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Southwest Airlines Co. is a major American airline headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and is the world's largest low-cost carrier.

The airline was established on March 15, 1967 by Herb Kelleher as Air Southwest Co. and adopted its current name, Southwest Airlines Co., in 1971, when it began operating as an intrastate airline wholly within the state of Texas, first flying between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.[3][4] The airline has more than 60,000 employees as of September 2019[5] and operates about 4,000 departures a day during peak travel season.[6][7]

As of 2018, Southwest carries the most domestic passengers of any United States airline.[8] The airline has scheduled services to 101 destinations in the United States and ten additional countries. Its most recent expansion occurred in March, April, and May 2019 with service to Honolulu, Maui, and Kailua-Kona respectively. Southwest began to expand service to Lihue in mid-November 2019,[9] and will expand to Hilo in January 2020.

Operating bases[edit] Edit

Southwest operates crew bases at the following airports.[13]

  • Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport
  • Chicago–Midway International Airport
  • Dallas–Love Field
  • Denver International Airport
  • Houston–Hobby Airport
  • McCarran International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Oakland International Airport
  • Orlando International Airport
  • Phoenix–Sky Harbor International Airport

Codeshare agreements[edit] Edit

Southwest does not currently partner with any other airline, but they have had or have proposed the following in the past.

  • Icelandair: In 1997, Southwest and Icelandair entered into interline and marketing agreements allowing for joint fares, coordinated schedules, transfer of passenger luggage between the two airlines in Baltimore and a place connecting passengers between several U.S. cities and several European cities.[14] The frequent flyer programs were not included in the agreement. This arrangement lasted for several years but ended when Icelandair's service from BWI to KEF ended in January 2007.[15]
  • ATA Airlines: In a departure from its traditional "go it alone" strategy, Southwest entered into its first domestic codesharing arrangement with ATA, which enabled Southwest Airlines to serve ATA markets in Hawaii, Washington, D.C. and New York City.
At the time of ATA's demise in April 2008, the airline offered over 70 flights a week to Hawaii from Southwest's focus cities in PHX, LAS, LAX and OAK with connections available to many other cities across the United States. The ATA/Southwest codeshare was terminated when ATA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 3, 2008. Southwest ultimately acquired the operating certificate and some of the landing rights of ATA in the ensuing proceedings.[16]
  • WestJet: On July 8, 2008, Southwest Airlines signed a codeshare agreement with WestJet of Canada, giving the two airlines the ability to sell seats on each other's flights.[17] Originally, the partnership was to be finalized by late 2009, but had been postponed due to economic conditions.[18] On April 16, 2010, Southwest and WestJet airlines amicably agreed to terminate the implementation of a codeshare agreement between the two airlines.
  • Volaris: Southwest signed its second international codeshare agreement on November 10, 2008, with Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris. The agreement allowed Southwest to sell tickets on Volaris flights.[19] However, on February 22, 2013, the connecting agreement was terminated. It was said to be mutual between the airlines. Most industry experts believe that the expansion of the subsidiary of Southwest, AirTran Airways, into more Mexican markets, was a main reason for the termination of the agreement.[20]
  • AirTran Airways: After acquiring AirTran Airways in 2011, Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways took the first step in connecting their networks on January 26, 2013, by offering a small number of shared itineraries in five markets. The agreement ended after AirTran became fully integrated into Southwest on December 28, 2014.

Southwest Airlines has only operated Boeing 737 jetliner models, except for a period from 1979 to 1987 when it leased and operated several Boeing 727-200s from Braniff International Airways. Southwest is the largest operator of the Boeing 737 worldwide, with 752 in service,[5] each averaging six flights per day.

While most U.S. airlines now charge passengers for checked luggage, Southwest continues to permit 2 free checked bags per passenger. Regarding last-minute itinerary changes, Southwest also does not charge any change fees; passengers are permitted to change their flight as late as 10 minutes prior to their flights, and only pay the difference if their new flight is more expensive than the original flight (or receive a credit if the new flight is less expensive than the original flight). In the event of a cancellation, passengers are refunded a travel credit in the amount spent on their ticket, and the credit may be used toward any other Southwest Airlines or Southwest Vacations purchase within a year of the original ticket purchase.

