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Maybe it's all in the attitude?

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Written by Southwest Customer Kim Seale   Two recent newspaper articles, combined with Southwest's newest ad campaign (to view "Coins" commercial, click here and open first ad), have caused me to reflect on the changing environment of air travel.  It seems to me that "the Southwest effect" is much more than just the downward influence on airfares when SWA begins service to a new city.  That is because I believe that Southwest Airlines, as a company, is about more than just low fares.  Sure, that is a big and very obvious part of what they bring to the market, but I see a larger, but slightly less visible aspect of what SWA has meant to the airline industry.  In my opinion, just maybe Customer Satisfaction is the true "Southwest Effect." The first article that caught my eye was one that was titled 'Fliers' gripes soar', and it talked about the increasing number of complaints being lodged against air carriers.  The author references "record-high airline traffic" (load factors) and its pressure on "flight delays, cancellations, rude airline employees, overheated airplane cabins, lost baggage and hours of frustration at the airport," which is more than just a mouthful of issues.  These things come together to indicate a severe degradation in the level of customer service being offered to the flying public by many of the airlines in business today.  The fuller the planes are, the less concerned some companies seem to be about trying to please the very people who are buying those tickets.  Although I am reluctant to name names, it appears that some of the AAmerican-based airlines that are Continental in their approach look as if they are United in their efforts to take passengers in their Jets of Blue, or other colors, through the US airways, from the Northwest part of our country, to the Midwest part of our country, across the Delta of the Mississippi and to all other Frontiers of the United States with less and less concern for those passengers' satisfaction.   However, this article went on to say that the airline with the lowest rate of complaints was…Southwest Airlines.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn't be, and it is because of Positively Outrageous Service.  Is Southwest perfect?  Are they always on time?  Do they always perfectly deliver a piece of luggage to its waiting owner in baggage claim?  Of course, the answer to all of these is "No!"  But, the difference is that when human mistakes occur, they are happening in the context of customers that already feel appreciated and pleased with the treatment they've gotten.  I've been on flights that departed late from their gate, and yet the flight attendants had people onboard laughing at stupid jokes and singing along with ridiculous songs.  The second article talked about the aviation collection at the University of Texas at Dallas that is primarily the remnants of Braniff's public affairs archive.  In that story, the curator of the collection along with a retired Braniff employee are interviewed as they reminisce about the bygone days of style, service and steaks in first class meals.  The article ends with the quote, "I can just imagine back in the 1960s and an airline said they were going to charge you for a meal – passengers would have flipped out."  That leads me back full circle to the new SWA television ads that feature a passenger having to feed quarters into a receptacle to access the ....  So many airlines these days appear eager to "nickel-and-dime" their passengers to supplement ailing bottom lines.  Upcharges for a snack, a fee to get headphones to listen to a movie and charging you to make a change to a ticket all add up to a lack of sensitivity to their passengers.  One particular AAirline recently informed us that to change an existing "free" (earned through mileage accrual) award ticket reservation booked in one passenger's name to another, without changing the flight numbers or dates, we would have to pay $100!  That seat was already saved in our name, but trying to 'give' the same exact seat to someone else when we were unable to use it was going to cost us $100, on a ticket that could be purchased for about $200.  A 50% premium for someone else to use that "free"seat! At Southwest, however, the atmosphere is one of providing service and pleasing the customer while having a great time doing it.  Other than a charge for alcoholic beverages, there are no additional fees to enjoy your flight experience on a SWA jet.  They consistently rate at the top of many passenger satisfaction polls, provide some of the best ontime performance of the industry and manage to keep making a profit while they're doing it.  The 'other' guys irritate their passengers, frustrate their employees, appear to run late pretty regularly and just keep losing money.  Their solution?  Nickel-and-dime the folks who fly with them!  Let's see, a strategy built around continuing to alienate the people who are keeping you in business.  What's wrong with this picture? It just seems like the attitude displayed by a number of air carriers is that they are doing US a favor by letting us ride on THEIR planes.  Is it just me, or has the cart gotten in front of the horse (proverbially speaking) somewhere along the way?   (Kim has been flying with Southwest since the early 70s both for pleasure and his business duties.)  
122 Comments
Dr__Eileen_Wibb
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As a frequent flyer of SW for over 15 years, I recommend the "peanut airline" to everyone. I just flew back from Burbank to San Jose last night. Their customer-focused leadership is one to be emulated by other firms. Now, I am pleased that there is a blog to post comments to the company. As a leadership consultant, I think the secret of SW is its ability to remain honest while retaining a vision of integrity. - Dr. Eileen Wibbeke
Tamra
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I feel like i should take a bow! And I work completely behind the scenes here for this awesome company. Thanks to all of our wonderful Customers for such wonderful compliments. You make me very proud to be a part of SWA!
