For those of you who object to children on airplanes, this is a not a post for you. Rather, this is news for those of you who, like Southwest Airlines, are decidedly and unabashedly pro-children. Indeed, so pro-children, you don’t even refer to them as children. No, you call them peanuts.
For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll go on the record as being not anti-children. Indeed, I would say that I don’t really have a problem with them. I understand that people find it annoying to be seated next to or near to crying children, but since I figure we all used to be that size and probably were once sitting next to a stranger and crying, what goes around comes around. Eh.
Anyway, while many airlines are tiptoeing around this issue of children-as-a-flying-annoyance, Southwest is setting themselves apart by lauding travel with children. Now, I ask you: If you were a parent who had to travel with a small child, would you rather fly on an airline that tolerates your little pride and joy or one that tries to make it more pleasant to travel with him? Yup, me too.
On the other hand, though, I’m not really a big fan of the term “Mommy Blogger.” I know that it’s become a relatively common term, but I just don’t feel that writing about raising children should relegate you to a cute and cuddly moniker. Scientists who study the rearing of progeny aren’t “Mommy Anthropologists.” To me, it harkens back to the days of calling female journalists “Gal Reporters”.
This Jessica Turner, though, was a good choice for the, ahem, aforementioned position. Check out her “How Not to Go Nuts While Flying With a Peanut” post and video and you get an engaging voice with helpful information for new parents. As to how much information and tips you can possibly find to offer about air travel with children…well, that’s her problem and not mine.
And especially not my problem since I don’t have kids. Though that makes me wonder if Southwest isn’t missing out on an even nich-ier niche: “I’m my own peanut and I find traveling alone more than hard enough”. I say, best of luck to you Parents and Travelers of the World, best of luck. (Photo: www.blogsouthwest.com/content/download-mommy-patches)
The upside of loyalty and popularity is pretty obvious. The downside of popularity and loyalty? People feel very possessive of you. They take the things you do personally. And they have no qualms about making it known.
Case in point: Southwest’s decision to plaster a shot of model Bar Rafaeli in a swimsuit on one of its planes to advertise the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. In response, Southwest has received a hailstorm of criticism by people who have never seen a woman in a bikini before—ahem—by people who are offended by what they see as gratuitous sexuality on the side of a Southwest plane.
In a letter which will now forever link the words “boobies” and “Chris and Sharon Kraemer” on Google, the disapproving Midlothian, Texas, couple wrote to the airline, “Many women do not enjoy having their husbands exposed to explicit pictures or explaining to young children why the lady on the plane is 'showing her boobies'."
(Factual insertion: she’s wearing a top. A triangle bikini top to be sure, but a top, nonetheless.)
A quick perusal of the Southwest blog has turned up fewer specific anatomical mentions, but plenty of people who find this ad technique “tacky”, “trash” and not “family friendly” (sic). Oh the rage.
Okay, I get this. There’s a difference between having sexuality thrust in your face on the newsstands and on a great big ol’ plane at the airport. However, this isn’t much different than what you’d find on the beach. (No different at all if the beach happened to be populated by gigantic women.) And, to Southwest’s credit, the picture is relatively tasteful; Rafaeli is lying on her side and giving the camera a look that isn’t so much “come hither” as confused and vaguely annoyed.
But the people in opposition to this campaign obviously care deeply about Southwest. They feel loyal to Southwest. And now Southwest has betrayed them. On the blog, poster Jim Dawson has this to say: “I'm acutally sort of let down that Southwest, a company I really admire, would stoop this low.” (sic) while Kevin says, “Having a woman in a bikini on the side of the plane hardly seems like the epitome of the friendly, down-home airline I've grown accustomed to.” And there you have the negative aspect of a strong customer base: When you try to break out of the box, you’re going to tick people off. When you tick people off who used to love you, they can become just as rabid opponents as they had been supporters.
Could Southwest’s publicity- and income-garnering antics alienate enough of a base that it could cost them market share? Well, let’s put it this way: There’s a reason that politicians change their message based on what they think their biggest audiences want to hear. They want to stay in office...and Southwest wants to stay in the skies.
First Southwest tags that unflattering picture of you and now they are getting even more tech savvy on us by starting a test of the “information superskyway” (I cannot take credit for that little gem—it came straight from their press release).
Southwest has paired with Row 44 to equip one lucky aircraft with Wi-Fi access. But wait, there's even more—they are also partnering with our friends at Yahoo! to bring passengers local news and information as well as a one-of-a-kind flight tracker. Forget about that little plane moving over a map, so 2008 … this super tracker allows passengers to not only follow the flight path but also view “fly over” points of view complete with images from Flickr. It’s like a guided tour from 30,000 feet!
Southwest certainly isn’t the first airline to provide Wi-Fi to passengers. United launched their In-Flight Internet back in January and American was way ahead of the curve launching their own version of Wi-Fi back in June. Both of their offerings will cost you though, with prices ranging from $9 to $12. There is no mention yet whether Southwest’s will be free or not, but here's hoping they will keep up their “fees don’t fly” policy and give passengers access to the Internets for free.
