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Gary Kelly on Becoming CEO of Southwest Airlines

cfox
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Southwest Airlines Chairman, President & CEO, Gary Kelly, sits down with internationally known educator, best-selling author, psychotherapist, and business coach, Flip Flippen, to discuss the things in his life that led him to be the head of Southwest Airlines.
22 Comments
Yazdan_Dadras
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This is it. I’ve had it with this monkey business you’re leading. For many years I had lost my faith in SWA and took my business to Alaska as I’d had enough of the hassle for having an airline that gouged me at every opportunity, canceled my flight when they didn’t have enough passengers onboard to combine it with the next flight then next fight being late. As a result you end up getting home 6 hours later, going to bed passed 2:00 am when you have to get up early to go to work! Don’t get me started! To add insult to injury when we’re about to leave the plane, the sturdiest blames the weather. It was then when I felt like getting up and screaming that the weather had nothing to do with it. First you cancel our 5:50 flight to combine passengers with the next fight at 9, then that flight end up being late for mechanical issue till 10:35. The last flight I had 10 days ago, was 3 hours late for the door not shutting! Mark my words. When you continue to treat passengers like cows in the pasture, not properly maintaining old plains when they constantly have problems, you’ll be out of business in about 11 month. Better enjoy that fat bonus you’re getting this Christmas. For next one you’ll get coal for wasting thousands of frustrating hours of your customer, soon to be going somewhere else, as I about to book the next flight of 4. With not so kind regards YazdD
blusk
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Hi Yazdan, Thanks for sharing your thoughts here on the blog, and given your complete disenchantment with Southwest Airlines, it's probable that nothing I could say would change your mind. Flight cancellations on Southwest are rare, during the last report from the Department of Transportation, we operated 99.6% of our flights in September (coincidentally, the same percentage as Alaska), and for the same timeperiod, our ontime percentage was almost identical to Alaska also. Yet your disappointment rests with us, and I am sorry. I am confident that your experience is not typical of the vast majority of Southwest Customers, and I hope you will try us again. Brian
Nick_Young
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It's nice to consistently see that Southwest's good-natured culture is genuine and reaches all the way up to senior management. It is tough to find a large company that makes such an effort to be accessible and approachable. I look forward to hearing more from Gary Kelly and maybe meeting other members of the Southwest family at the Wings Club luncheon this week in NYC. Nick Young jumpFare
Bob_Kondracke
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My wife & I our Very Upset with Southwest. We have been Loyal & Excellent Customers for many years. We had Always Loved them prior to the last couple of months. In Fact we have written a minimum of 15 letters commending many of Southwest's employee's Outstanding Customer Service. This includes the Customer Service Department as well. It's Sad because three employee's went above & beyond once again to try to Help us Correct a Southwest Computer Glitch Error. Then just 3 days prior to Christmas & to date we have been given the run around by the Customer Service Department. They have told us they need to catch up as they were off for 4 days/ then told it takes time (after being assured that I would be e-mailed a confirmation note my credit which is my money would follow shortly. It is 1-4-10 & I have Money Owed & No Confirmation of where it is & when it's coming to me We were told we change our air tickets a lot (we do this ourselves ! Due to Very Important Reasons) We Felt Insulted & Slapped in the Face by Southwest Customer Service when we Explained this Nicely & were told "Maybe we can't Accomodate your needs & another airline may serve you better." I am trying to reach Mr. Gary Kelly CEO Directly Via a Letter. However, have been told that I can't complain higher than a Mr. Rupple (whom I hear is Very Nice) However, the things said to my wife & I were So Nasty & Simply Wrong we Feel Mr. Kelly needs to Hear this Directly! We Feel our Complaint is being kept from him. We want our written complaint to reach him Directly. We asked for NOTHING FREE WHATSOEVER , just Our Money Due/Owed per Southwests own error (Third error since June when s.west went to new computer system or at least that's what we were told.) WE want to reach Mr Gary Kelly CEO Directly.