FriendofBlogBoy
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Tamra, Although I don't know what your job "title" is, I think you SHOULD take a bow, alongside ALL of your fellow SWA Employees! That is because, regardless of your "title", I know what your job "function" is, since each of your Customers get to see the results of everyone's job function at SW. Companies are truly the sum of all of their parts, and based on that, whether you're "behind the scenes" or not, each of you must be pretty awesome to combine into the fantastic company that we know and LUV! Thanks for ALL that you do! Kim P. S. Come to think of it, there must be some of you who are nothing less than staggeringly amazing and outstanding, since to average out to be so good, you've got to offset the slackers at SW like Brian... LOL Hey, BL, just teasin' !! 🙂
Debbie_Wegner
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I too have a grandchild that I try to visit frequently in Florida. If it weren't for SWA's direct flight from Louisville to Orlando and their airfare deals, I wouldn't be able to travel as often as I do. Southwest is my first choice to fly anywhere. They are always on time and many times ahead of schedule. I trust them and their safety record too. I'm not sure how I feel about assigned seating tho. I always check in on line but it appears most people do from the length of the A line waiting to board. And the line begins forming sometimes an hour before departure. Assigned seating would probably alleviate this and make for a more comfortable wait. But the likelihood of getting my exit row seat on an assigned basis would more than likely become non existant. Whatever SWA decides to do won't discourage me. They are my home away from home at 35,000 feet. Kim, SWA should put you on their payroll if they haven't already. You are probably the best spokesperson they have......
Doug_King
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SWA and LUV, I am a truely comitted SWA flyer. You could definitely say that I was NUTS about you. If SWA doesn't serve the city, I find a way to make it work. I travel a great deal and have had a companion pass for about 5 years. FA's always greet me with a smile and welcome hello! Pilot's always are there on the exit to say thanks! Assigned seating must NEVER EVER happen! Every time I am forced to fly someone else leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If you must assign, give the needy the last eight rows and we can all be happy! Rapid Rewards is simply the best in the air. I have be Elite Gold w/ Delta, Premier w/ United etc etc etc, but none are close to yours. At my home airport, I am greeted on a first name basis by dozens of your employees. They know what I like and they take care of me. There are several stories that I could share that would never happen with the other guys! Keep up the great work and I am always excited when you add cities!
Dan_Ritter
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I was wondering if any headway has been made on moving to assigned seating on Southwest?I would fly Southwest all the time, I go from Chicago to Tampa about 6 times a year but I never take Southwest because I can't stand the present system that is in place. I heard that Southwest was looking into assigned seating but haven't seen any updates. Anybody know what's happenin?
Cindy9
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My husband and I are also in LUV with SWA..We fly at least every 6 weeks or so from STL to TPA .. We have flown other airlines when we didn't have a choice and there is no comparison..I think maybe the gate agents at those other airlines need to get up on the other side of the bed a little more often!! I have witnessed them actually yelling at passengers that just asked a simple question, also I have seen them lie to passengers and then yell at them for questioning.. We have gone further than just telling our friends about SW, I usually book the travel whenever a group of us go anywhere and we always take southwest, whether its a group of our friends taking a trip or taking our children and grandchildren, its ALWAYS thru Southwest!! My grandson is going to be 5 soon and he just asked me again if we could go to the Florida place and go fishing..If it wasn't for Southwest I would never be able to take them as often as I do!! Your wonderful attitudes are just a HUGE perk to our travel, making ALL of our trips less stressful .. If we could package that Southwest attitude and bring it with us on every trip and sprinkle it around so that all customer service people could have a little, maybe the world could be a MUCH happier place.. I only have one small issue and thats with my FF awards..Not sure I am crazy about the new set-up of availability, think I liked the black-out dates better, I could work around them and still go within the 10 days or so that I wanted to..Even during holidays..Can't seem to do that anymore.. But thats a small concession and I guess I will learn to deal with it.. Thanks to all of you for making travel fun again..
Jerry_Zeman
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I have always had a great travel experience with SWA. The people working this airline are some of the finest I've met. I am the most impressed with the upbeat attitude of all when some days are just a mess to travel. My career was always based on good public relations.I would like to come out of my early retirement just to work with all you fine folks at SWA!
blusk
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Hi Dan, Here's an update I place on Gary Kelly's assigned seating post yesterday: Yes it is true that the San Diego tests are over, but keep in mind that the tests werenÃ
FriendofBlogBoy
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Brian, Well, since I know that Southwest Airlines prides itself on how well it listens to its Customers, and that you highly value their input, I'm sure that you've noted Debbie's very timely and helpful comments: "Kim, SWA should put you on their payroll if they havenÃ
Jacsr
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I and my spouse are about to have our first travel experience since 1991. Why you may ask? Our youngest recenlty moved to Houston to teach. Well I did all the discount sites for flights and kept being told by friends and coworker's look at Southwest. (they should be wearing southwest colors) I was so impressed by the written information that I started delving deeper. So we booked our flights for Sept. 25, from ALB to Hou. Why we even booked our rental car through Southwest's site, as they had the best deal around. Couldn't do the Hotel, as we will stay with our son. (maybe next vacation) We are so looking forward to Houston, NASA (Again a discount through Southwest) I definitely will report back on our experiences when we return. I expect that we will be thrilled. I will tell you that if the experience is anything like talking to customer service we will be made of gold. JAC
Derrick_Rand
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I honestly don't get some of Southwest's operating policies. Sure, you guys have a great attitude but every time I try to book a flight on SW I run into obstacles and end up just flying AA. I shopped today for a flight to Love to La Guardia the last weekend of October. Not only was the ticket price $400 per person (over $100 more expensive than everyone else) but I would have had to stop three times, and fight for a seat in the stupid cattle call line. Yeah, your ground and flight crew is the friendliest out there but I just flat out don't fly you guys because of the sheer inconvenience and the lack of savings that is supposed to exist. Am I the only person on the planet that doesn't see this?
