Southwest Airlines Company Analysis: Management Essay Example

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Southwest Airlines Company Analysis: Management


This essay is an analysis of the management of Southwest Airlines. The analysis examines the various ways in which the mission, vision and values of the company benefit the firm’s brand. Also, the analysis examines the impact of key managers on the performance of the company. Other details related to the way the company chooses and rewards its employees are also included in the report.

Impact of Key Managers

Herbert David Kelleher and Gary Kelly are the two executives who, separately, have had significant levels of influence at Southwest Airlines. Herbert Kelleher was the founding CEO of the company while Gary Kelly replaced him in 2008. The impact of these two leaders on the company has been because of the decisions that they have made as CEOs of the company. It is important to note that these two CEOs used a similar style of management. Herbert Kelleher was famed for his charismatic approach to leadership that focused on doing things differently for the benefit of the employees and the customers (Gallo 2014). Kelleher is famed for devising and implementing what is generally referred to as the ‘Southwest Way.’ Similarly, the use of the charismatic approach to leadership and a desire to stick to the values that were established by Kelleher are some of the factors that the success of Gary Kelly is ascribed to (Hall 2010). In other words, Kelleher is famed for establishing the business model and corporate values of the company while Kelly is recognised as having made sure that the values remain intact in the company over the years (Hall 2010).

Corporate Mission, Values and the Company Brand

The mission of Southwest Airlines is that the company seeks to offer services that are of high value in ways that are friendly and pleasant to its customers (Southwest Airlines 2017). The values of the company are summarised in the following statement: to live and work the Southwest Way (Southwest Airlines 2017). The company requires that its employees perform their duties in a fun-loving way and ensure that they serve their customers (Southwest Airlines 2017). Also, the company prioritises the safety of its customers as well as the need to reduce its costs of operation (Hall 2010). The mission and values of the company enhance its brand in various ways. Most importantly, the mission and vision of the company enhances its brand image as one of the leading companies that use the low-cost carrier (LCC) model (Hall 2010). Airlines that use the LCC model seek to reduce their operational costs, charge their clients lower fares and provide exceptionally friendly services to their clients (Hall 2010). The values and mission of Southwest Airlines enhance this brand image. Moreover, there are stories on how the company values its employees as a way of ensuring that the employees perform at their best always (Makovsky 2013). Moreover, the company values diversity, given the composition of its employees and senior management teams (Makovsky 2013).

Corporate Social Responsibility

On April 4 2016, the staff of Southwest Airlines prevented a person called Khairuldeen Makhzoomi from boarding a plane. Makhzoomi was a 26-year-old student of Arab descent (Shine 2016). The Southwest Airlines staff members decided to prevent him from boarding a plane after they received a complaint from a woman that Makhzoomi could have been a security threat to the staff and the would-be passengers (Shine 2016). This incident was significant for two reasons. First, it portrayed Southwest Airlines in bad light because many people said that the airline was profiling its passengers and discriminating against those who are of Arab descent (Shine 2016). Secondly, the student was later allowed to travel aboard a Delta Airlines plane and this showed that the decision by Southwest Airlines was wrong and that the person was not a security threat. In response, Southwest Airlines emphasised that it only prevents passengers to board its planes if it has been carefully established that the passengers in question pose a security threat (Shine 2016). The company added that it does not condone discrimination (Shine 2016). Currently, the company is at the fourth stage of corporate social responsibility. Companies that are at the fourth stage of corporate social responsibility normally integrate corporate social responsibility practices in their strategic planning process (Werther & Chandler 2010, p. 126). Southwest Airlines integrates the need to conserve the environment and address the needs of the society as well as other corporate social responsibility aspects in its strategic plans (Southwest Airlines Co. 2016, p. 11).

Employee Benefits

There are various benefits that an employee of Southwest Airlines gets. In general, the company values its employees and prioritises the need to reward them competitively (Southwest Airlines Co. 2016, p. 7). The company rewards its employees with financial as well as non-financial rewards (Southwest Airlines Co. 2016, p. 7). The financial rewards are pegged on the current market rates and the results of negotiation processes with the labour unions that represent the interests of the employees of the company (Southwest Airlines Co. 2016, p. 5). However, Southwest Airlines stands out from the competition because of the way it prioritises the need to ensure that its employees are happy, satisfied and fully engaged (Weber 2015). Along this line, the employees of the company get monetary and non-monetary benefits.

Employee Attributes

Southwest Airlines seeks to recruit individuals who hold values that are in agreement with those of the company. The company looks for individuals who are ready to focus on attaining its mission and vision (Gallo 2014). It is based on this that the company carefully selects a few individuals from the many applications that it receives everyday (Gallo 2014). Thus, individuals who are happy serving others, willing to be engaged at work and ready to work in a fun-loving environment are likely to be happy at Southwest Airlines.


In conclusion, the founding CEO and current CEO of Southwest Airlines are two managers who have been very influential over the years. Moreover, the values and mission of the company enhance the company’s brand image as one of the leading companies that use the LCC model. The company prioritises the needs of its employees over those of its other stakeholders. It is expected that once the employees of the company are engaged and happy, it is easy for the employees to serve customers well and that this will make the company more profitable. Lastly, Southwest Airlines rewards its employees with various benefits and looks for individuals whose values are in line with those of the company.


Gallo, C 2014, ‘Southwest Airlines motivates its employees with a purpose bigger than a paycheck,’ Forbes, 21 January, viewed 2 July 2017, <>.

Hall, C 2010, ‘Southwest CEO is defining himself as a leader – without bag fees,’ Dallas News, April 2010, viewed 2 July 2017, <>.

Makovsky, K 2013, ‘Behind the Southwest Airlines culture,’ Forbes, 21November, viewed 3 July 2017, <>.

Shine, C 2016, ‘Southwest Airlines controversy latest incident to spark profiling concerns,’ Delta News, 19 April, viewed 3 July 2017, <>.

Southwest Airlines 2017, Investor relations, viewed 23 June 2017, <>.

Southwest Airlines Co. 2016, 2016 annual report to shareholders, viewed 23 June 2017, <>.

Weber, J 2015, ‘How Southwest Airlines hires such dedicated people,’ Harvard Business Review, 2 December, viewed 3July 2017, <>.

Werther, WB & Chandler, D 2010, Strategic corporate social responsibility: stakeholders in a global environment, SAGE, London.