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Southwest seats as you've never seen them before
Southwest Airlines Media Day: when SWA gathers journalists at its Dallas Love Field HQ to give a sort of "State of the Union" of the airline. It's also a great time for journalists to get an inside look at how the airline operates, and that's what I, Steven Frischling of Flying With Fish, will be bringing to you, direct from Dallas, over the next couple days.
Next: Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly personally shares some tips.
As with nearly any corporate "Media Day," journalists are invited to interview executives, and so I decided to ask Gary Kelly, Southwest's CEO, about his tips for getting the best seats on the plane, especially since they're famous for the "cattle call" and open seating.
So, here we go…
In-Flight WiFi / Southwest / Travel News / Row 44 / Gary Kelly / → All Tags
UPDATE: Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly tested the in-flight WiFi today and sent out an email to his executive planning committee: Y'all are my first email from SWA Wifi. It's awesome! Speed is good. Customers obviously luv it.
Y'all are my first email from SWA Wifi. It's awesome! Speed is good. Customers obviously luv it.
Even in the air, Keller stays on message.
Could you possible log on onboard in the No Hidden Fee Zone? Southwest Airlines announced today it will begin testing in-flight WiFi in conjunction with tech startup Row 44, with hopes to have 4 planes WiFi enabled by March. But where can we get it, and how much will it cost?
Along with the announcement Southwest posted a short video of digital addicts using Facebook and their iPhones on a test flight of unspecified destination. (You can't make a cell phone call, though.) They even showed off what we assume is Row 44's machinery at work, dubbed "Gadget 13," making this test the first in which we've actually seen the sausage being made, so to speak.
We dinged Row 44 for making a big splash at CES without any examples of its superiority over other in-flight wireless providers like Gogo. Now they're making good and, if the president's interview with the New York Times holds, may actually be undercutting the market with charges of $6 for handheld devices and $8 for laptops.
And while not all of Southwest's fee-conscious passengers will spring for that kind of extra, some will -- or rather, we would.
No routes were named as potentially WiFi ready, but looking into our crystal ball we foresee Internet popping up en route to Vegas, Chicago-Midway and Phoenix, their top three destinations (and two of which are cities included on the test flights today and tomorrow).
· Jan '08: Southwest Airlines Announces In-Flight WiFi< [Jaunted]
· Aug '08: Southwest Planning Some WiFi Flights by Year's End [Jaunted]
· Row 44's CES Hype Doesn't Equal In-Flight Internet [Jaunted]
· Virgin InFlight WiFi Liveblog [Jaunted]
· You Think The Guy In The Seat Next To You Is Annoying Now? [NYT Bits Blog]
Halloween at Southwest / Southwest Airlines / Halloween / Celebrity Halloween / Gary Kelly / → All Tags
The Halloween spirit turns up in a lot of odd places (we see you, dentist's office!) but nowhere was odder than seeing these balloon columns popping up everywhere at Dallas' Love Field last week. But given how seriously Love's main carrier, Southwest Airlines, takes the holiday, it only seems appropriate that some of the good cheer would spill over from Southwest HQ, which is very close to the airport. How close? We'll show you that and way, way more after the jump.
The biggest news coming out of Southwest Airlines' Halloween bash this year was what CEO Gary Kelly's costume would be. On Friday, we analyzed his choice of Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top--but today we have exclusive video of Kelly performing one of the Top's biggest hits, just after the jump.
Southwest's Chief of Wacky Getups is leading the troops in Halloween celebrations today dressed as Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. Kelly definitely pulls it off, but when past outfits have included full face make-up and dressing in drag, a fake beard and a hat seem more than a little conservative.
Maybe the economy has him toning things down? It's still too early to tell if a recession will put the breaks on leisure travel, a big part of Southwest's business, but if it does, the carrier won't be able to fall back on fees as a way to earn some extra scratch.
Looking ahead to 2009, a potentially drawn out fare war with the new super-Delta at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International can't be an exciting prospect. And while the airline notes that its recent quarterly loss was more of an accounting issue than a business downturn, no one likes to lose $120 million.
Then again, it's just a costume.
· A Sharp Dressed Man [Nuts about Southwest]
[Photo: Southwest Airlines]
So it should come as no surprise that these over-the-top decorations are up in Concourse B and Baltimore-Washington International.
We're actually heading to the Halloween festivities at Southwest HQ in Dallas on Friday, which should be outrageous. Guess it's easy to party when your airline isn't bleeding cash!