FriendofBlogBoy
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Derrick, I'm really sorry that you've become frustrated with trying to book some trips on Southwest, and I understand that sometimes it seems very difficult. I think that the problem is that you are running headfirst into the Wright Amendment. There are many different explanations for what the restrictions are, but you might find a good and concise history along with the details of it at this website: www.setlovefree.com When you try to book a flight from Dallas Love Field to most of the SW cities beyond TX, OK, NM, AR or LA, you are going to hit this obstacle. (The exceptions are Kansas City, St. Louis and Birmingham) Unfortunately, until some sort of changes are worked out in Congress, this will continue to be a problem. Southwest really does offer terrific service across the country, but you and the rest of us who travel out of Dallas Love Field have to make an extra stop along the way if we want to take advantage of all of the cities that they serve. What most people do is book a flight to Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Houston or New Orleans (or now, KC, St. Louis and Birmingham) as a first step, and then book a flight from one of those cities onto their eventual destination. I've done this to get to Baltimore, Providence, Rhode Island, Chicago Midway, Seattle and other cities far from Dallas. It is a pain in the neck, but an effort is underway currently that will hopefully eliminate this problem at some point. But, look at the bright side -- if you book one flight to Houston and then another onto Albany, NY, for example (a trip I've taken), then you get TWO sets of Rapid Rewards credits each way! Twice the trouble results in twice the segment credits! Life isn't ALL bad! :) Hang in there, Derrick, there are others of us on the planet that see this on a pretty regular basis, but I will STILL say that two separately-ticketed trips on Southwest beats one trip on that other AAirline any day!! Kim
Jenny4
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I stumbled upon this blog while "googling" for information about Southwest. I am currently an MPA student at Grand Valley State U, Pew Campus, Grand Rapids, MI and am taking a course on Organizational Theory. It did not take me long to decide Soutwest Airlines would be my semester project - trouble is...we have to address a problem and gosh darn it, as an organization, you rock! I have several theories to choose from and culture is just one and this blog may just help my paper take shape! Observations from employees and clients - a special touch that is sure to make the paper more enjoyable to write in addtion to the "A" I'm going to earn! I would like comments about the culture, what sets Soutwest apart from all the rest and why, when airlines try to duplicate the success of Southwest, they fail. I'm going straight to the source...front lines and beyond! Anyone want to help me out? The first time I flew Southwest and the crew sang and danced in the aisle I didn't know what to think - I was nine years old and adults were having fun! Needless to say, from that first flight on, I was hooked...I only wish you flew out of Grand Rapids, MI. What do I need to do to make that happen???? Jenny Frasco
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jenny -- Congratulations on your choice of project! As a long-time "student" of corporate management and behavior myself, I think you've stumbled upon a subject that should make for a very good paper. For many years, I've studied Southwest and used many of the principles that they are known for in my own business relationships. Although some of the ideals that are a part of SW's culture on the surface would seem to run contrary to common sense, you cannot argue with success. Probably the most radical of these is the notion that at Southwest, the Employee comes first, not the Customer. But, they have proven that at any level in a company, if the Employee is happy and satisfied, they are much more likely to treat the Customer well. Of course, if you've taken much management theory, you know that 'Customers' can be both internal Customers and external Customers. Regardless, the treatment is better. Note also that Southwest indicates their attitudes by the use of the capitalized forms of Employee and Customer. I would recommend you read through this blog and see all of the comments in all of the different threads to get a good beginning idea of what both Southwest's Employees AND Customers say about them. Then, I would suggest four books that I have particularly enjoyed. You should be able to find all of them through Amazon or perhaps in a local bookstore. The first two are specifically about Southwest: "Nuts!" by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg -- this is the 'unofficial biography' of Southwest, and at one time, I saw that it was available on Southwest's website ( www.southwest.com ) "The Southwest Airlines Way" by Jody Hoffer Gittell -- this is a management book written by someone who made an in-depth study of SWA these next two are books that also offer a slightly different approach to corporate culture and reflect a similar results-based feeling as used at SWA: "First, Break All the Rules" - by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman "Hey, I'm the Customer" - by Ron Willingham All of these resources, plus this blog, should be a big help. You might also get a good response from the Editor of this blog, Mr. Brian Lusk, who works in their corporate communications department. He is a very helpful guy who, like all of the SW Employees, "gets it" in terms of how to treat each other and the Customer. Best wishes on your study, Kim
Jenny4
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Kim, Thank you for your comment! I'm currently reading the Jody Hoffer Gittel book (just started it actually) and will take your suggestion of looking at other threads and blogs. There is something about this company that screams "APPLY NOW" - and I'm wondering, from all your posts and insightful contributions why you haven't been swooped up by managment! If you don't mind my asking, what business are you in? I appreciate the time and energy for the reply - I'm really wanting to add much to this paper of the here and now - forums such as this blog as an effective technique as a sound board - all comments are posted, positive and negative - that in and of itself is quite intriguing! Thanks again, I'm going to be surfing and reading for the next few weeks. Jenny
joe-mdw-plane-d
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Derrick, in addition to what Kim pointed out, You would have swiitched to an Ata plane as Southwest does not serve La guardia. Jenny, I own both "Nut's" and "The Southwest airlines way." Good books.
