Airline of the World: Southwest Airlines

As one of the most successful airlines in the low-cost market segment, Southwest Airlines is often used as an important benchmark for the airline industry. In this article, Jurjan Knol looks at the logic behind the success of Southwest Airlines from an organizational perspective, thereby using the five elements of Galbraiths STAR-model: Strategy, Structure, Processes, Rewards, and People.

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From Past to Present: 1994 – 1995

Aerius was founded on June 16th 1994 by Jeroen Graafland and Erwin Krijger. Bastiaan Geurts, Reinier Evers, and Alex Kuhlman soon joined them. In the beginning of 1995, the young association welcomed its first business member: Chartair (nowadays called Panalpina) Mr. J. Busscher, CEO at Chartair, was thefirst to sign an agreement with Aerius. Mr. Aris, CEO of TMI ROAD Air and Mr.Heldeweg of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol soon followed him.

On 22 February 1995, the first official issue of Aerlines was published. The monthly reports of January and February 1995 say: “Compared to the pilot issuemuch has changed. The size has grown to A4, from now on, the text will appearin English. For the first time we included advertisements, we started a numberof columns to be continued in the next issues and the activities agenda of otherassociations has been included (VSV Leonardo da Vinci and Euroavia).” Thereport goes on saying that the board received many positive reactions. “Peoplewere astonished because such a young association like Aerius already managed topublish such a magazine.”

Already in the early days, social contact has been an important item. On 22 February 1995, Aerius held its second cocktail party at Grand Café ‘Het Badhuis’in Amsterdam. Approximately 90 persons showed up at this ‘very successfulevening’ and received their personal copy of Aerlines issue 1.

In April 1995, Mr. Eelco Bruinsma joined the Aerius board. In the same period,a delegation of the Aerius board visited both Cranfield University as well asWestminster University in England.

The year report further mentions that effective April 1995, Aerius has an ownhomepage on the Internet. However, a lot of thought still had to be done concerningthe contents of the page.

Aerlines issue 2 appeared on 3 May 1995. Again, our members reacted positively.May 1995 was a joyful month for Aerius, as the association welcomed its 100thmember! In the meeting minutes of the board meeting of 11 May 1995 we foundthe following quote: “100th member: We decide to bombard Tom Kok as our 100thmember, however we will not pay further attention to this matter” In the samemonth, a delegation of IFURTA France visited Amsterdam. Aerius prepared aspecial program with visits to Fokker, KLM Cargo, Schiphol, LVB, the Universityof Amsterdam, and the control tower at the airport.On 14 June 1995, Aerius celebrated its first year of existence with a cocktail partyat the Aviodome. We were surprised with a spontaneous tour around the museum by the director Mr. Arno van der Holst.

From Past to Present: 1995 – 1996

On 25 September 1995, Aerius held its first Evening Lecture by Mr. Weck, formerCEO of the RLD. In October, Aerlines issue 4 was published. Bastiaan Geurts and Erwin Krijger retired from the board and Reinier Evers left for the USA. Nicole Onel was named secretary of the board.

Meanwhile, on 19 October 1995 the first Aerius international study trip took off!A group of twenty members departed by train to Brussels. On the first day, thegroup visited Sabena, the national Belgian carrier. First, we were guided aroundthe premises of Sabena Catering, the first aircraft caterer to achieve the ISO 9002certification. Thereafter we were transferred to the Sabena House, the corporateheadquarter where explanation was given on the ambitious European hub createdat Brussels as well as the tight alliance with Swissair. After lunch, the group wasguided around Brussels Airport International.

The next day was started with a visit to the European Commission DG-VII forsome lectures on European aviation politics, Joint Aviation Authorities, andEurocontrol. In the afternoon, we were welcome at the Central Flow Management Unit of the latter institution for an extensive excursion. All participants consideredthis first international study trip a great success. In addition, of course, everybodylearned a lot about the famous Belgian beers as well!

