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Southwest: We’ve Told You Lies

(thanks to reader IAHPHX, as always…)

The Dallas Morning News has an article that debunks some of the myths about the founding of Southwest Airlines.  Specifically, that Herb Kelleher didn’t start the airline after drawing a little route map on a napkin.  The article also suggests that Kelleher wasn’t all that into the idea of the airline initially, and that he needed some serious convincing.  While this seems like small potatoes, the story is at the heart of the Southwest lore…Just as eBay was not created as a way to sell Pez, so another corporate myth is killed.  I’m sorry I’m a buzzkill…

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  1. Yeah, I am all in favor of on-time and free songs and smiles, but not at the cost of basic care for the passengers.

    My wife and I were on a flight from Oakland to Fort Lauderdale via Chicago in the peak of winter. It was cold, very cold and windy. Chicago was in the middle of a snow storm, not really the best time to be flying. And we were going from one warm place to another warmer place, so weren’t wrapped up for the Chicago cold.

    At Chicago, they start boarding us on time. We get on the ramp and its cold, not surprising since the ramp isn’t properly aligned to the plane, so a lot of the cold and wind is making its way in through the wide open cracks. Okay, not a big deal, we thought, its just for a few minutes. We get on the plane and its EVEN COLDER with a gusty wind blowing inside the plane. Everyone is bundling up and shivering. There’s an old lady in front of us, who obviously isn’t ready for it and can’t stand it. My wife has a serious cold and the cold, sub-zero air isn’t good for her. She starts getting a sinus headache in seconds. I am wondering where the heck the cold air is coming from and realize that the back doors of the plane are wide open to the cold air, with the cleaning crew still working on the toilets. I tell one of the stewardesses about it and she says, they have to do it to be on time. The old lady in front of us looks like she is going to die and my wife is in agonizing pain. (My wife was sick for a week after the trip.) I suggest to the Stewardess that they close the back door, pointing to the obvious discomfort of the people around us. Its not going to hamper the cleaning crew working on the toilets. And this is what gets me – she jokes that its a test of character. Huh? What character are you testing by torturing the old and the sick, so your plane can claim to be on time?? It would have made very little difference to the ultimate arrival time, if they had done this properly. The whole experience was one of “we don’t really care about the passengers, just sing a song and the cattle will be happy”.

    I used to fly about 10-15 round trips on Southwest each year (yeah, enough to receive many free peanut/drink coupon books) and was a big proponent in my company. No longer. Sorry.

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