Jenny4
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Joe, I just bought "Nuts" online at Half.com. I've discovered the value of pre-owned cars and books. Glad to know my recent purchases are worthwhile. Joe, are you a loyal Customer or Employee? What motivated you to read both texts? Just curious.
joe-mdw-plane-d
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Jenny, I am a Loyal customer. I had heard alot of people liked the book "Nuts" so I got one as a gift. Later, I received the other book.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jenny -- You are very kind with your compliments! I am in sales for a manufacturing company, and at times have covered six different states in and around Texas. I've been a very loyal Customer of SWA for about 32 or 33 of their 35 years, but as much as I am a huge fan of Southwest, I also enjoy the industry I've been in for 30 years. At this point in my life, I'm too much of a fraidy cat to change careers. Besides, I'm well familiar with the Flight Attendant uniforms, and my knees are too knobby to work in public in shorts. I am absolutely convinced that you will find SWA to be a fascinating study for your class, and I hope that you do well on your paper. There are very few companies who are so much in the public eye that treat their Employees and Customers as well as SW does, even though it seems like all companies should. As much as he downplays it, a huge amount of the credit for creating and fostering such a wonderful corporate environment goes to Herb Kelleher, who is a visionary leader, shameless cheerleader and master showman rolled into one. There are some people who inspire greatness in others simply by virtue of their own personality, and who attract high-quality people to implement the concepts that they can 'see' for the future; Herb is just such a man. It is rare to find the entrepreneural spirit so rampant in a large organization, and yet the atmosphere that exists at Southwest allows each person the latitude to do what they think is right as if they were running their own business. I just wish that these ideals would catch on in Corporate America... The bumper sticker that I got from SW years ago, and that is on display in my office, seems to sum it up best: "Still nuts after all these years!" Best wishes, Kim 🙂
Lisa15
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My family travels by air only once or twice each year, but we always try to book with Southwest. I have joined my husband on business trips out of Nashville to locations such as San Diego, Orlando, and Phoenix for the last 17 years and love the SW experience. Two recent events prompt my thanks to you today... In August, I arranged to accompany my 75 year old mother on a trip to Fort Myers to visit our nephew/grandson. My mom used to love to travel, but has not done so in several years due to declining health and some natural fears of the process. I was so thankful that she was delighted with the enitre trip and the SW service deserves all the credit! I don't think she had any prior experience with SW and now she is a true fan! She remarked to a ramp agent that SW had "restored her faith in air travel". When she commented that she had felt that she was too old to travel, the agent remarked that one was never too old and that it was just what SW was all about - making travel fun. Our only negative was having to share a seat/row with a tardy businessman and his partner who had spent a little too long at the bar before boarding. They were somewhat loud and had salty language, but thankfully, they slept most of the flight. It could have been SO much worse and we know everything cannot be just "perfect". A few weeks before our trip, my brother' family was planning to visit this same relative in Fort Myers, and after talking with me about SW schedules and prices, decided to give SW a try. They loved it and said they would definitely be repeat customers! (they already have - within the last week!) Thanks for continuing to offer the same great service whether one travels every day or once a year. Thanks especially for giving my mom the chance to look forward to the time when she can travel by air again - hopefully soon!
Jim13
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@ Kim Seale: Kim - do you live on this blog? Where do you find the time to post all the things you post? I've just been away for a week (ELP LAS, SWA, of course) and I cannot count the number of posts you've made since I was here last, much less have time to read everything. I'm just skimming, there's no way I can keep up with you.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jim, Thanks for your question, although you've ever so slightly misstated it. I do not actually live "on" this blog, I live "in" it, since I am not a real person. In fact, I am a computer generated hologram that is just an electronic figment of Brian Lusk's imagination. HAL, errr, I mean, Kim :)
FriendofBlogBoy
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Well, once again, I've had the opportunity to observe first-hand just how terrific the Employees of SWA really are. It is frequently said that the true mark of a person is in how they behave when under stress, and unfortunately, our friends at SW have more than their fair share of stress at times. Yesterday was just such a time. I had arrived early at the El Paso airport for my return flight back to Dallas, and was casually waiting in the gate area. After being there about fifteen minutes, the gate agent, a very pleasant lady by the name of Katie, made a public address announcement to those of us at Gate 6B. Having already chatted with her, I immediately recognized the different tone of voice that she was using and I knew that whatever she was about to tell us was fairly serious. During the time since I had gotten to my gate, the pilot of a small airplane had crashed onto the runway at ELP during landing. With a sensitivity to the situation, Katie calmly explained to us that because of this tragedy, the airport had been shut down and no flights were allowed in or out. In less than two minutes, the Operations Supervisor on duty, a very personable gentleman by the name of Rick, arrived at the gate desk and began to make more announcements. It seems that as of yesterday, ELP was operating with only one functional runway while the other, shorter one was closed for resurfacing. Using the terminology from Katie and Rick, the 'incident' occured on the only usuable runway, and until something could be worked out, the closure of that one runway meant that ELP was closed. Incoming flights were diverted and outbound flights remained at their gates. What was very heartening, though, was watching how quickly all of the SWA Employees sprang into action. Those of you who have traveled in and out of ELP know that there is a cluster of gates that SW uses, so I was able to observe (and hear) how Employees at several gates dealt with this event. Over and over, each one of them displayed concern over the effect this was having on each of their Customer's travel plans. Some people were able to wait an undetermined amount of time to take their next flight, but due to connecting flight issues, some people were worried about reaching their final destination yesterday. But, in each circumstance, I saw Rick and Katie and their colleagues politely and compassionately deal with their passengers' worries as they worked out different alternatives wherever possible. Some were re-routed on different outbound flights through other cities so they would still make it to their planned destination, and some were re-booked for flights for this morning. Just as importantly as how they worked with individual passengers, Rick and Katie repeatedly made announcements as soon as they received updated information from airport management. In this way, they kept those of us