Monday, June 18, 2012
Over at Slate is an article about how my favorite airline, Southwest, has remained profitable
for thirty-nine years in a row.
How does Southwest do it? In part, by keeping operations simple. Simpler operations mean fewer things that can go awry and botch up the whole process.A good example of this is its fleet of aircraft, all of which are Boeing 737s:
... As V.P. of ground operations Chris Wahlenmaier explained to me, this results in all manner of cost-saving efficiencies: "We only need to train our mechanics on one type of airplane. We only need extra parts inventory for that one type of airplane. If we have to swap a plane out at the last minute for maintenance, the fleet is totally interchangeable--all our on-board crews and ground crews are already familiar with it. And there are no challenges in how and where we can park our planes on the ground, since they're all the same shape and size."Other measures have less obvious benefits, such as the popular "Bags Fly Free" policy, which saves time by reducing the number and size of carry-ons -- and, ultimately, the need to wait for passengers to check bags at the gate.
As Wahlenmaier succinctly puts it when discussing why Southwest does not rely as heavily on hub airports as other airlines do, "That can lead to a lot of ground time, and we only make money off our planes when they're in the air." [bold added]
I admire the focus of this company and enjoy seeing the many ways this focus affects how it does things across the board.