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Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success

Broadway Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

How courage, customer service, a fierce work ethic and sheer craziness can create a successful airline

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Kevin and Jackie Freiberg began studying Southwest Airlines when Kevin was a doctoral student. This lively, funny and, at times, moving book is full of information about the origins of Southwest Airlines, what makes it unique and how it fights hard to keep its family-based culture, despite having more than 33,000 employees. Wonderful stories told by employees, letters from customers and comments from other business leaders demonstrate the principles that the authors discuss. The book is divided into four sections, with the last looking at leadership in general and as practiced at Southwest. This book was originally published in 1996, but every word of it is perfectly applicable today. Southwest Airlines is still making a profit and growing where other airlines are losing money by the planeload. getAbstract recommends this entertaining account of how to operate a service-oriented company in a cutthroat industry.


Fighting for Life

Southwest Airlines is known as a feisty, creative, lean, but profitable competitor in the difficult business of flying passengers. Its slogan, “The Low Fare Airline,” reflects its origins in the days when flying was a luxury few could afford, and it prides itself still on keeping prices as low as possible. This culture was born with the company. When San Antonio entrepreneur Rollin King approached lawyer Herb Kelleher in 1966 with the idea of creating an airline to fly among Dallas, San Antonio and Houston more cheaply and more comfortably than the existing carriers, Kelleher told Rollin that he was crazy and then said, “Let’s do it!”

In those days, the airline industry was heavily regulated, and Kelleher expected many legal and bureaucratic challenges. However, the battles were fiercer and lasted longer than he could have imagined, as rival airlines launched numerous political and legal actions to stop the new carrier. Even after Southwest started flying in 1971, it still faced challenges about where it flew and which airports it used. This fostered an attitude of tremendous closeness among Southwest employees, and remains a vital and energizing ...

About the Authors

Jackie and Kevin Freiberg are the principals of a San Diego consulting group. The firm offers management advice to major organizations, including, of course, Southwest Airlines.

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