waiting in the area just as informed as they were. My estimation is that we got public address announcements in our gate area no more than ten minutes apart, and in some cases, every five minutes. We were kept "in the loop" on when airport officials hoped to reopen the runway, where each of the inbound flights were and when they were due in once the airport did open back up, and based on those approximations, estimates of when each of us could reasonably expect to arrive in our destinations for the evening, out as far as midnight for folks who had two or more legs to fly from ELP. Due to the gate proximity, I could hear that passengers in nearby gate areas were getting similar timely and helpful announcements. So, I want to publicly thank both Rick and Katie for the Positively Outrageous Service that they and the other SW Employees at ELP gave to us yesterday. Their handling of this tragic event in such a respectful, courteous and Customer-oriented manner greatly reduced the possibility of upset passengers by keeping us constantly informed and by being flexible in their handling of the disrupted schedules of hundreds of people. I salute a tremendous team of folks who reminded me once again yesterday why Southwest Airlines is the BEST airline in the world! Kim
Rick18
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Kim, Thanks for the write up. Great stuff. Rick
Andrea
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i am happy to have discovered this new (to me) way to compliment the employees at SWA. on September 17 at 6-ish pm, my husband and i boarded our flight in Ft. Meyers bound for Islip Long Island. we took seats in the bulkhead and were soon joined (much to our chagrin) by a loud and quite intoxicated man, whose body spilled over into my space (i was in the middle seat). it was not that he was fat, just positioned himself in a sloppy way, without respect for me. he ordered a drink, which he drank, but it soon became apparent to our flight attendant (was her name Amy?) that he was schlogged and she appropriately decided she should not serve him any more alcohol. when he ordered his next drink, she informed him so gently and so kindly and so professionally that she was unable to serve him another drink. he pleaded with her, saying he had not been offensive to anyone, but she stood her ground, and he soon acquiesced and fell asleep. EVERYONE AROUND US WAS SO GRATEFUL, including my husband and me. i complemented her personally toward the end of the flight as the intoxicated passenger slept and snored in the seat next to me. if there is anyone in charge at SWA reading this, could you please make sure this young woman is praised for her incredible sensitive and professional handling of this potentially "loaded" situation. i am a registered nurse and I KNOW just how much of a difference she made on our flight. Thanks, Andrea
FriendofBlogBoy
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Andrea, Welcome to the huge, and constantly-growing set of members of the "I've Had a Great Experience on Southwest Airlines Club"! Unfortunately, traveling, whether for business or pleasure, can have its own set of speed bumps (or Clear Air Turbulence, as the case might be) along the way, and sometimes those problems can be from your fellow travelers. Whether they are rude, demanding, or "schlogged", they can present challenges to both travelers and employees of the various travel industries (hotels, airlines, restaurants, rent car agencies, etc.). As you've seen, the outstanding Employees at SW, like Amy (?), are trained to do their best to minimize these problems and to make your travel experience as pleasant as they possibly can. In my experience, they do a superb job of it! Your seat-mate is fortunate that he decided to comply with Amy's intervention, because what he (and you) may not know is that if that first approach is unsuccessful, as a next step, the Flight Attendants are authorized to re-seat those "schlogged" passengers in a new seat on the wing, directly over one of the engines. After a bit, the fresh breeze tends to sober them up. Happy travels! Kim 🙂
Dan_Ritter
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Why doesn't Southwest adopt a seperate fare tier for people who want assigned seats. This way if someone wants an assigned seat they can pay an extra $20 or so dollars a flight to get an assigned seat. The people who love the Southwest culture and getting to the airport 5 hours before a flight will still have the opportunity to jockey for position.Once again, there are a ton of people who don't fly LUV because of the present system, this takes care of it and still maintains the ABC system.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Dan, It is obvious from other comments on the Southwest blog that there are a number of folks who agree with you, along with a number of people who want to keep things as they are now. One of the issues that has been rarely mentioned during this discussion is the ramifications inherent in implementing a "tiered" fare system on Southwest. Our favorite airline is known for many things; its maverick spirit, its wonderful Employees and its ongoing profitability. Underlying each of those three traits (and many others that are part of the Southwest Culture) is a philosophy that my father used to call KISS. If you're as old as I am, you probably know that it stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. That is a catch-phrase way of saying that oftentimes, you'll get the best outcome if you don't try to over-think and over-engineer the plan. The geniuses at Southwest Airlines are famous for keeping it simple. Think about the early days when their competitors had fancy ticket machines and SW had old fashioned cash registers to dispense tickets on receipt paper. Creating a multi-tiered pricing system would hopelessly complicate the ticketing procedure and require a very complex program to manage variable pricing per seat depending on who reserved it and when they did it. Remember, too, that SWA, like other airlines who got on board with the plan after Southwest showed how well it could work, has been steadily encouraging passengers to book their own reservations online instead of on the phone with a person. Shifting some of this burden reduces the need for a bazillion reservation agents and lowers some of Southwest's overhead, resulting in a better bottom line. So, whether they ultimately decide in favor of, or against, assigned seating, it seems very likely to me that it will be all or nothing. Either all of the seats will be assigned, or none of them will. Having a mixed program onboard would create a lot of chaos. Although I am in the camp of those who say "please don't abandon open seating", it is in large part because I think it would violate the KISS principle that Southwest already uses to its advantage. Plus, I'm one of those who also likes the adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". SWA has grown incredibly and has remained profitable while most of its competitors cannot make either of those claims, much less both of them. They must be doing something right. As Darrell Royal, the former football coach at the University of Texas at Austin said in the title of his best-selling book, "Dance With the One that Brung Ya" -- if you've got a great approach that has gotten you to a place of success, then stay with that plan! Please hang in there with Southwest, Dan -- assigned seats or not, there isn't another airline out there that will treat you as well or give you the same amount of Positively Outrageous Service! Kim
Johnny_Johnson
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As an former contract inspector on your aircraft 97-99, I am rather disappointed in your good ole boy hiring system. But you do have a great airline and good business practices, keep up the good work.
