Southwest Airlines: A Cultural Assessment

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Southwest Airlines: A Corporate Cultural Assessment Southwest Airlines (Southwest) is a domestic US airline that provides short haul, high frequency, point-to-point, and low-fare service to and from 60 airports in 59 cities across 31 US states. From humble beginnings in 1971, this airline with only four passengers per flight, and airhostesses wearing hot pants and white go-go boots, has evolved into a leader in the airline industry with unsurpassed employee loyalty. Southwest's unique and relaxed corporate culture has created a highly successful airline business that has shown a profit for 30 consecutive years. This paper will examine corporate culture of Southwest Airlines and its impact on the company's success. Southwest's Formal Statements Southwest has a commitment to customer service as evident in their mission statement, "The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedicated to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit" (Southwest.com/about, 2005). According to the Department of Transportation, the airline has the best cumulative consumer satisfaction record in the airline industry. Southwest makes meeting the expectation of their customers a priority; realizing travelers have options when selecting an airline. The Southwest philosophy is that they are in the customer service business, which happens to provide airline transportation. Southwest has written a Customer Service Commitment, which is an official Contract of Carriage. The Customer Service Commitment discusses Southwest's pledge "to provide safe, affordable, reliable, timely, courteous, and efficient air transportation and baggage handling service on every flight we operate…" (Southwest.com/about). Work Environment The work environment at Southwest is an informal culture with motivated and energized employees. On board, the flight attendants often joke with the passengers, and are allowed to ad-lib their own announcements. They have even been found hiding in luggage compartments to surprise passengers. The airplanes are all Boeing 737s, and Southwest is updating the interior of the planes this year. The work environment outside of the aircraft is equally informal and positive as the inside. According to the CEO, Gary Kelly, the goal is fun and informality. The atmosphere is friendly and everyone is on a first name basis. A variety of activities and team building exercises exist to promote teamwork. Meetings are used as a means of communicating corporate goals and motivating employees (Chapman, 2005). At the corporate office in Dallas, one will find it more common to receive a hug than a handshake. The dress code is casual; if someone is seen in a suit that person is likely a visitor.
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