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Southwest Airlines Essay

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Q1. What is Southwest’s strategy? What is the basis on which Southwest builds its competitive advantage?
Q2. How do Southwest’s control systems help execute the firm’s strategy?

The Southwest Airlines strategy is best explained by its co-founder Herb Kelleher during a talk at Wharton: “It’s an obsession with keeping costs low and treating employees well and a commitment to managing the company during booms with an eye to the busts that will inevitable follow. Do that and most of the rest takes care of itself.”

As long as this strategy is well known in its industry it has proved hard to copy. Let see what Southwest does and others do not.

There are two main strategic areas:

1. Operating Costs
2. People

1. Operating Costs

Southwest Airlines has the lowest fares among its competition. Its lowest fares partly came from low operational costs. What Southwest is doing?

Southwest flies one airplane type, the Boeing 737 series. The competitors are using all kind of airplanes and models. That saves millions for Southwest in maintenance cost, spare-parts inventories and mechanics training. More, every pilot and crew members will be familiar with every plane. On the other hand, using one type of airplane gives Southwest the opportunity to move the aircrafts through the route network without costly reconfigurations.

Southwest is using less congested airports (secondary or downtown) and of course they have lower average fares.

Most of Southwest flying is point-to-point rather than competition that is hub-and-spoke. That strategy and shorthaul approach with an average flight time of 55 minutes minimizes the time that airplane sit on the ground waiting delay-prone hubs. According to FlightStats, on-time performance...


... middle of paper ...


...es High on Fuel Hedging an ‘Servant Leadership’: Knowledge@Wharton (2008) at
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2006 (accessed: 19 August 2008)

• What Makes Southwest Airlines Fly: Knowledge@Wharton (2003) at
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=753 (accessed: 19 August 2008)

• Pasztor, Andy and Prada, Paulo (2008), “Southwest Set To Challenge FAA Penalties” at
http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB1219796394831.html (accessed: 27 August 2008)

• Heaster, Randolph (2008), “Southwest Airlines to trim 190 flights this winter” at
http://www.kansascity.com/business/v-print/story/768458.html (accessed: 26 August 2008)

• Bryant, Elizabeth (2006), “Southwest Airlines and the MBTI Assesment Creating a Corporate Culture That Soars” at
http://www.cpp.com/pr/southwest_airlines_2006.pdf (accessed: 29 August 2008)


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