Darrell_Hobson
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Kim, You are either Nutz--literally-- or have never flown Soutwest Air. When, and it happens more than you would even possibly admit in your Ya Ya world, baggage is delayed, a customer can expect insolent, dismissive treatment if s/he should happen to be upset with the corporate peons who smile and say "its all right." Welcome back to reality if you ever get there.
Darrell_Hobson
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After research, anyone who posts here should know that this is a "Tell us how great we are corporate suck up site." If you have a legitimate complaint, take it elsewhere since SW Air doesn't care.
Darrell_Hobson
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It must be nice to always be in the "A" group.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Darrell, OK, I admit, you've found me out. I actually AM nutz. But, I can assure you that I have flown Southwest before, and as I have said here publicly, I've had my bags misrouted. (I don't use the term "lost" because they usually know where my bags are) Southwest is made up of human beings, and just like folks at any company, they make mistakes from time to time. To me, it is not about finding errors in people's behaviors, it is about the way in which they handle them. If you've read some of my original post that started this thread, it IS about the attitude. Look at the difference in the public relations disaster that Exxon faced when their tanker Valdez ran aground in Alaska. They denied it and had problems for years. Contrast that with the makers of Tylenol and how they proactively jumped into action when someone tampered with some of their bottles of medication. In my experience, when the Employees of SWA make a mistake or encounter a problem, they deal with proactively and in a Customer-oriented way. I've seen firsthand examples over the weekend in Atlanta by an airline that does not do that. I respectfully disagree with you -- Southwest DOES care about their Employees and their Customers. Kim
Darrell_Hobson
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I find your order of mention of care interesting--employees then customers.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Darrell -- That was not a typo. Southwest makes no secret of the fact that as a company, their first priority is to take care of their Employees. While that might seem selfish and unusual for a company, and even rude to their paying customers, think about it for a minute. If you work for a company and you're frustrated, irritated, mad and/or just unhappy, who are you likely to take it out on? However, if you enjoy your job and feel valued as an important part of the team, what is your interaction with your customers probably going to be like? Herb and the Southwest management understand that a happy Employee will ultimately result in a happy Customer. It is a win-win situation! Kim P. S. Notice that on the blog, I use the Southwest form of capitalization. Lest you think that you are not important to them, internally, they capitalize Employee AND Customer! 🙂
Darrell_Hobson
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Your comments make it clear that your are a Southwest employee of some sort. All the rest of you, you can discount anything this person says because of bias.
