Corporate aviation exists because of its ability to deliver a vital, customized, personalized service. As aviation marketers, we’re always thinking how we can improve upon that value proposition. We try to learn from every aviation segment. Including commercial.

Consider Southwest Airlines. It excels in customer service. A big secret to its success: listening. Several of us from Greteman Group recently attended a joint meeting of the Wichita Aero Club and Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce. We’ve been mulling over key points made by the panel, which consisted of representatives from the Dallas-based, low-fare carrier. They were there to talk about upcoming schedule adjustments at Eisenhower National Airport. They were also there to hear firsthand what attendees thought about those changes.


Since 1971, Southwest has grown from 195 employees and a three-city service area (Dallas, Houston and San Antonio) to close to 50,000 employees and

Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey 

service to 97 U.S. and 12 international cities. 2015 was a record year, transporting 118 million customers, achieving 43 years of profitability, and ranking seventh on Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s most admired companies.

Dave Harvey, Southwest’s managing director of business development, stressed that the airline’s customer-centered thinking drives its success. Being open and honest in all interactions. Looking at the fare as more than the ticket price, but the full customer experience.

“We’re the airline of no’s, said Harvey, about Southwest’s culture of not nickel and diming extras. That translates to no fees for passengers’ first two checked bags. No change fees. No cancellation fees. No charges for in-flight snacks, beverages or smiles.

“We’ve got to work every day to earn your business and earn your trust,” Harvey said. “Every seat on Southwest Airlines is first class.”


Silke Koehnecke, Southwest’s managing director of business development
Silke Koehnecke

A state-of-the-art, round-the-clock listening center opened in 2014 at the Dallas headquarters. It integrates operational data and media, both social and traditional. Social media monitoring and interaction is becoming an increasingly important tool in customer service, helping the company listen to its customers, adjust and take action as needed, said Silke Koehnecke, national corporate relations manager for Southwest. Team members answer questions, share feedback and do all they can to enhance the customer experience.

Southwest has noticed and appreciates Wichita’s community spirit. “All walks of life in Wichita come together for air service, which helps us,” Harvey said.


Southwest provides an excellent example of the rewards of listening to learn about your customers’ pain points – and to ease them where you can. If you haven’t been listening as closely as you ought, start. The conversation may surprise you.

Dave Franson Wichita Aero Club President
Wichita Aero Club President Dave Franson said the low-fare carrier is so vital to the Air Capital, the club could have been named, “How do we get Southwest Airlines to come to Wichita” Club.

Panel image featured at top provided by Visual Media Group.

This column ran in the March 3 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.