One rule of thumb when perusing the World Wide Web on the friendly skies—paid or free—please save your unsavory site viewing to the privacy of your own home. Happy Flying!
Tell me, do you tweet? Perhaps, instead, you flickr. Or are you a YouTuber? A Facebooker? A MySpacer? Maybe you’re just, oh, say, familiar with blogs. (Ding-ding-ding!) How new media-savvy of you. Tell me, while you’ve been out there, navigating through cyberspace, have you happened to come across a little company called Southwest Airlines? If you haven’t, you will and they’ll make sure of it.
Southwest is one of the only airlines to have taken advantage of the unique marketing opportunities that Web 2.0 has to offer. Regular posts on YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and LinkedIn plus a rather popular in-house blog has put this airline right in front of your eyes in places you might not normally expect to see it. They’d love to get their cute little icon nestled right in there on your friend list, between those thumbnail pics of Katie from high school and Jim from college. And, as the end result, they’re hoping for a hefty dose of popularity and some bottom line-helping bucks.
The operating premise is that the better you get to know a brand and the more personal it feels to you, the more likely you are to spend your money on it. When one brand of toothpaste makes a concerted effort to introduce you to the names and faces behind each squeezable tube, they think you’ll feel more solidarity to this brand than to another.
In this economy, whether you can (or would) get to the point of saying, “Well, Airline X has this flight for a little cheaper, but I just love Southwest! I’m going to book with them!” is a make-or-break budget question. I’ll be honest with you: I’m a sucker for experience. I’d rather shop at a store that has a nice atmosphere and salespeople I enjoy talking with than somewhere with the same merchandise and a slightly less-pleasing ambiance. Maybe that makes me a fool. Maybe that’s what’s making me broke. Anyway, I’m fairly certain that if I came across enough of Southwest’s social media marketing, I’d probably fall in love: Hook, line, and sinker.
We know two things for sure: the first is that Southwest is one of the most beloved airlines in the industry. And the second? That Southwest is doing some award-winning relationship-building work. The question is: To what degree are the two related? How much does getting to know your airlines matter to you? Southwest is betting: A lot. Leave a comment below and let me know.
Passenger traffic at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport has declined for 13 consecutive months, including a nearly 15 percent drop in November compared to November 2007. Among the airlines seeing a precipitous falloff in passengers this year is none other than Southwest, far and away the biggest presence at McCarran. US Airways, for its part, took the biggest hit in November, with a whopping 31.4 percent drop in traffic.
So what the heck is going on? Do you really have to ask? It's the economy, man. We've been in a recession for a year already, so naturally people are going to stop spending money to fly to a city designed to take more of it
Of course, with falling demand comes falling prices. Southwest (did I mention it's the numero uno carrier serving Las Vegas?) launched a 50-percent-off sale to Sin City, good through early March. What bad economy?
But seriously, as is the case around the country, falling demand forces airlines to slash prices, which results in deals for folks like you and me. So if Vegas is your thing, now's the time to go. Just stay away from the craps table, okay?
Please pardon the intrusion into your life today. I would not dare to bother you but for a tremendous problem that I hope you, in your great generosity and kindness, will be able to assist me with. I am legal counsel for the fourth son and of the King of Addis Ababa, who is heir to $48 bajillion dollars currently held in a bank in Norway. For allowing us to transfer that money to your account…
I get a lot of those emails. I also get a lot of them from banks with which I do not hold accounts, several from people selling "Rolex" watches for $19.99, and many, many offers to help me "make action in the bed all the time you want." Um … thanks.
Proportionally, what I don’t get a lot of is emails with information that’s actually helpful. With that in mind, I think we should all take a moment to give thanks for a relatively unique phenomenon that celebrates its 10th anniversary this year: Southwest’s Click’N Save e-newsletter. This little decade-old dynamo packs the double-punch of being a verified useful newsletter as well as offering exclusive airline deals before anyone else. Hot darn!
Imagine, if you will, an inbox that’s filled not with emails for illicit prescription medication and questionable websites but, instead, with offers and information about things you might actually want to buy! You would never have to return to your computer after a day away and wade through 347 emails. I, similarly, would never again have to wonder why my friend Carla, who is supposed to be in Portland, emails that she is instead in the Philippines and needs me to wire her $3,000 to get her passport back from a corrupt hotel owner. And, if you were my friend, you would never have to get eight emails from me that day asking, “Wait, are you sure it’s not from her? What if it is?” and answer, to each of them, patiently, “No, it’s not from her. I’m really sure. Really, really sure. Let it go.”
Could such a dream ever come to fruition? I truly do not know. I the meantime, we’ll all just have to look wistfully into the distance … and then turn back to our computers and open the emails from Southwest.