blusk
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Mr. Kondracke, I am so sorry for your disappointment with Southwest. I am sure you will receive a response from your letter, and I am forwarding your comment to our Customer Relations Department. Brian
Claim___1002950
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It has been 7 weeks since Southwest lost my luggage, leaving me stranded at my destination with nothing (on my 15th wedding anniversary.) I continue to get the run around from customer service. Why does it take so long to make your mistake right with the customer? I will not get back the time I have spent on this claim & can not erase the memories of the rotten experience it has been. 😞
blusk
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Dear Claim # I am so sorry that we both dissapointed you with losing your bag and with tha handling of your claim. We usually don't post personal Customr Service issues on the blog, and I was going to e-mail you, but I didn't have your name. (I don't have access to our Central Baggage Service files.) I wanted to let you know that I shared your comments with our Baggage Service folks and they are (or may already have) gotten in touch with you with an update. Brian
C__Stewart
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I called your customer service number for group travel looking for roundtrip tickets between Cleveland and Austin. I was booking for 20 people. I was told that the return flight information would not be available until June 1st but I was welcome to purchase 20 tickets to Austin. The cost one way was at the low price of $229 versus the internet one way price of $114. I was also informed that the group price was already discounted 10%. I could not believe that the agent expected me to book 20 seats at double the cost and no return flight. What customer in their right mind would do that? We have been tempted to book at other airlines but we were hoping to fly Southwest. She also informed me that the return flight would not be able to be booked until June 1st. I welcome any response you may have and am also forwarding a copy of this message to your company CEO. Thank you for your time.
blusk
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C. Stewart I am so sorry that we disappointed you, but it is important to keep in mind that group tickets are very different than our other fares. Almost always, our lowest fares are on the Internet at southwest.com. Our group fares are discounted off our regular prices, but Internet sale fares can be be less expensive. (The first thing you will hear when you call our Reservations number is "Lower fares may be found on southwest.com.") In addition, unlike our other tickets, group fares are only good for the date/flight for which they are ticketed and cannot be used toward another flight. The reason for this is that to accommodate a large group we take a significant number of seats out of our inventory. Should that group later change their mind, we may be unable to sell those 20 or 30 or 60 seats that we were holding for the group. Sometimes for small groups like yours it is less expensive if travelers book their own arrangements. Again I am sorry for you disappointment, Brian
Bob_Hamlin
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Hello, The following is a letter of appreciation for one of your Chicago Midway employees. I had a very brief encounter this morning and would like to conclude an unfinished conversation. Today, 7May, I was waiting at the B-22 gate for the 8:55 flight to BWI, half-listening to the preboarding instructions being delivered by the gate attendant in the engaging manner that sets Southwest apart from other airlines. When I approached to present my boarding pass, the quick interaction left me so speechless that I was halfway down the passageway before I knew how I should have responded. By then it was too late. As he scanned my pass, he noticed my hat and asked, “You belong to the Patriot Guard?” When I nodded yes, he said, “Thank you." Maybe I looked puzzled, because he added, "I’m a Gold Star father.” Words failed me. First, few people recognize the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) emblem. The PGR is a informal group, centered around motorcycles, that is dedicated to honoring those who place their lives in danger—and sometimes lose them—while serving our country. Secondly, he said thanks. I consider it a privilege to be able to show my respect. Third, a “Gold Star” parent carries overwhelming meaning. That parent has lost a child who had been serving the country. I was at a loss for a proper response and may have mumbled acknowledgement. I’m not sure. By the time, I realized what I should have done, I was most of the way down the passageway. I second-guessed that he might not want to make any scene during boarding, so I found my seat and began writing this. I didn’t even get his name. Could you please locate the employee and make sure he gets to read this? Thanks ------- Sir, Given the mission of the Patriot Guard, putting words to what I want to say is always the hardest part for me. Words seem so insignificant given what you have endured. Please believe that they come from the most sincere part of me. I so much wanted to grasp your hand, look into your eyes and somehow communicate how sorry I am for your loss. I’m not sure if it helps, but there are 1000s like me who want you to remember your child with pride and fully understand the vast respect everyone of us have for those who risk their lives to make the world a better place. If it were physically possible, thousands of riders would have shown up in those sad days. It is our very humble attempt to share a family’s grief and to show our respect during a time when we can only imagine how much such support is necessary. You represent Southwest Airline well. Bob Hamlin