Southwest offers free in-flight non-alcoholic beverages and offers alcoholic beverages for sale for $6 to $7/beverage, with Rapid Rewards members eligible to receive drinks vouchers with their tickets. Free alcoholic drinks are offered on popular holidays such as Valentine's Day and Halloween, provided the passenger is at least 21. Southwest has complimentary pretzels on all flights, and most flights have free Nabisco snacks. Southwest is known for colorful boarding announcements and crews that burst out in song, which is quite popular among passengers.[21][22][23][24]

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Southwest ranks number one (lowest number of complaints) of all U.S. airlines for customer complaints. Southwest Airlines has consistently received the fewest ratio of complaints per passengers boarded of all major U.S. carriers that have been reporting statistics to the DOT since 1987, which is when the DOT began tracking customer satisfaction statistics and publishing its Air Travel Consumer Report.

Prior to 2007, Southwest boarded passengers by grouping the passengers into three groups, labeled A, B and C. Passengers would line up at their specified letter and board.[25]

In 2007, Southwest modified their boarding procedure by introducing a number. Each passenger receives a letter (A, B or C) and a number 1 through 60. Passengers line up in numerical order within each letter group and choose any open seat on the aircraft while other airlines have an assigned seat.[25] According to a 2012 study by Mythbusters, this is the fastest method currently in use for non-first class passengers to board a plane; on average, it is 10 minutes faster than the standard method used by most airlines of boarding from the back frontward.

In-flight entertainment[edit] Edit

A Southwest 737-800 with the evolve interior and old branding, succeeded by the Heart interior

All Southwest Airlines aircraft are equipped with Wi-Fi, free streaming live television, free movies, free streaming music from iHeartRadio, and free app messaging. After completing a testing phase that began in February 2009, Southwest announced on August 21, 2009 that it would begin rolling out in-flight Wi-Fi Internet connectivity via Global Eagle Entertainment's satellite-broadband based product. Southwest began adding Wi-Fi to its aircraft in the first quarter of 2010. The airline began testing streaming live television in the summer of 2012 and video on demand in January 2013.[27][28] As of November 1, 2018, live in-flight TV, movies, messaging (iMessage and Whats App) and real-time flight tracking information via Wi-Fi are available for free to all passengers, with full Internet access available at a fee for regular passengers and free to A-List Preferred Rapid Rewards members.

Evolve interior[edit] Edit

On January 17, 2012, Southwest introduced a plan to retrofit its fleet with a new interior. Improvements include a modern cabin design, lighter and more comfortable seats made of eco-friendly products, increased under-seat space, new netted seatback pockets to provide more knee room, a new fixed-wing headrest and improved ergonomics. All Boeing 737-700s and 115 737-800s have the Evolve Interior.[30] Though not originally planned, because of space saved, Southwest was able to fit an extra row of seats on its planes. All Boeing 737-800s have the Boeing Sky Interior, which features sculpted sidewalls and redesigned window housings, along with increased headroom and LED mood lighting.

Heart interior[edit] Edit

On June 20, 2016, Southwest introduced its newest interior, called the Heart Interior. It includes the widest seat to fit a Boeing 737 that provides additional space for passengers and also includes a new galley.[32] The seat is being delivered on all new 737-800s and 737 MAX aircraft.[33] All current evolve equipped 737s will be retrofitted with new bulkheads and bold blue seat cushions to match the look of the heart interior. 

Rapid Rewards[edit] Edit

Southwest first began to offer a frequent-flyer program on June 18, 1987, calling it The Company Club. Unlike many competitors' programs that were based on miles flown, The Company Club credited for trips flown regardless of distance.[34] Southwest Airlines renamed its frequent flyer program Rapid Rewards on April 25, 1996.[35]

The original Rapid Rewards program offered one credit per one-way flight from an origin to a destination including any stops or connections on Southwest Airlines. When 16 credits were accumulated in a 24-month period, Southwest awarded one free round-trip ticket that was valid for 12 months.[36]

On March 1, 2011, Rapid Rewards changed to a points system based on ticket cost. Members earn and redeem points based on a three-tier fare scale multiplier and the cost of the ticket. Changes also included no blackout dates, seat restrictions or expiring credits. Since 18 October 2019, Rapid Rewards points don't expire, as long as the member is alive.[37] It also adds more options to use points.