blusk
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Darrell, I am sorry that your Southwest experience hasn't been as rewarding as Kim's, but I assure you that he is not a Southwest Employee, and he doesn't receive any compensation from us at all. Kim truly beleives what he writes, and while he is one of our most outspoken fans, as of June 30, we had received almost 19,000 commendations from our Customers. Taking that trend out to yearend, that means we will receive the equivalent of over one commendation for each of our 32,000+ Employees. Kim isn't alone. Brian
FriendofBlogBoy
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Darrell, Thanks for the compliment! I can think of nothing nicer to say than to assume that I am employed by Southwest, because that would put me closer association with a truly fine set of people, and I can't think of a company I'd be prouder to say that I worked for. The reality is that I am a regional sales manager for a manufacturing company based in Alabama, and have been for just shy of 25 years. As a stereotypical "road warrior", my travels over my tenure with this company, with my former employer and while in college and high school have afforded me the opportunity to experience Southwest's service when I'm not burning up the miles on the highways of our country. My comments are based on an aggregate of nearly 32 years' worth of interaction with Southwest as a Customer. Regarding your claims about misrouted bags, you are correct. I remember exactly TWO times in hundreds and hundreds of flights that Southwest has misrouted my bags. The last time it happened to me was 1994 on a trip to Seattle. Southwest had just merged with Morris Air shortly beforehand, and my bags made every plane change between Dallas and Seattle except the last one, when they got sent to Spokane, Washington instead. The Baggage Claim Office folks in Seattle were quick to identify and admit the error, locate my bags and tell me when they would be back in Seattle. They brought them to my hotel about four hours after we arrived. On one other flight, I had a Flight Attendant who was having a bad day. I had already boarded and had my laptop in the overhead bin above my head when a last-minute arriving passenger came on with a huge foldover garment bag, a briefcase and some sort of other bag. He was trying to find places to stuff all of his things, but based on when he arrived, virtually every bin was packed full. The FA saw my laptop in one corner of the bin and asked who owned it. He then asked me if I would mind stashing under the seat in front of me. Since I am 6' 2" and I enjoy every square inch of footroom that I can get, plus since I didn't want to put my feet on my computer, I said, "I'd rather not." The FA muttered an impolite comment under his breath that was heard by all of us in that area. Those are the last two incidents that were anything less than positive, friendly and enjoyable. Other than those times, I've had flight after flight that have arrived on time, many of which have been early, happy and outgoing FAs and excellent cockpit crews. Whether it is an airline or a restaurant or a hotel or a rent car facility, I assure you that road warriors are good judges of what is a positive experience and what isn't, and of when they are being appreciated and when they aren't. I've NEVER not felt truly appreciated as a Customer of Southwest. That is the attitude that I was referring to when I titled this blog, and is exactly the attitude that I think is missing from every other airline that I've flown. If you've had a bad experience, I really feel that is an anomaly more than the norm on Southwest, and I would encourage you to try them again with an open mind and give them the chance to impress you with their Positively Outrageous Service! Kim
Jenny4
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Kim, Wanted to let you know I'm really enjoying this blog and your insight/comments. I'm still working on my project. I'm learning so much about org. theory and in most instances, I pick up on certain aspects that fit SWA to a T! If you do not mind, I would love to introduce portions of the blog into my paper to demonstrate the human factor, progressivness of the org and the simple fact of a blog that lets people sound off in a public way! Not sure of the rules of the "blogsphere" - who owns what - but rest assured, I am fully dedicated to citing my sources completely! I love you are an outside source - that you are a huge fan of the org but can also demonstrate times where your experiences have been less than perfect. Darrell's sound off is a great case in point, something about a delayed bag set him in motion and he needed somewhere to shout his displeasure - what a great place to let people know how upset he is - it is proof this is not just a "suck up site" - but one that allows all posts - positive and negative to be written. Just out of curosity though, does southwest keep track of the number of negative vs positive instances of feedback? It would be very interesting to know the satisfaction rate of different types of service delivery. Let me know if you know anything. Happy November! Jenny Frasco
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jenny, Thanks for the great posting and I'm glad that this blog is proving to be helpful to your project. For me, studying and emulating Southwest Airlines has been a life-time (well, at least for the last 35 of my ... many years) project that never seems to lose its appeal, especially when contrasted with the unfortunate downward spiral of organizational theory and practices at so many companies these days. To answer your question, "...Let me know if you know anything...", I can only say that it depends on who you ask. My wife and my boss might give you an answer different from mine! :-) Seriously, this IS a blog owned and maintained by Southwest Airlines, so I'd say that you might want to seek their permission before quoting it, although I can't imagine they'd mind you referencing it and/or directing folks to it. In fact, USA Today had an article just last week that talked about the importance of corporate blogs, and what impact they have both internally and externally. You're correct; this is NOT a suck-up place, nor do I think the management of SW wants it to be. This should be an open and honest exchange of opinions, and the Darrells of the world have a very legitimate right to theirs. I've had wonderful experiences with some companies over the years and equally awful ones with other companies as well. Sometimes, I've had both kinds with different locations of the same company or even in the same location. What that boils down to is PEOPLE. You can implement all kinds of policies and procedures and programs, but it is your employees who come in contact with customers. The best procedure in the world falls apart when performed by a grouchy, unhappy, and to use a frequently overused word, disgruntled employee. (makes you wonder -- would you therefore call a happy employee a "gruntled" one? 