Southwest Airlines’ 3 Jets of Success

Southwest may be the most profitable company in the competitive airline industry. They utilize three “jets” that drive their success and make up their model. Any business wanting to reach greater heights should take note.

One could say that the three “jets” that drive Southwest’s success are so often talked about in the business world that they have become cliché. It’s time to wipe the slate clean and take a fresh look.

A cliché is a statement that is repeated so often in society that it loses its impact.

The reason such statements are frequently repeated is because they tend to communicate a universal truth. For example, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Who could argue?

Many clichés apply to business success: “We only hire team players.” We’ve all heard that one. Yada, yada. Right? Yet, there is great wisdom in the statement. A strong team is what makes a great company.

If there’s one thing Southwest Airlines has, it’s a strong team. But how did they get there?

In an article titled “TRAINING,” dated September 12, 1970, L. Ron Hubbard wrote: If an untrained executive is placed in charge of an organization, it can prepare for losses and can succumb.”

“It is less visible but just as decisive regarding ANY post.”

A company is only as strong as its weakest link, and its weakest link is most often untrained or improperly trained personnel. Reversely, effective training makes for a super-strong chain that can’t be broken.

Training is the first “jet” that propels Southwest Airlines into the rarefied air of lasting business success.

Training Can Make Your Business Soar

For more than 15 years Southwest Airlines has been the nation’s largest domestic air carrier.1

In addition, for more than two decades, Southwest has been ranked as one of the best places to work by Forbes, FortuneGlassdoor and others.2

With a total of 57,674 employees that operate over 4,000 departures every day, it’s easy to see why training is so important.3 People’s lives depend on it.

Southwest Airlines’ training is considered an industry best, not only for their on-plane personnel, but also for their in-office executives.

In 2013, Southwest completed a new Training and Operational Support (TOPS) building, which has a 392,000 square-foot office and training facility. Two years ago, they also opened a new training facility referred to as Wings, a development center known as Leadership Education and Aircrew Development (LEAD) Center. The new pilot training facility, opened April 3, 2018, can support 18 flight simulators with expansion provision to accommodate as many as 26 simulator bays.3

Of course, YOU don’t run an airline. Yet, should employee training be any less important for your business than it is for Southwest? Could botched sales or slow delivery of service or incorrect accounting, all due to inadequate training, hurt your business?

You bet it could.

One could say that trained personnel are the fuel that drives your business. If the fuel isn’t there, burning at the right temperature, there could be a crash landing. Or you might never get off the ground in the first place.

There are many reasons companies fall short of implementing training programs. Granted, you may not see an instant boost in revenues, especially when pretraining an employee before they produce on a post. Training takes administrative foresight to implement as well as time and money to invest in training. But how much more expensive is it to not have your people prepared or able to deliver?

In short, training can be expensive. However, as Mr. Hubbard pointed out in the same article in 1970, “It costs money not to spend money pretraining for a post. It also costs money not to train a person on a post to familiarize him with it.”

Not only can the untrained botch jobs, scare away customers and make things inefficient; in today’s internet world just a few dissatisfied consumers can do a world of damage: a complaint posted on a popular website, a one-star rating for your company on another, and then there’s always the social media threat.

They say a satisfied customer may tell 3 people, while (according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs4) a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9 and 15 people. But that doesn’t account for the potential online viral effect, where those dissatisfied 15 might reach the eyes and ears of 3,000!

Two More “Jets” that Drive Southwest’s Success

A major key to having competent trained personnel is hiring the right people in the first place. Southwest excels at this as well.

Southwest maintains inflexible policies and hiring practices to ensure the right set of team members are continually hired—individuals that must represent its branding message and carry a passion to help customers.5

The third “jet” that drives Southwest’s success is that they share the wealth. They don’t just talk about “team spirit”; they create it through profit sharing. Southwest has been profitable for 44 years in a row. The airline’s founder, Herb Kelleher, in 1973 introduced a profit-sharing policy that enables the company to share annual profits with its employees. “Profit sharing is an expense we want to be as big as possible so our people get a greater reward,” Kelleher said, according to Forbes.

Southwest’s business model is simple:

  • Hire the right people.
  • Train them to do their jobs competently.
  • Share the profits with them.

Hire. Train. Share. These three “jets” make for a strong team that can fly high. It may sound cliché, but at the same time, that’s why it works.



  1. “Company Overview.” Southwest Airlines, 2018.

  2. Rudulph, Heather Wood. “Interview Insider: How to Get a Job at Southwest Airlines.” Hearst Magazine Media, 4 Feb. 2016.

  3. Verasai, Anna. “The Southwest Airlines HR Success Story You’ll Want to Read Today.” The HR Digest, 29 Sept. 2018.

  4. Shaw, Colin. “15 Statistics That Should Change the Business World—but Haven’t.” Beyond Philosophy, 10 June 2013.

  5. Verasai, Anna. “The Southwest Airlines HR Success Story You’ll Want to Read Today.” The HR Digest, 29 Sept. 2018.


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