Advertising[edit] Edit

The company has always employed humor in its advertising. Former slogans include "Love Is Still Our Field," "Just Plane Smart," "The Somebody Else Up There Who Loves You," "You're Now Free To Move About The Country," "THE Low Fare Airline," "Grab your bag, It's On!" and "Welcome Aboard." The airline's current slogan is "Low fares. Nothing to hide. That's TransFarency!"[55]

A Southwest 737-800 in the Heart livery at BWI Airport

In March 1992, shortly after Southwest started using the "Just Plane Smart" motto, Stevens Aviation, which had been using "Plane Smart" for its motto, advised Southwest that it was infringing on its trademark.[56][57]

Instead of a lawsuit, the CEOs for both companies staged an arm wrestling match. Held at the now-demolished Dallas Sportatorium (the famed wrestling facility) and set for two out of three rounds, the loser of each round was to pay $5,000 to the charity of his choice, with the winner gaining the use of the trademarked phrase. A promotional video was created showing the CEOs "training" for the bout (with CEO Herb Kelleher being helped up during a sit up where a cigarette and glass of Wild Turkey 101 whiskey was waiting) and distributed among the employees and also as a video press release along with the video of the match itself. Herb Kelleher lost the match for Southwest, with Stevens Aviation winning the rights to the phrase. Kurt Herwald, CEO of Stevens Aviation, immediately granted the use of "Just Plane Smart" to Southwest Airlines. The net result was both companies having use of the trademark, $15,000 going to charity, and good publicity for both companies

Controversies and passenger incidents[edit] Edit

See also: Access Now v. Southwest Airlines, Flying while Muslim § Southwest Airlines, and Boeing 737 MAX groundings

On June 22, 2011, a March 25 recording of an in-flight transmission of Southwest pilot James Taylor apparently unintentionally broadcasting a conversation with his first officer was released to the press. The conversation was peppered with foul language directed at gay, overweight, and older flight attendants. According to Southwest, the pilot was reprimanded and temporarily suspended without pay and received diversity education before being reinstated. Taylor also sent an e-mail apology to all of Southwest's employees, especially the crew members who were criticized.[75][76][77]

On September 26, 2017, a woman was removed from a Southwest flight after claiming to have a life-threatening allergy to dogs, two of which were present on the aircraft with one being a certified service animal, and having to be removed by law enforcement after failing to follow the instructions of airline staff. After learning about the woman's allergy, Southwest employees requested that she prove her condition with the correct documentation. When she failed to do so, staff asked her to exit the aircraft multiple times. She refused, which prompted law enforcement to step in and remove the passenger. The interactions between the woman and the officers were recorded and posted online to many social media platforms, and gained much attention.[78][79]

On December 29, 2017, a family was removed from a flight from Chicago Midway Airport to Santa Ana, California because of an unconfirmed lice accusation. The family did not have lice after all, and was re-accommodated on a flight two days later. Southwest claims to have refunded the full fare. The family claims that the airline never compensated them for the interruption to their trip.[80]

In October 2019 a Southwest flight attendant filed a lawsuit against the airline, claiming that two pilots had livestreamed footage from a camera hidden in the plane's toilet to an iPad, and that one of the pilots had admitted that such cameras were a "top-secret security measure" installed in all the airline's 737-800 planes.[81] Both Southwest and the pilot union state this never happened, and that it was a "poor attempt at humor" and the video viewed was previously recorded by the pilot which he shot of himself fully clothed.[82]

In February 2020, a report conducted by the Transportation Department's inspector general found that Southwest was flying airplanes with safety concerns and that the Federal Aviation Administration was failing to properly oversee the airline

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