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly just posted a request on the airline's official blog: He needs our help coming up with a costume for this Halloween. In the past, he's gone all the way with portrayals of Gene Simmons, Jack Sparrow and Edna Turnblad (from "Hairspray"), so not just any idea will work.
We think we have a winner, though: We wanna see Kelly decked out as Kyla Ebbert. She is, after all, the airline's most famous passenger! We even put together this handy shopping list for the boss' trip to the costume shop:
1 tiny white tank top.
1 lime green bolero.
1 white denim mini skirt.
1 copy Playboy. (For research purposes only!)
1 invite to a party with Richard Branson.
This interesting photo from the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University just landed in our inbox. Seems when Southwest CEO Gary Kelly stopped in recently to share words of wisdom with OSU MBAs and aviation students, a familiar face was in the crowd. Says our tipster:
In the back row of the photo you can make out Bill Diffenderffer. Seems a little late for him to be learning how to run an airline.
It was just less than a month ago that CNN called out Southwest Airlines for irregular safety inspections on its 737s. Since then, Planegate has continued, and even spread to just about every other airline.
United is the latest carrier to have trouble, pulling its 777s from service for fire system checks today. Before that, it was Delta and American grounding MD-80s for wiring troubles. And how can we forget the US Airways plane that lost a piece of its wing on the way to Orlando. (It wasn't the same flight that featured a gun discharging in the cockpit.)
Well it's all just a warm up for tomorrow: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly is among the folks who'll be testifying in front of Congress about plane safety on Thursday. Tune in to watch Rep. James Oberstar chew everyone out!
· Oberstar to Quiz FAA on Safety [Star Tribune]
· FAA Says 4 US Airlines Under Investigation [AP, via IHT]
· Airlines, FAA Under Fire on the Hill [WaPo]
· US Airlines Get a Safety Check [Wired]
· Planegate Continues as Southwest Grounds 38 Planes [Jaunted]
Early this week Southwest Airlines went on a PR offensive to assure everyone that the carrier's 737s were--and are--safe. But since CEO Gary Kelly made the media rounds, Southwest has grounded
42 38 planes and place three employees on leave in connection with safety oversights.
Meanwhile, the FAA is looking to nail the carrier with a $10.2 million fine because Southwest didn't comply with so-called airworthiness directives. Two FAA employees that claim to have documents proving the airline messed up have been subpoenaed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Committee chair (and Jaunted frienemy) Rep. James Oberstar has vowed to get to the bottom of this. He's scheduled a hearing for April 3.
42 38 planes is almost 10 percent of the Southwest fleet. Better reconfirm those reservations!
· Southwest Grounds Dozens of Jets After Safety Probe [DMN]
· Southwest Puts Three on Leave [CNN]
· Southwest Responds to Preliminary Findings [Official Site]
· CNN Says Southwest Flew Unsafe Planes [Jaunted]
We certainly have an obsession with interviewing travel trendwatchers like Peter Greenberg and airline CEOs like Fred Reid. Sadly, we can't score all the gets. But we can tell you what Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly had to say in a recent interview with The Dallas Morning News.
Most importantly for his company, Kelly says Southwest is ready for high fuel prices and an economic slowdown--both definite possibilities for next year:
We've got a great fuel hedge this year. It's not quite as good next year, but it's still very good and certainly provides us tremendous protection. We're 70 percent hedged next year at about $50 a barrel...We've slowed down our growth to be prepared for a more difficult economic environment next year...In terms of the fleet, that will be a net of between five to 10 airplanes.
That puts Southwest at odds with European low cost carriers--and the newest point-to-point LCC in the States, Skybus, who's busy adding lots of new routes and new planes. While Kelly doesn't name names, he does say:
We are not going in a direction like some of our European counterparts who, they don't capitalize "C" in customer, I assure you. It's just a very different approach. It's a desire to be cheap at all costs. And that's not who we are or where we're coming from.
With ruthless competition between price point and customer service, looks like Kelly could be right when he says, "It'll be an interesting 2008." If you wanna talk travel with us, Gary, be in touch!
· Southwest's Gary Kelly Says Airline Acquisitions Possible [DMN]
· Southwest CEO Makes His Case on YouTube [Jaunted]
· Southwest Airlines coverage [Jaunted]
Passengers have all sorts of takes on Southwest's new fare system and its new boarding procedure, and though the reaction so far doesn't sound too, too critical to us, maybe CEO Gary Kelly hears something we don't.
To preemptively stamp out passenger concern--and show how hip to technology he is--Kelly's taken to YouTube to explain why Southwest is shaking things up. Luckily for him, the video isn't an emotional apology for massive service disruptions.