Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2001 (Revised August 2004)
Rapid Rewards at Southwest Airlines
by Frances X. Frei and Corey B. Hajim
Southwest Airlines is well known as the low-fare airline that has achieved ongoing financial success in one of the most financially troubled industries in the United States. Told from the perspectives of two Southwest customers--a frequent flier and a more typical customer--the case revolves around two customer service requests from the frequent flier, both of which provide a compelling temptation to cater to the satisfaction of the airline's highest revenue customers. The requests are intriguing because they would neither add cost nor increase the turnaround time of Southwest's service.
Keywords: Customer Relationship Management; Air Transportation; Service Operations; Service Delivery; Air Transportation Industry;
As the former CEO of the highly successful southwest Airlines, Howard Putnam led the fledgling carrier through airline deregulation and the development and implementation of the "vision" that has guided Southwest to revered heights over the past twenty years.
|Howard Putnam was later recruited to be Chairman and CEO of the financially failing Braniff International and became the first CEO to take a major airline through Chapter 11 successfully. It was a Braniff that he learned crisis management while rallying 10,000 employees to new heights as the fought to save their company. The reorganization was accomplished so efficiently the Harvard University used it as a model and wrote "The Ethics of Bankruptcy," a case study for ethically leading an organization through turbulence.|
Howard Putnam is a down-to-earth and entertaining speaker. He learned to fly on an Iowa farm as a teenager, and worked his way, over twenty years, from the bag room (leading luggage) to the boardroom of two major airlines. He earned a well-deserved reputation for his capacity to think systematically, create a vision, build a team, define a niche, and successfully lead and manage through crisis.
Successful Strategies Through Turbulence
|Hire Attitudes, Teach Them the Skills|
|Matching People to the Vision With Integrity & Fun|
|Transforming Organizations Successfully|
|"I've always appreciated Howard's honesty and ethical approach. He shows you pathways to resolve difficulties with many constituencies during good and difficult times."|
|"Howard's insistence on telling the truth even when it would have been more convenient not to is a trait that students of management, including myself, find most appealing in this day and age."|
|"You did the best thing a speaker can do, made me look great. Many attendees at our management conference have given me rave reviews on your talk. Thanks again for a great show!"|