Admiring Southwest Airlines

When I first came to Baltimore in the late 90ies, I don’t even remember if Southwest Airlines flew there. Perhaps there were a few flights. Today, when you walk into the terminal, there are endless rows of check-in counters and throngs of people in line. The security checkpoints to the Southwest gates are clogged.

Then I walked around the corner to the wing for all other airlines. There was a small counter for American and Delta, with a few people milling about. I checked in, walked right to the security checkpoint, where I immediately walked up to the conveyor. Yawning TSA staff helped me through.  There was no Starbucks in the concourse. Most of the gates were empty. The American Airlines gates were decorated with photography posters of Paris, Latin America and Arizona, copyright 1992.

Out of curiosity I checked departure schedule monitors. There were a total of 160 flights out of BWI on the schedule, and coincidentally or ironically, exactly 80 were Southwest flights. I didn’t feel compelled to count the American Airlines flights. I guess around 10. Mine took off about two hours late – technical difficulties with the auxiliary power unit.

How did the little upstart airline from Texas and Arizona do it? Impeccable customer service, employee ownership, reasonable prices, sound management, a company vision, and only one airplane model.

Now what can I learn from that?

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