One Reason Why Southwest Airlines Is Profitable


Admittedly I haven’t flown Southwest much. With well over a million miles with American and almost a million with Northwest the privilege of almost guaranteed exit row seats based on elite status is always appealing. However, since moving to Nashville I’ve flown Southwest on a regular basis.

My flight this week demonstrated why Southwest makes money while many other airlines do not. I was on my way to Orange County, California via Las Vegas. About a half an hour before our initial flight the gate attendant announced that we would be delayed at least an hour. While the crowd sighed he added that the reason for the delay was that 45 people were coming in for this flight from Cleveland and their flight was weather delayed. What I later found out was that these 45 people were High School students from Las Vegas who have been traveling for two weeks. Yes, some passengers were upset (I think ultimately only one missed a connection); however put yourself in the place of those Las Vegas parents who were anxious to get their kids home.

Southwest in my mind made the right customer service decision. They also did the legwork to assure each of us who had a connecting flight that we would be OK or booked on another flight. They kept us posted on flight times, gates and were excited that they could help these nearly stranded kids. They went the extra mile for everyone, not just the students. They delivered.

Sometimes being good at customer service means making the hard decisions. While you may make some customers unhappy making the hard decisions that satisfy most customers (and create great success stories), in the long run will help you build a base of customer evangelists who will help you recruit more customers. Imagine those student’s parents telling friends about this experience? Southwest is the hero of the story as it’s passed along and in the end when someone is making a decision to fly XYZ or Southwest they will invariably remember this story and book the reservation with Southwest.

My challenge to you is that when you face tough customer service decisions; don’t always take the easy way out. Remember this story and the fact that Southwest is a profitable company in an industry that feels extremely fortunate to break even. They do it, not only by being the low-cost airline, but also by delivering to the customer.

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One Response to “One Reason Why Southwest Airlines Is Profitable”

  1. Right you are, Wayne. One other thing struck me as I read your post. Southwest was careful to clearly communicate with the customers in the gate area. The airlines are notorious for not communicating the honest reason for delays. By communicating honestly and clearly, the inconvenienced customers were able to have some understanding and compassion for the situation!

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