The Southwest mission statement shows that the company has a strong commitment to its employees. The company affords the same respect to its employees that is provided to its customers. The Southwest mission statement is unique in that it recognizes the importance of its employees within the broader business strategy, which emphasizes superb customer service and operational efficiency. The employees reciprocate the respect, loyalty and trust that Southwest demonstrates. Southwest employees are known for their loyalty, dedication, attitude and innovation. The employees are the distinguishing factor between Southwest and the rest of the airline industry.
Recruiting and interviewing at Southwest is a two-step process. The first step is a group interview, conducted by employees, where communication skills of potential candidates are evaluated. The next steps in this process are one on one interview, where the candidates’ attitudes and orientation toward serving others are evaluated. These hiring criteria apply to all job functions since all Employees at Southwest play a customer service role. A critical part of Southwest operational strategy is that every job at Southwest is a customer service position, whether it directly applies to the customer or whether it is internal.
Although the technology will help Southwest Airlines remain efficient by consolidating passenger information for the company’s 3,000 daily flights, there were concerns it could lengthen the time to get travelers on board. However it was found that scanning each bar code on the boarding passes didn’t increase or shorten boarding schedules, but it did take minutes from administrative processes, such as looking up customer records. The new paper bar code system is giving Southwest ticket agents the ability to match a customer record within having to scroll through and log into multiple software screens. The process is much more automated. Once the bar code on the boarding pass is scanned at the terminal gate it checks off the person from the passenger list in real time.
Southwest has long been regarded as a benchmark in its industry for operational excellence. Southwest Airlines is a fine example of a company that is committed to its core competencies – efficient operations to drive its low cost structure, outstanding delivery of customer service and innovative HR management practices. We hope this paper provided a good insight into Southwest operations, as part of its overall strategy, to achieve success and gain competitive advantage.
At the heart of Southwest’s success is its single aircraft strategy: Its fleet consists exclusively of Boeing 737 jets. Having common fleet significantly simplifies scheduling, operations and flight maintenance. The training costs for pilots, ground crew and mechanics are lower, because there’s only a single aircraft to learn. Purchasing, provisioning, and other operations are also vastly simplified, thereby lowering costs. Consistent aircrafts also enables Southwest to utilize its pilot crew more efficiently.
Southwest clearly has a distinct advantage compared to other airlines in the industry by executing an effective and efficient operations strategy that forms an important pillar of its overall corporate strategy. Given below are some competitive dimensions that will be studied in this paper.
The labor costs for Southwest typically accounts for about 37% of its operating costs. Perhaps the most critical element of the successful low-fare airline business model is achieving significantly higher labor productivity. According to a recent HBS Case Study, southwest airlines is the “most heavily unionized” US airline (about 81% of its employees belong to an union) and its salary rates are considered to be at or above average compared to the US airline industry. The low-fare carrier labor advantage is in much more flexible work rules that allow cross-utilization of virtually all employees (except where disallowed by licensing and safety standards). Such cross-utilization and a long-standing culture of cooperation among labor groups translate into lower unit labor costs. At Southwest in 4th quarter 2000, total labor expense per available seat mile (ASM) was more than 25% below that of United and American, and 58% less than US Airways.