Southwest Airlines is the 4th largest US airline by passengers after American, Delta and United, and the single biggest by internal flights. It carried 162.7m passengers in 2019, with a total of 131.3bn revenue passenger miles. However it operates almost exclusively within the US, with connections to around 100 cities in 48 states. In 2011 it acquired Florida-based rival AirTran Airways, which continued to operate as a standalone brand until the end of 2014. AirTran brought with it a limited "near-international" coverage to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Partly as a result of its concentration on the domestic market, Southwest is also America's most financially stable airline, recording 47 consecutive years of profitability since its launch. It also boasts the highest level of customer satisfaction, with fewer complaints per passenger than any other major US carrier every year for more than 25 years. It was the only commercial airline among Fortune's top ten most admired US companies for 2019. Southwest launched in 1971 as a low-fare Texas-only carrier connecting the state's three main cities of Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Founders Rollin King and Herb Kelleher effectively set the mould for "no frills" airlines by eliminating unnecessary services to keep down costs, and avoided "hub and spoke" concentration on major cities in order to make use of smaller and less expensive secondary airports. Over the next 40 years, Kelleher earned a reputation as one of America's most admired CEOs. Gary Kelly succeeded him as CEO in 2004 and as chairman as well four years later. Kelly will step down as CEO in 2022 to be succeeded by Robert Jordan. Revenues reached a new high in 2019 of $22.4bn, with net income of $2.3bn. However, that impressive run of consecutive annual profits came to an end in 2020 as a result of the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic on airline travel.
Capsule checked 16th December 2020
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Marketer Moves 23rd Jun 2021: New CEO designate at Southwest Airlines. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 26th Mar 2020: America's airlines - one of the sectors hit hardest by the lockdown - are likely to return to some form of partial state ownership under the terms of the government's $2 trillion emergency aid package. The eight main airlines - American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Hawaiian and Atlas - as well as cargo carriers UPS and FedEx are to share around $25bn of grants to be used exclusively for staffing costs as well as another $25bn of loans. That's considerably more than the total of $15bn they received following the 9/11 attacks. In return they must agree to suspend any staffing reductions until at least the end of September. Terms have yet to be finalised, but in exchange for the grants the government is expected to receive warrants to acquire equity at a future date at a fixed price.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Sep 2017: Ads of the Week: "Behind Every Seat Is A Story". Here's a lovely new "people first" spot for US airline Southwest from longtime partner GSD&M. In an age when airlines around the globe are being accused of an increasingly negligent attitude towards passengers in their race towards the bottom on pricing, GSD&M reverse the tables. The new campaign focuses on the fact that every passenger has his or her own story to tell, so these ads are about us, not about the airline. It's such an obvious angle that it's incredible no other carrier is already doing this. Separately, the week's biggest account transfer was the capture of media for Southwest Airlines by Publicis-owned Spark Foundry. The business moves from long-time incumbent, independently owned Camelot Marketing & Media.
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