Raising the level of your leadership




Whose Skies Are The Friendliest?


Delta has the most aircraft and carries the most passengers.

United flies to the most cities.

Southwest passengers have the most fun.

American just filed for bankruptcy (as have all of their major competitors—Delta, USAir, United, Northwest, and Continental—in previous years), putting several hundred thousand of my frequent flyer miles at risk.

Do you know which of these has the best “on time” score? Which has the highest “customer satisfaction” ranking? Which is the most profitable (based on earnings per share) and beat overall airline stock performance by 55% last year?

The answer is “none of the above.”

The best airline in America today is…Alaska Airlines. Surprised? Me too.

You may be thinking it is because they are non-union since it is popular to blame the unions for most everything these days. Nope—they are 80% unionized.

So maybe it’s because they have mostly good weather flights. Are you kidding? They fly primarily in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Have you ever been up there in the winter?

How did a relatively obscure airline become the best? Per their CEO, Bill Ayer, in a WSJ article by Matthew Kaminski on 2/4/12:

  • They focus on two or three key measures that drive results.
  • They share the wealth. They have an all-staff bonus plan.
  • They keep it simple—flying only Boeing 737 aircraft (Southwest pioneered this formula).
  • They have stayed away from the “bigger is better” philosophy that has driven all (yes, 100%) of the other major airlines into bankruptcy at some point.

They have focus…they share the wealth…they keep it simple…they only expand when it will be profitable. Works for them. Will it work for you? You won’t know unless you try it.

I wish they would expand into Nashville.

[If this post was interesting and useful to you, please forward it to a friend. Thanks.]

© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

2 responses to “Whose Skies Are The Friendliest?”

  1. Debi says:

    It doesn’t surprise me. I had the privilege of representing Alaska Airlines as a flight attendant for 23 years, I was very proud to put on my uniform each day. Not only do they have wonderful leadership, but I was fortunate to work side by side with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. Even though I retired 4 years ago, I still stay in touch with and consider them friends.

    • Dick Wells says:

      Since most all of my business career was based in Fort Worth or Nashville, I habe been a big AA customer – more than 2 million miles with them. They treat me well as a lifetime Platinum, but I’m not sure how the less frequent flyer does. Of course, now they have managed themselves into bankruptcy. It remains to be seen what they will be when they emerge. Thanks for the comment.

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