Southwest Airlines stories by Stephen Hopson

Stephen HopsonStephen Hopson collects great business stories on his excellent blog Adversity University – many of which happen to be about Southwest Airlines.

I’m a huge fan of Southwest myself – not that I’ve ever flown with them, I’ve just read a lot about them, including the excellent book Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

Here’s one of Stephen’s favorite stories that shows how employees at Southwest use their intuition:

…a flight attendant from Phoenix named Debra Undhjem stepped in to help an elderly (87 years old) passenger.

Although the elderly woman missed her plane in Oakland, she did make it to Phoenix only to miss her connecting flight to Tulsa. Since there were no more flights to Tulsa after the missed flight, the customer had no choice but to stay overnight and catch the next available flight the following morning.

In light of her situation, customer service supervisors decided to put her up in a local hotel at the airline’s expense. That’s when Debra got personally involved.

She decided to go beyond the call of duty and invite the elderly customer to her home for the night instead of putting her in a hotel room all by herself. Debra made necessary phone calls to relatives in Tulsa informing them the elderly lady would be arriving on the first flight the next day. The following morning Debra brought this customer back to the airport and waited with her until she was aboard the first flight to Tulsa.

This is not only a touching story – to me it illustrates how employees who work for a happy company are much more likely to have the will, the initiative and the energy to do nice things for other people.

Stephen also shares the story of how Southwest Airlines was invented by Rollin King, a San Antonio entrepreneur, John Parker (his banker) and Herb Kelleher (his attorney):

One day, Parker was complaining how expensive and inconvenient it was to fly between Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and suggested that a new airline be started up. Rollin shared this concept with Herb who at first thought the idea was crazy but ended up talking about it over cocktails.

In the final analysis, Herb famous words were: “Rollin, you’re crazy. Let’s do it!”

“You’re crazy. Let’s do it!” – reminds me a little of Richard Branson’s motto: “Screw it! Let’s do it!”

Stephen’s own story is pretty fascinating too – he’s a former Wall Street stockbroker turned motivational speaker, author and piliot. And he’s also deaf. You can read his story here.

If you’re in the mood for a thrill, you should read his story of The Flight That Almost Killed me Part I and Part II.

And for more on Southwest Airlines read their blog which is always a laugh and a half.

11 thoughts on “Southwest Airlines stories by Stephen Hopson”

  1. Alex:

    Thank you so much for sharing with your readers about my newly relocated blog containing stories of Southwest Airlines, my favorite airline.

    I also appreciated how you shared my personal stories with your readers as well. I hope they enjoy it as much as you did! I am grateful for the gift of writing and am thankful that people are touched and uplifted by them. I live to do that!

    Thanks again for a very generous blurb over at your site. It was a nice surprise gift when I woke up this morning to find an email leading me back to this site! May I give you a cyber hug?


  2. Hi,

    I used to be a huge fanatic of SW. I’ve flown them for over 20 years, enjoying the service, fun, and prices.

    No longer.

    As a parent of a toddler I had flown SW since my Son was born, given the assurance that during the “cattle call” boarding process I would get to PreBoard with my family.

    As of 10.02.07 this policy has changed and children no longer get to PreBoard.

    If you don’t have kids, no problem. Yeah! Great going.

    If you do have kids it is yet another stressor during a stressful time in any travel.

    As a result, we will no longer fly SW.

    The LUV is lost.

    Shaun Dakin
    Stop Southwest Preboard Changes

  3. (I have no opinion about SW one way or the other.)

    A similar story to the post: 10 years ago, my sister lived in a town a couple of hours away and wanted to visit me for Christmas. She didn’t have a car, so she took public transit (a journey of several hours), stayed over, and then started back home.

    Then it started snowing. It turned out to be one of the worst ice storms this region has seen. She got about 2/3 of the way there, but the last bus wasn’t running. The bus driver of the bus she was on took my sister in at her home and made sure she got onto the right bus the next morning!

    Obviously, we’ve never forgotten that moment of kindness. I don’t know anything about the work culture of Jefferson (?) Transit, but that was a wonderful encounter with human kindness.

  4. Shaun: I can see how that is a problem – and indeed many people have complained to SW about it. They even have a post up on their blog with 100s of comments for and against the new system.

    Kuri: I agree – no action was necessary.

    Elaine: That is an amazing story. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Doing good at work

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