South West Airlines: A Case Study Analysis - Corporate Strategy

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Southwest Airlines: History and Growth

Southwest Airlines (SWA) is a successful domestic carrier operating out of Dallas, Texas. Lawyer Herb Kelleher and his client Rollin King filed for approval of their plans to fly as a regional carrier, flying between three cities in Texas. In February 1968, their plans were approved and the airline has since expanded into a US national carrier, at year-end 2002 flying between 58 cities in 30 states. (case study by Shah, Sterrett & Anderson. 2004).

SWA has an enviable record of constantly ranking among the top five major carriers in the Department of Transportation (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report, with recognition for on-time performance, best baggage-handling and fewest customer complaints. Customer satisfaction ranks highly and reviews in publications such as Fortune magazine and the Wall Street Journal put SWA in the position of being one of the most admired companies. Employment with the airline is highly sought after, with SWA willing to delay the purchase of new planes or office renovations in favour of protecting the jobs of their employees.

This feeling of job security has led to high employee productivity and a fierce loyalty among staff.

The unique organisational culture at SWA is one that takes a laidback approach to formal management programs and documented strategic planning practices, instead preferring to operate a company where employees work hard and have fun. These characteristics have led SWA to be a very successful carrier, with over 30 consecutive years operating at a profit.

Southwest's External Environment

The airline industry operates in a very controlled environment, with strict regulations governing flight schedules and carrier operations. Airspace is owned by governments, as are landing rights, and bilateral air service agreements exist between countries and carriers involved in international air travel.

New security measures that have arisen from...