Institutionalization of Airlines: Southwest is the Way to Go

In the article A Good Reason to Fly Southwest, the blogger emphasizes the hidden benefit to booking mostly one-way flights on an airline such as Southwest.  The blogger received two free coupons and was unable to use both at one time on a SW flight.  Therefore, he will certainly book his next flight with the airline instead of letting it go to waste.   One way flights and discounts are not the only way the Southwest organization is getting ahead.  The company is a leader in brand personality and institutionalization which contributes to the overall success of the airline.

After studying Southwest Airlines and how the organization works for a project last semester, I realize that this is not one of the only benefits to using the airline.  Southwest’s employees all report loving their job working for the company and often find ways to make work fun. Selznick states that “the most important thing about organizations is that, though they are tools, each nevertheless ha a life of its own.”  Organizational procedures and personality are both valued to these employees.  They even feature a rapping flight attendant on many of their flights in order to make their customers happy and at ease while flying.  The CEO of Southwest even makes regular appearances on flights to gain a connection with his customers.  The company is also environmentally friendly, being the first airline working on creating a green plane out of many reusable and recycled materials.

Selznick defines institutionalization as “the process by which an organization “takes on a special character” and “achieves a distinctive competence or, perhaps, a trained or built-in capacity.”  Southwest has already done this.  Their brand personality is easily recognizable and my groups own research has show that many people who have flown Southwest wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.  It may be due to their personality and customer conscious fares that Southwest continues to do so well in the economic downturn. The company of Southwest is more than “infused with value beyond the technical requirements at hand “ and it shows.


9 Responses

  1. I agree that Southwest’s special character has definitely helped them in their success. Most airlines have very similar “personalities” whereas Southwest is known for being a fun airline, where the customers and the employees are happy. Southwest is a great example of how organizational procedures and personality can make a big difference in the way a company operates. When the employees are happy, the customers are able to see that and it positively influences their perceptions of the organization. I think that Southwest’s work culture has been very positive in creating a fun personality for the organization and drawing in more and more customers.

  2. Southwest has definitely taken on “a special character” when it comes to the airline industry. As far as I have seen, they are the only airline company to even attempt to develop a personality with their clever commercials. The CEO has also related well to consumers by appearing on regular flights, much like the new CBS show “Undercover Boss”. While Southwest appears to be very consumer conscious, the one-way coupons are a very clever way to gain more profits. It’s awfully convenient for Southwest that their coupons can’t be used individually for the departing and returning flights of a round trip. By thinking of the customers first and offering discounts, they are actually encouraging customers to book future flights with Southwest and thus pay for one flight on each round trip. Southwest has mastered the combination of consumer satisfaction and profitability.

  3. I agree that Southwest has mastered the combination of customer satisfaction and profitability. Their customers are mainly concerned with their low prices but at the same time note the personality of the airline. Similarly to this, as Emily points out, their corporate culture has much to do with this. When I researched Southwest, I found that their culture is casual, many don’t even dress up for work. I also spoke with a former Southwest pilot about his experiences working for the company. He said it was the best job he’s ever had and highlighted the mutual respect for supervisors and employees. The satisfaction of employees along with the company’s “low cost, no frills” approach to flying certainly contributes to the success of the company.

    • How did you find a pilot?

      • I researched Southwest for a marketing project last semester. Professor Sweeney knew someone one of the pilots who used to work for Southwest so we set up a phone interview with him. He spoke extremely well of the Southwest company as a whole and his experiences there.

  4. This post relates to my recent post on “Building a ‘Googley’ Workforce.” Companies that make their cultures unique and intriguing are more likely to capture the attention of both their users and prospective employees. Would you be more inclined to work for a company that was classified as “fun” than a company that wasn’t? I think the majority of people would say yes, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Have you ever though about what the effect is on a company that offers jobs that are in high demand due to their reputation for being “fun”? On average, the Patagonia company receives 900 applications for each job opening because they are well-known for being fun, creative and laid back. The more applicants they receive, the more they can ensure that their final selection is an individual who is completely devoted to the mission, culture and goals of the company.

  5. […] also commented on a BLOrg Theory post by Macey that discusses the institutionalization of airlines, Southwest in particular. This post […]

  6. I agree that Southwest has made a very unique name for itself in the airline industry by being fun. I fly a lot because I have family all over the country and have been provided a lot opportunities for travel. Southwest by far is one of the more enjoyable flights in terms of the personality of flight attendants. With many of the other airlines I have flown with there is the occasional flight attendant that is super nice, but with Southwest every time you know that they have fun with their job. Another aspect of flying Southwest that is unique is that they have bankable flights, which means that you can schedule a flight, change your mind at the last minute and bank the money for another flight. However, I must admit that when thinking about booking a flight to go back to California I hesitate to use Southwest because they do not have food. Southwest is cheaper than most but their are certain cutbacks that occur, as well.

  7. […] are informally structuring themselves to promote a cultural working environment.  Google and Southwest Airlines are two corporations that pride themselves on lax regulations in order to spur positive work […]

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