🙂 ) That is why the Southwest approach of 'Employees first' is so valuable. Striving to make the customer feel appreciated through the efforts of unappreciated employees is doomed to fail. (not to pick on them, but spend a few minutes studying the behaviors of the employees who work for the AAirline headquartered next to DFW Airport...talk about thousands of cases of clinical depression!) As to your last question about cataloging the outside comments they receive, I think the answer is yes. The BlogMaster here, Mr. Brian Lusk, is actually the one in charge of that area, and he has told me before that certainly NOT all of the correspondence they receive every year is full of glowing compliments and endless praise. As I've mentioned in my own case, and have referenced elsewhere several times in this blog, Southwest is not a perfect organization, and they know that they aren't. But, in my opinion, the caliber of any company is not measured by its degree of perfection, but in how it handles its imperfection. Take note of the proactive approach that the Tylenol folks took when just a few of their bottles were tampered with. They quickly jumped into the public eye through press conferences and explanations about the problem, their regret about it, and what steps they were taking to prevent its recurrence. Contrast that with Exxon's reaction when the tanker Valdez split apart. Months of finger-pointing and shifting of blame didn't get the oil cleaned up from the beaches of Alaska and only served as a new public relations disaster on top of the initial public relations disaster. What helps to set Southwest Airlines apart is how they deal with the complaints. I've witnessed first-hand time and time again in airports how upset passengers are treated with respect and a genuine effort to resolve their issues, whether or not those issues were caused by Southwest. A huge example of that is weather delays. As great as they are, SWA is not responsible for the weather, as best as I can tell, but they are the ones who have to deal with thousands of passengers when things turn bad upstairs. Even among frazzled and tired Employees, I have rarely seen anything less than a lot of courtesy and sympathy for folks who aren't getting where they wanted to be. So, check with Brian, and I'll bet he can respond to things from their perspective in terms of permission to quote and negative versus positive comments they receive, because, if the truth be known, no, I really don't know anything! Kim 🙂
Jenny4
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Thank you Kim - for someone who claims not to know anything - you sure can write like you do! So, I suppose instead of asking if you "know anything" I should've been more specific or at least a bit more eloquent. Lord knows if you don't phrase something correctly it can get you in a heap of trouble! Mr. Lusk, the paper I am writing is based on organizational theory. In my personal experiences and from the many articles, books, web sources I've covered, Southwest Airlines has a strong basis within the Human Relations Theory and I am preparing to demonstrate this fact using the world of "blogs." It didn't take long for people to discover the power of the internet and the value it can have to making a single voice heard. Additionally, the world of the blog is another untapped form of finding what Customers like and don't like. This "innovation" and the fact SWA has created this venue for people to "sound off" in postive and negative ways is just another way SWA is progressive - innovative and willing to build relationships with its Employees and Customers. Inviting Customers like Kim to be guest bloggers is exciting - as you offer opportunity and it is way cool! I'd like to be able to use sections of the SWA blog in my paper - as evidence of the organizations basis in Human Relations - there is so much here - in different forms, I'd hate to miss out on being able to prove my point. I will cite accordingly and hope you do not take issue with use of materials. Would you grant me permission to use information from this site? Thank you for your time and attention - Kim, thank you for all you contribute to this site - I really enjoy your comments and humor - as my kids would say "you rock." Jenny
blusk
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Hi Jenny, We all LUV Kim and his eloquence, even if I am the brunt of his jokes sometime. If I ever hit the lottery, I will hire him as my publicist. Seriously, we are honored that you would like to use parts of the blog in your paper. After all, the blogosphere is about open communications, so feel free to use what you need--even my candy corn post. Brian
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jenny, You have to understand; given that I have to make jokes about someone (it's in my nature to tease, but only good-naturedly), and that Brian works with some very attractive Culture Chicks, I have a choice. Make fun of the only guy in an office of pretty ladies, or make fun of one or more of the ladies. Poor Brian loses out, I'm afraid -- it is just a matter of the odds being stacked against him as the lone male. (actually, I'm pretty darn jealous of the fella) Besides, I wouldn't make fun of the Culture Chicks. They can't help the way they are, they're all blonde! Kim, ducking and running 🙂
blusk
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Well, Kim I'm not the only guy in the office, it's just that when you came up here, I didn't introduce you to them. But...I am a lucky guy! Brian
FriendofBlogBoy
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True, I forgot that you also work with Captain Jack Sparrow and Perry Mason... Kim 🙂
Jenny4
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Mr. Lusk, Thank you for the "go ahead" - as for candy corn....well....let me think about that one! Jenny
FriendofBlogBoy
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Jenny, Please understand that one of the characteristic traits of addicts is that they will seek to lure others into the same irresistible trap that they have fallen into. I must URGE you to avoid sampling any of Brian's candy corn. There is the awful possibility that you could become hooked on the first bite as well, and would sink into the same orange, white and red abyss of desperate behavior and self-destructive tendencies that have produced the lovable character we know as "Brian". Just say NO. Kim 🙂
Darrell_Hobson
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Interesting--you note that this blog IS the property of SWA. It is then hardly conceivable that the information contained not biased toward the company position. For example, comments regarding the cattle call seating system. If you are in group A--Hey, not problem. If you are in group C,with the policy of overfilling flights--Welcom to being sandwiched between two other paying customers 😃 Recently,I wathced a stewardess demean passengers because they were not willing to accomodate a late arriveing family with screaming children. I felt sorry for the female passenger who was saddled--quite against her will-- with the task of enduring the injustice of someone else's inability to maintain their children. Southwest has no plan for such contingencies. That poor woman, who endured what can only be described as an excruciating flight, should have been compensated instead of being ridiculed. Maybe SWA should set aside the front bulkhead rows for families with children. At least in that way, stewardesses cannot arrogantly inflict rowdy children on paying passengers.
blusk
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Darrell, I assure you that Kim's thoughts are his own, and we have many, many Customers who think like him. Obviously, you haven't read the entire blog because you would see that we have posted many negative comments. Also we have posted many comments from folks wanting assigned seating. Please see the two posts from Gary Kelly, our CEO. Here's the first one, and here's the second one. However, those wanting to keep open seating far outweigh those wanting a change. That doesn't mean our current system is perfect. We know it isn't, and we are working on some improvements, and assigned seating hasn't been ruled out completely. We have a lot of test data to consider. Having said that, assigned seating isn't perfect either. Under assigned seating, passengers still have to sit in middle seats, families are separated at times, and passengers have to sit next to rowdy children. Assigned seating doesn't always mean you get the best seat in the house. At least with open seating, you have the option of walking past a row with rowdy children and choosing another seat. With assigned seating you are stuck with your seat assignment. Brian