was flying to San Diego to take a network developer/administrator position. GEG -- once Geiger Field, now Spokane International Airport -- is a small terminal, I think even smaller than LUV's Master Plan... but the employees I met were all friendly and enthusiastic (not to mention efficient and thorough). Once on the plane, we had this wonderful male flight attendant (whose name I unfortunately cannot recall) who delivered the preflight safety lecture in the most humorous way that I can ever recall. "If you'd like to smoke on this flight, just ask one of the attendants, and we'll be glad to escort you out onto the wing." Got a chuckle from everyone, even from a scared Washington boy who was taking a job out-state. Since then, I've flown 56 000 miles on United, 28 000 on Northwest, 2 000 on Alaska, and 6 000 on Delta. (At least according to the frequent flier records I got...) Yet, every time I fly on those airlines I'm reminded of the fear that everyone feels, the fear that they're going to be furloughed, the fear that their employer is going to shuck them off to try to make their numbers for the quarter so the stock price rises. I have never, on any of the other airlines, seen any individual with the sheer exuberance that the Southwest crew members have and share -- flying SWA is just plain fun... and whenever I do it's like I'm coming back home. Everyone has always treated me like extended family, and everyone has been unfailingly corteous and they've always had smiles on their faces. I like SWA's fares, don't get me wrong -- but it's SWA's employees who always get me to come back, again and again. (Maybe it's the way the flight crews joke around on the plane, and you can hear laughter from the rear, and you can tell that it's REAL laughter, not just some faked "let's increase passenger morale" thing.) Thank you, to everyone who I've ever met on the flights or at the gates, and thank you to all the mechanics and operations coordinators and baggage handlers and everyone who works and has fun doing what you do to make every flight a wonderful experience for everyone. I've not yet been able to realize a career with any airline... but when I do, I'm going to work where I'm happiest as a passenger, where everyone puts their heart into everything they do. I'm going to work with the people who have always inspired me to enjoy what I'm doing. I'm going to work with Southwest. Thank you -- all of you -- from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely, -Kyle Hamilton (now residing 15 miles from TUS)
Michael9
Not applicable
What I really enjoy is when I encounter one of the long term SWA attendants on the PA, giving us the departure talk. I always thought you got more attention with the jokes than the usual vanilla talk everyone tunes out. Lines like, "put on your oxygen mask and then help the small child or husband next to you" and when we're nearing the gate, "I said don't unbuckle before we stop. Do it again and you'll have to stay and clean up." PLEASE encourage the sense of humor (and bad puns) from more of the flight crews. It really makes flying SWA fun!
Rick_Birkner
Not applicable
I heard today SWA was testing a plan for assigned seating. I almost drove off the road in surprise. Why would it be thought to test assigned seating? SWA set the standard for no frills. It has almost never failed to produce good financial results. I appreciate the listening to travelers however, this is wrong. It is on the verge of being unAmerican. Herb are you sleeping? Take a look at what happened to the Kit Kat bar when it started changing to keep what it thought was up. It lost market share. Look what happened to Wendy's the first time Dave Thomas left. It lost market share becasue they changed what he was doing. Wendy's ended up bringing him back. What's next, first class and meal service? Think about it. Luv ya.
Tim_P__-_System
Not applicable
I started my career at Southwest in May of 2001. Since I was entering into the Technology side of the business, my experience was enjoyable in an entirely different way. As I was shown the way to my new desk, I was surprised and delighted to find approximately 50 computer hard drives hanging over my desk and balloons everywhere. My co-workers had provided me with a unique welcome experience. After clearing the area so I could sit down, I realized they had also managed to supply me with the absolute oldest, ancient computer they could find. My new team was a blessing. They led me through the hallways of Headquarters and amazed me with the history of the company. I work with some of the smartest people I have ever met. I am still a part of the same group 5 years later and have enjoyed the wealth of knowledge the team has to offer. It's not "just a job", it's an experience. My kids commonly refer to the planes as "Daddy's planes" and they love to meet the Pilots every time we fly. LUV, -Tim
StakesAlive325
Not applicable
Sunny, As I read your letter, and the notes it inspired from everyone, employees past and present, customers and clients, I am gladdened and flatly, just so impressed. Taken individually, let alone cumulatively, the impression that anyone has to take away is one of such a positive, spirited, and smart company. It seems the very real attitude that exists is such that it is encouraged to be yourself, even playful and joyous, while sincere. The company is such a clear leader in so many areas, industry wide. It is no surprise to me. The perception is "We have fun, but, we get the work done" here. What could be better? It is extraordinary to see the culture of service is not only the " World Class Service to our Customers", as Colleen writes, but perhaps even more important is the "World Class Service to each other". Outside of the possibility of being kissed by Herb, I am very excited about joining the ranks of such a group. Really, Sunny, does he have to kiss everyone? (Just Kidding Herb. Plant one on me anytime. If you can take it, so can I. Hopefully we both will have just shaved.) Tomorrow, I receive my packet for training. I am a member of the 225th FA Infantry coming to boot camp. So, I am not hired yet. What I am is humbled, eager, inspired, and impressed because of blogs like yours. Now, for the matters at hand. Study, learn and graduate with my fellow 225'rs. I cannot help to think of the investment the company makes in each of us, especially the trainees, coming to Dallas from literally, all over the world for a month of hands on, very intensive work and training. The room, the board, transportation, the instructors time, just the all out effort. Thank you for investing in me SWA. I will work so I can join the ranks of the "Nutty LUV Bunch" and repay my sponsorship to the company. Thank you for your letter Sunny, reinforcing my decision to join this great team of real people, and again, thanks to all of you at SWA for extending me the opportunity. Now, let's have some "Fun, and Get'r Done, together".