lmoffat
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Hi Bob, Thanks so much for sharing this touching interaction you had with one of our MDW Employees. I would be honored to pass along your kind words to him so that he can know the connection you shared and to finish the conversation. Thanks again for sharing this story. Laurel
Tom_Pate
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After an exhausted attempt at reaching a reasonable resolution on a cancelled reservation I feel that its hard to believe that your companys position is thats its okay to keep all of my money after I cancelled and then informing me that my reservations are no longer valid and making it impossible for me to exercise the option to attend the event. .Anything that you can do to restore my faith in your company would be greatly appreciated. All the best Tom Pate reservation #JE851104
Anonymous1912
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I sent this to customer service in June and again in August 2010. I have flown your airline weekly from Tucson to Chicago on a weekly basis for the last two years. In the last four years I have taken approximately 300 flights on Southwest Airlines. During which time I have never had such a negative experience as my flight on June 4, 2010. I was humiliated by one of your flight attendants, Stephanie. Here is the background. Because of the number of flights I have flown I am on the "A List" and almost always get checked in with position A16, as was the case on June 4th. I boarded the flight as the second "general boarding" passenger; there was one business select ticket on that flight, and I chose seat 11C which is standard for me. I am a larger woman who is able to fit comfortably in a 737 seat. Upon boarding your flight attendant asked me "do you need a seat belt extensions because you cannot sit there if you do." I looked at her stunned by her humiliating comment and said "how dare you ask me that." She stated she was just doing her job. If I had asked for a seat belt extension she could have then asked me to choose a different seat but trying to humiliated me about my size is not her job Or is it? Hudreds of other attendats have never had an issue. I chose a different seat so I could sit with my family that were flying with me on reward tickets. Upon deplaning, I did tell Stephanie that she had offended me and she said "sorry but as I told you I was just doing my job." As I passed the pilot he spoke to me and I said I will not be flying your airline because that flight attendant had offended me. If this woman is prejudice toward larger people then she should not be in a public facing position as it presents an unprofessional image of your business. I am a software consultant who's career requires 100% travel, and will take my loyalty and funds to another airline if something is not done about this.
snelson
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Dear Anonymous, I was able to do a little sleuthing, and I discovered that our Customer Relations Department responded to the e-mail address you provided them. I'm told that you have since contacted them again providing an alternate e-mail address. You should be hearing from them soon. Sandy Nelson
A__Matthews
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Dear Mr. Kelly, On October 19, 2010, I was on Flight 150 from Chicago to Orlando when one of your flight attendants gave me great service and I thought you would like to know about it. While waiting to leave the gate, I could see what appeared to be my bag still on the luggage cart. My bag is a black rolling suitcase with a blue luggage tag that looks near identical to countless others. I asked the flight attendant, Scott McElheny, if there was any way to check to see if my bag was about to be left behind. He was able to confirm that it was my bag and that it had been overlooked when the plane had been loaded. Because of his willingness not to ignore my request or give me the standard line that there are many bags that look alike and that it is unlikely that I could identify my black rolling suitcase from another while sitting in the airplane, my bag did not get left behind and I had my suit for my meeting that afternoon. Great personalized customer service and willingness to listen to customers' requests is one of the many reasons why Southwest will continue to be my preferred airline.
lmoffat
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Hi A. Matthews- So happy to hear that our Flight Attendant quickly responded to make sure that your bag was on your flight. I will be sure to share your kind words with Scott and his Leaders. I'm sure he'll be happy to hear from you. Thanks for flying Southwest! Laurel
austin
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i am 15 years old so please dont put this message down. i love planes and southwest but i think like how am i going to become a pilot for it. id like to know what and how to become one .how can i become a pilot for southwest and what requirements do i need
AMjackson
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I have flown many times on SWA. The seat boarding plan has been one of the attractions. On 10/ 12 on my return to BWI from MDW I was denied an available seat because already seated passengers were allowed to put their luggage in three seats to reserve them for others who apparently had boarding passes in a lower class than mine. I am 77 years old and follow the rules.. I did not appreciate the dissmnbling in SWA's exchanges about my complaint. I did not need or want their consolation prize. I wanted to board the plane and take the empty seat of my choosing. The stewardess supported the passengers who had put their baggage in the unoccupied seats. Where is SWA's truth in advertizing on the matter of open seating?