In November, Mr. J. Busscher of Chartair held the second evening lecture. Shortlyafter, Mr. P. Rhijnsburger of Transavia Airlines held the third Aerius eveninglecture at the University of Amsterdam. On this evening, Aerlines issue 5 appeared accompanied by a special Aerius 1996 calendar. Meanwhile, preparations wereongoing for the second international study trip to take place in February 1996.

Thursday, 14 December 1995: the first Aerius Theme Day! A group of twentyparticipants was guided around at KLM Technische Dienst at Schiphol.

1996 started with the New Year’s cocktail party on 8 January. Aerius offeredall members two consummations. January was concluded with a specialtheme day on the 30th, jointly organized with SEFA. Mr. R. Wondolleckwelcomed us at Rotterdam Airport for a lecture and guided tour around thepremises. The afternoon was concluded with a fabulous cocktail party at the airportoffered by Mr. Wondolleck.

On Monday 5 February 1996, Mr. Kalff of KLM held the fifth evening lectureat the university. The next morning, the second Aerius international study triptook off to Berlin. The day started with a tour to the BMW-Rolls Royce factories followed by an afternoon visit at the historic Tempelhof Airport, located near theinner city. The Hitler stile architecture as well as the fact that Tempelhof served asan essential element in the Berlin Air Bridge after World War II ended, impressedeverybody.

A visit to the Dutch embassy, combined with a presentation by AT Kearney,opened the next day’s program, followed by a lunch at the mensa of the Universityof Berlin. The official program was closed with a visit and tour at the SchönefeldAirport, soon to be converted into the Berlin Brandenburg International Airport.

In Aerlines 7, we found the next passage: ”… And of course, Berlin’s nightlife waspart of the program too. A terrific German meal was part of the deal. We enjoyed alot of German pilsner as well. Ask anybody who was there for further details”.

In February, we also welcomed Transavia Airlines as our business associate. On the 23rd of the month a group of 17 members went on a theme day to Eurocontrol UAC (Upper Area Control) where, after a presentation on Eurocontrol proceedingsand future navigation control systems, we were guided around and could followthe air traffic controllers in their job. By the way, lunch was great! Thereafter weproceeded to Maastricht-Aachen Airport for a guided tour around the platform anda presentation on the history and future of the airport.

In March, Aerius held two evening lectures. Mr. Uilenhoet (Amsterdam AirportSchiphol) presented the first on 4 March. The second took place on 25 March, andwas presented by Mr. F van Gaever of VLM (Vlaamse Luchtvaart Maatschappij).

Meanwhile the congress committee was working full swing on the planned Aeriuscongress to be held in May.

On 15 April Aerius welcomed Mr. Ir. G.H. van Raalte of Boskalis for apresentation on the IJpoort project, much in discussion those days. In the samemonth, Aerius moved to another office at the University of Amsterdam: room E5.07.

Shortly after, on 22 May 1996, a group of twenty Aerius members took off from Rotterdam Airport in a VLM Fokker 50 with destination London City Airport on the third Aerius study trip. After check in at the hotel, we attended the seminar “Regional Air Transport, the new opportunities” at the Westminster University in London. In the evening, everybody could enjoy Ajax football in a realEnglish tavern. By the way, the three participating Aerius ladies gave a nice show. The next day opened with lectures at the Civil Aviation Authorities on organization structures, airportcongestion, and slot allocation. In the afternoon, we enjoyed some lectures, a tou raround the campus and airport, and finally a superb supper at the Cranfield University.

Friday started at Heathrow Airport with lectures at Virgin Atlantic on organization structure, competition, Europe, strategies, and future possibilities. In the afternoon, British Airways and the MVA Consultancy offered some lectures on the future BAprospects, the London airport system, Heathrow expansion program (Terminal 5), and the surface access problems and solutions. The study trip culminated with avisit to the spectacular musical Miss Saigon at the Drury Lane Theatre near CoventGarden. The next morning, the VLM took us safely back to the Netherlands.

On 16 June 1996, Aerius celebrated its second anniversary with a cocktail party atthe ‘Kleine Prins’ in Amsterdam. In August, Ronald van Neerijnen replaced Eelco Bruinsma as member of the Aerius board.

Aerlines website look & feel 2004

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