Turnaround Strategies Businesses can Learn From Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has long been credited for their exceptional customer service, smart business culture, highly-engaged employees and their methods of partying too. However, there is one thing the company isn’t doing right – arriving on time. As reported by BloombergBusinessweek, the airline stood last in the list of flights not arriving on time.

This article is about how Southwest Airlines intends to resolve this issue and what budding professionals can learn from it. These ideas are actually shared by Steve Hozdulick, senior director of Southwest, on his report to Justin Bachman of BloombergBusinessweek. 

So, if you are a business owner facing problems with late deliveries or a professional having problems with your turnaround time, read on.

1) Think of your problems from different angles; there is no magic-bullet solution

In the real world, you might have to take multiple steps in order to find a solution. Sometimes, going back to the basics and re-strategizing helps.  

In an effort to improve on-time performance, South West Airlines freed up some time for flights to function between 9 AM to 6PM. However, this move resulted in unintended consequences.  It resulted in more customers and more-crowded planes. It was a time when the Airline was experimenting with a larger model - 175-seat 737-800 in place of its usual 143-seat 737s. The December winter storm and the nonhub network in which the airlines operated did not help the cause either. As a result, only two-thirds of passenger carriers made it in the scheduled time. In the last quarter of 2013, only 71.8% of flights met the scheduled time, taking the airline to dead last in the record list of on-time flights in the industry.  

Lesson to be learnt: A single move may not solve the issue. Sometimes good ideas can also fail and worsen your situation. So make a plan B or even plan C and look at problems from different angles. Start working on the basics in order to find where you are going wrong.

2) The Importance of emphasizing on your positive moves

Nobody likes being late. But there is a silver line excusing any business with very high customer demands. 2013 was still a great year for Southwest Airlines, despite its late arrival records. The fifth annual report had lots of positives including record revenues of $17.7 billion in 2013), record reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and employees giving more than 144,000 volunteered hours.

The Airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly, stressed Southwest Airline’s achievements including its move to improve “fleet modernization”. Its fleet modernization project also includes upgrading to larger-sized flights. Larger-sized flights take more time for loading which again results in decreased on-time performance.

On the other hand, larger planes are more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient. So isn’t that worth the delayed arrivals?

Lesson to be learnt: Never forget to highlight your positive points. When you have good reasons for your problems, point them out.  

3) Do not hesitate to admit your problems

You may think an airline that’s as big and as successful as Southwest might not publicize its issues with on-time arrivals. But Southwest did. Hozdulick admitted this point when he spoke to the media (as it appears in the Airline’s news page [302 from]).

Lesson to be learnt: Transparency is a good quality when you are marketing. Being transparent makes you more reliable as a brand. Taking public criticisms seriously and working on it is another great way to improve quality.

Southwest Airlines is on target as the CEO declares that this issue cannot be solved overnight; he also promises that on-time arrivals will hike to 83 - 85% by next year.

So these are three important lessons you can learn from the established airline. If you want to improve the turn-round time of your work or the delivery time of your business, you can learn from the experiences of Southwest Airlines.


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Image Credit : Southwest Airlines