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40 Years in 40 Days: Class of 1978

jruppel
Not applicable

When I got out of college, I was supposed to be a stock broker for Merrill Lynch.  The market wasn't really in great shape when I got out of school, so I redirected. 

I thank my brother for helping me ignite my passion for the airline industry.  He's about 14 or 15 years older than I am, and began working for Continental Airlines after leaving the Navy in the ‘60s.  He worked at Love Field.
 
It took me eleven months to get on board with Southwest Airlines.  I applied in 1977, back when Southwest generally only hired when we were adding aircraft.  Southwest finally added some planes at the end of 1977, and I started in early '78.
 
The People Department could have more appropriately been named "The Person Department."  Only one person worked there: a gentleman by the name of Ed Lang.
 
In my interview, Ed asked me, "What do you want to do here at Southwest Airlines?"
 
Being the ambitious recent college grad that I was, I responded, "I'd like to get into your Management Training Program."

He replied, "Okay, so do you want to start on the Ramp, or in Reservations?"
 
I reiterated that I had a degree, and felt I was management material.
 
Ed responded, "So, do you want to start on the Ramp, or in Reservations?  You look more like a Ramp guy to me."
 
My Southwest career began as a Provisioning Agent in Dallas.  I ended up in Customer Relations, where I am today, in 1980, compliments of a man named Jim Chancellor.  Jim had his eye on a different job, and he tapped me to fill his role.
 
So it was Marge and I: A dynamic Customer Relations duo.  The two of us handled all the Customer Relations correspondence.  It was a different world back then; all tickets were refundable.  We were busy, but two people was all it took.
 
My how the times have changed.  While the rich Southwest Culture has been ever-present, I think our Company has changed considerably each decade.  I remember FUN-wear: the lack of a zipper on our jams that turned a trip to the men's bathroom into an ugly sight (I won’t elaborate).

I have been in Customer Relations in excess of thirty years, and I don't think I could have done this at another Company.  I am awed by what goes on out in the field and in my Department.  We're able to maintain a pretty good situation.  We have our days, but by far, everyone does a Positively Outrageous job.

Back when I started, Southwest had 12 planes.  We now have 548.  At the start of my career, I didn't ever think we'd fly outside the state of Texas.  To see this thing grow and become the predominant carrier in the United States that everyone talks about, it fills me with a sense of pride.

I often think to myself, "Wow. What an awesome career."

Not only did I get to do the things that I wanted to do here at Southwest Airlines with my career, but I also met my wife here.  Class of 1977 (she really looked good in those hot pants, let me tell you).

So here’s to my wife, Southwest, and the many years to come.  And yes, my Southwest Family, the return of the mustache.