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Southwest Airlines faced many barriers to entry from the fierce competition of other airlines in the industry. Though competition was fierce, Southwest Airlines managed to succeed by doing things differently. Their mission was to provide affordable air travel to those who would not normally fly. Contradictory to the rest of the airline industry, Southwest maintained a profit while keeping its fares low. Southwest was unique to the industry in two ways. They focused on the short haul traveler and used a point-to-point method of flight connections.
The short haul traveler is the backbone in which Southwest was built upon. The market for short distance airline flights was large enough to allow Southwest to maintain a profit for over 30 consecutive years. Shorter flight times allowed for more flights to take place per day. With the industry average sitting at one or two flights per day, Southwest set itself leaps apart by averaging 10 to 12. Maximizing utilization and minimizing ground time were the key elements to Southwest's profitability.
If the short haul passenger was the backbone of Southwest Airlines success, then their 737s were the lifelines that supported it. By choosing the 737 as the airplane for all of Southwest's flights, the company saved time and resources in training its employees. The crew could be easily substituted for one another due to the extensive training on the 737. Low costs and, therefore, low fares are an enormous competitive advantage, when combined with their high-quality and loyal workforce. A very unique culture was found at Southwest Airlines among all of its employees.
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With the airline industry as highly competitive and as cutthroat as it is, the chance for the larger competitors such as United and American Airlines would follow Southwest lead by providing more short haul flights of their own. To their dismay, American and United being both in poor financial situations has made it extremely difficult for them to enter Southwest's niche in the market. A quick glance into Southwest's financial history, their net income has more then doubled between 1993 and 1997 alone.
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