Last week, I reported on how Southwest is teaming up with a Mexican airline to offer south-of-the-border flights. As if we needed more proof that the LUV airline is making a power play with the economy down, financially secure Southwest is set to buy ATA and muscle into the Big Apple's LaGuardia airport. In these tough times, Southwest is particularly appealing to those of us with less cash to spend on expensive flights. It's like travelers are hearing an old blues song being turned on its head: "Somebody knows you when you're down and out," and that somebody is Southwest Airlines.
Obscure musical references aside, picking up the now-defunct ATA for its landing and takeoff slots, is a really big deal. According to the AP, "Southwest would get 14 slots, enough to operate seven takeoffs and seven landings per day at LaGuardia." What will be interesting is where Southwest actually flies from New York. USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh predicts Chicago (Midway) and Florida to be high on the list of potential destinations.
Why hasn't Southwest, with its household-name status, gone Broadway in the past? Well, for one thing, it's tough to find a slot at New York airports. The Wall Street Journal cites Department of Transportation statistics that link 75 percent of all the country's delayed flights to New York Airports. Southwest counts on efficiency and probably doesn't want to be associated with tardiness, sort of like that friend of yours who always shows up to your dinner parties two hours late—but is really sorry about it!
Currently, Southwest is flying out of MacArthur Airport on Long Island, which is some 50 miles from the bright lights of the City That Never Sleeps. This is the equivalent of leaving the quiet confines of suburbia and seeking your fortune in the big town. And what better place to do that than New York?
Time will tell if this was a stroke of genius or a blunder by Southwest. The potential for lots of customers is certainly there, but so is the possibility of getting bogged down by delays. And while there's no shortage of business travelers in New York, until that Wall Street bailout kicks in, "down and out" stockbrokers may be stretching it to even pick up a $49 Southwest fare out of town.
Southwest Airlines has come a long way in the 40 years since it was first sketched out on a paper napkin as a carrier to serve the Texan triangle of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Its commercials compete with Budweiser for face time with America's football fans. And just about everyone knows someone who's gotten some super-cheap flight home for the holidays, even if it meant touching down at an airport that's not exactly "in" that person's hometown.
But what's most amazing about this household-name airline is that Southwest has never needed a passport for any of its travels. Sticking to the Lower 48 has undoubtedly paid off as a business plan thus far, but it looks like the LUV airline may be getting restless. As evidence I would cite the fact that Southwest has just inked a deal with Volaris, a low-cost Mexican carrier, to provide codeshare service south of the border.
I'm just wondering what will happen once Southwest tastes real Mexican cooking or lies on a sandy Acapulco beach. Will other "foreign relations" be far off? Which of course leads to the next thought: Who would Southwest hook up with? My first bet is on Ryanair, which is evidently considering transatlantic service to complement its European domination. Ryanair, with its ultra-cheap reputation and tendency to charge extra for every little thing, makes Southwest look like the Armani of airlines. But I digress. For flights to Australia, could that country's Virgin Blue be a possible mate? I think it a better match than Qantas, but the real struggle would be over who would spring for the fuel, since I'm quite sure Southwest isn't interested in picking up the tab on a 15-hour flight to Sydney, and I dare say Virgin Blue feels the same way.
Southwest and its potential partners might even someday create an alliance comprised of just low-cost carriers, which would really shake up the flying experience. If you thought the glamour days of air travel went out with Pan Am in the 1970s, welcome to the new no-frills flight. Forget meal service—you'd be lucky to find some Chex Mix under your seat on one of these planes. And baggage fees? Oh man, there'd be some serious carry-on cramming on a Ryanair trip from Boston to London. So no, it probably won't be much to write home about. But that's not why you'll buy a ticket. You'll pony up your $99 and get on that flight to Paris because it'll cost you ninety-nine dollars. In a time of capacity cuts and high fares, I'll take the cheap flight, thanks.
My only question is how big a napkin I need to sketch out an international route map for a new global Southwest and its friends. Would you buy a ticket on a long-haul international flight offered by one of these airlines? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
Imagine yourself in Baltimore, that grand old seafaring city, ready to sit down to a plate of Maryland's trademark dish—crab. You must be excited! After all, you've traveled all this way, right? Well guess what—so has your crab.
Well, maybe. I'm sure plenty of crab served in Maryland does, in fact, come from Maryland and its environs, and that crab is likely to be clearly labeled on your menu. But the fact is that some crab served in Maryland comes from Texas. And it flies Southwest.
This fascinating (not, I hope, only to geeks like me) video chronicles the journey of a crab shipment from Houston to Baltimore aboard a Southwest flight. Along the way we meet the folks who make Southwest's cargo business run, and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on. Check it out:
If you're like me, you're asking yourself a few questions right now. These questions could be: How do the crabs not perish/stink up the cargo hold? Personally, I'm flummoxed by this. Second, cardboard boxes? Really? Third, what was that random shot of water around 1:22? Or was it ice?
Anyway, thank you, Southwest, for this enlightening insight into the worlds of cargo shipping and traditional Maryland cuisine.