L__LaBaer
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I started flying Southwest Airlines about 3 years ago out of Midway for business when SWA began targeting business flyers. I fly just about every week of the year and 95% of it is on SWA flights-I spend over $16,000/year on airfares. I have many choices of carriers flying out Chicago, but I choose SWA because of its customer service levels and on time arrival history and have been recommending it to friends and co-workers, but at this point I don't think I can do that anymore. Over the past year, SWA on time departures and arrivals have been horrendous on my regular flights between MDW and PHL. I'm writing this blog as I sit at MDW while my flight is over 3 hours delayed (flt 1073). The worst part is that I get no impression that anyone within SWA seems to care that this flight is delayed over 3 hours. As a business flyer, on time performance is the most critical metric I care about, especially if it causes more time away from my family and friends. Because this is my third correspondence within 12 months with SWA about poor flight time performance I have to consider looking for another carrier that can get in and out of both Chicago and Philadelphia on more consistent basis. I would advise you look into this issue before you lose additional business travelers.
Candice_Scheine
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Hi! I fly SW several times a week. I change flights frequently. I usually tell the ticket desk to just put the money on the unused tickets into my SW account, since lately it takes 20 -30 minutes to get a representative on the line to refund your money or for anything else for that matter. In December I contacted customer relations to get a list of the unused monies so that I could apply them to future flights. I was told to fax my information to Research and Records to get a listing of my unused funds. I faxed it again in January and in February. I called customer relations again in Februray and was told that Research and Records is very busy. So now here it is March and nothing. I have lost three months of unused funds because I cannot get anyone at SW to locate these funds. I sent an email (since I can't get through on the Customer Relations lines)and have not heard from anyone. I did speak with one of the SW representatives ( not in customer relations) who was very nice but she could only provide me with a list of the last three months. Her supervisor tried to get through to customer relations and could not either. Is there anyone at SW who can help me get a listing of unused funds? And what about the funds that are now over a year old but weren't when I first contacted you. Is there anyone at SW who cares? I fly you several times a week, but I might have to rethink that. I was one of your biggest fans, but I am becoming disenchanted. HELP!
L_Stegall
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I am so disappointed in my most recent experience on Southwest. I too have been a loyal, nuts about Southwest customer since my college days many years ago. I flew on March 23rd, flight 1154 to a much anticipated trip to Las Vegas. It was one of the worst experiences I have ever had on an airline. We departed somewhat on time. I recall hearing the ticket agent at the boarding gate tell another crew member that one of the crew got off the plane and could not be located. Which prompted someone who looked like a pilot to go running around looking for said individual. It was all down hill from there. The flight crew was less than friendly, barely speaking to passengers. During the flight several passengers commented that we never heard a word from the pilot. No cheery southwest welcomes, jokes and funny talk that we are used to on southwest. the flight was apparently delayed due to head winds. We did not learn this from the crew, but from fellow passengers. It was almost as though the plane was flying itself? Up until the landing, which was nothing less than terrifying! It felt like we were about to crash and then we came to a screeching halt. Passengers were terrified, including me , still, no word from our pilot or crew. Passengers around me kept wondering if we even had a pilot?! Dead silence. This was a terrible experience and so not what I have been used to on Southwest. I swear, I will do my hardest not to ever fly your airline again. To sum up, literally no communication from the crew, a horrific landing!
lucille_scotto
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I WAS SO HAPPY WHEN SOUTHWEST CAME TO LONG ISLAND AND HAD FLIGHTS TO FY MYERS, FL. NOW THEY DO NOT HAVE DIRECT FLIGHTS ANY MORE AND ONLY ONE FLIGHT THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GET OFF THE PLANE. I AM SURE THAT THERE ARE ENOUGH PEOPLE ON LONG ISLAND, ESPECIALLY EASTERN LONG ISLAND, THAT SOME FLIGHTS COULD BE DIRECT TO FT MYERS. I THOUGHT THAT BUYING AIR TRAN WOULD INCREASE THE ROUTES AND FLIGHTS, BUT NOW THEY ARE LIMITED TO ONLY TWO, IN JAN., THE PRICES HAVE GONE UP AND THE SERVICE LIMITED. WHAT GIVES WITH THIS ONCE PEOPLE FRIENDLY AIRLINE? IS PAYING FOR LUGGAGE NEXT? PLEASE TRY TO CONSIDER THE OLDER POPULATION. I KNOW THE BOTTOM LINE IS PROFIT, BUT MAYBE A LITTLE LESS PROFIT ONCE IN AWHILE TO ACCOMADTE WOULD BE IN ORDER. LUCILLE