Friday, 06 July, 2001

Southwest Airlines

I love Southwest Airlines--both the company and the flying experience.  The company, which is celebrating its 30th year, has always been profitable, continues to grow, and is regularly marked number one in customer satisfaction.  How can this be when most major air carriers have financial problems and unhappy customers?  One word:  consistency.  For 30 years, Southwest has provided friendly, inexpensive, on-time, no-frills service on popular routes.  They started in Texas and expanded slowly:  opening new routes only when careful research showed that those routes would be popular and fit within their business model.  They also fly only one model of airplane (Boeing 737), and limit most flights to about two hours.  The quick hop, quick turnaround model prevents them from having to supply meals, movies, and other expensive frills that drive up the cost of air travel.  So the company's profitable.

Why do I like to fly what some people refer to as Cattle Truck Airlines?  Again, consistency.  I know from experience (I've been flying Southwest since 1975) that they're almost always on time.  Their service is far friendlier than that of any other carrier.  I've encountered far fewer mechanical problems on Southwest than on any other airline.  And their fares, at least for the routes that I fly, are usually much cheaper than the other airlines.  The few frills (bad movies, barely-edible food, on-board music) that other airlines offer just don't justify the higher prices--at least not to this traveler.  And I like the first-come-first-served seating arrangements.  Since I usually get to the airport an hour ahead of flight time, I almost always get my choice of seats.  The assigned seating arrangement used by other airlines almost always ends up putting me where I don't want to be.

As long as Southwest can get me there on time, inexpensively, and reasonably comfortably, I'll fly with them.