interstate275fl
New Arrival
First of all I want to say that Southwest is the best airline! I have flown in the past but my first time flying Southwest was over Labor Day weekend 2000 when I took a flight from FLL to TPA. From the moment I walked up to the gate podium and received my "A" Boarding Card (this was back in the days when the plastic boarding cards were being used) all the way to when I exited the plane at TPA everyone from the gate agents to the flight attendants were extremely wonderful! Since my flight on Southwest in 2000 I became a faithful Southwest customer and I have never flew any airline other than Southwest. A year later I proudly became a Rapid Rewards member and after so many small trips between TPA and FLL I was able to take longer trips to places such as LAX and BWI. Every time I get on board it's the same legendary customer service that makes Southwest great just like I experienced on my first Southwest flight in 2000. I am not sure if this has been answered before but are there people 40 and up that work for Southwest? I have 11 more years to go before I retire and my goal is to keep working even after I retire and I thought working for Southwest would be a great place to start a second career. Again Southwest is the best airline - keep up the great work!
Rena_Seminatore
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My husband I recently enjoyed a trip using Southwest for the first time and we enjoyed the fun attitude of the employies. The filght attendants were happy and in todays market place you do not see that often. They made us laugh and put nervous passenagers at ease. I do have a question though, how can I reach a customer service rep. in the Houston airport that may be able to help me locate a item that was forgotten at the lounge. I have wrote an email but have not heard back. Regardless of my loss I will plan in the future to use the Southwest airline again. Good work.
Lisa_Wilhoit
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WOW! I have never heard employees speak so very highly of their employer before! What a fun environment SWA is!!! Reading all of the blogs was so exciting and made me smile. I used to live in Phoenix and of course have known of SWA for many years. I have applied to Southwest for a Customer Service position at Cleveland Hopkins and will not give up. Positivity is infectious and seems to have spread rapidly throughout SWA. You all seem to genuinely care for other people, and having fun at work keeps employees with you! I would LUV to work with and for a company which values others as much as you all do!!. Persistence - right? LUVin life and people and hoping to have fun with you all too some day ----- Anything great is worth the wait!!!! (hopefully not too long of a wait though)..
Frank17
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hey , I was recently interviewed for a job in dallas at swa. Can anyone tell me how long it takes them to contact me if they decide to hire me? It has been two days and I am really excited!
Nicole10
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Sunny, What a great story! Southwest Airlines has always been very near and dear to my heart. Back in the early 90s, my older brother had a summer job at SWA. My brother is mentally challenged and has a fondness for airplanes, so this was a dream job for him. The fact that SWA reaches out to the community and continuously does such wonderful things is so inspiring! My brother went to work with confidence was thrilled to work near the airplanes! When he talks about his days at SWA that summer, his eyes still light up! And I cannot thank you enough for that. My degree is in Human Resources, and in every class at one time or another, SWA was used as learning tool and an example for everything from charismatic leadership to the benefit structure. So many people have learned so much from this great company. I too spent a fair share of my college days "slinging drinks" in a bar, and that experience has proven to be just as valuable as a business degree to me! I am currently waiting tables on the side, so I am an auditor/waitress - a unique combo to say the least. And my unique skill set belongs at a unique company! ;-) I've applied online to SWA for a few different accounting positions, but no dice yet. I'm ready to be part of a company I love! As you can probably imagine, FUN jobs in the world of accounting and finance are non-existant (well, except at SWA!) so I will not give up too easily! Thanks again for your post - you're an inspiration! Nicole