They Still Serve Peanuts


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Last Saturday, for the first time in years, I had the opportunity to fly Southwest Airlines. I was surprised – they still serve peanuts!

Over the last few years, I have experienced the degeneration of service of the major airlines. You are lucky to get a soft drink on most flights. Want a snack – it will cost you more. But the biggest loss has been the service. Rarely do you get a smile from the flight attendants (I guess that is more politically correct than steward or stewardess).

In the past, I had the opportunity to fly Southwest many times. When I was state president of the Texas Jaycees years ago, I flew so much with Southwest I was on first name basis with many of the flight attendants. I did not like not having a seat assignment, and the feeling they load you like cattle. But, I did like the feeling you received from everyone at Southwest. They created a culture of "love". They loved their jobs. They loved having you as their customer. As a customer, you felt like they actually liked serving you.

I wondered how they created such a culture, until one day I happened to be on a flight to El Paso with Herb Kelleher. Herb at the time was president of Southwest Airlines. He was not sitting in first class (he couldn’t since there is no first class). After the flight was in the air, he did a surprising thing. He took off his jacket, and joined the attendants serving drinks. And it appeared he had fun doing it!

That is what I remembered about Southwest. Everyone seemed to have fun! You never knew what to expect when they made their seat belt announcements.

I was surprised to see much of that culture remains. Two flight attendants came down the aisle handing out peanuts and appeared to be happy. The flight was very short – from Dallas to Houston – and most other airlines wouldn’t even serve drinks. They not only served drinks, but came back through to see if you wanted a refill. The pilot actually stood at the door as we left thanking us for flying, and he sounded like he really meant it.

Maybe this culture explains why Southwest is the only airline that has been making money recently.

How do we create this culture at HVA? In your franchise? And at corporate?

We do appreciate you as our customer! Have we told you that recently?

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