Southwest Airlines vs. Jetblue

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Southwest Airlines was started over 38 years ago as a small Texas airline and has grown to become one of the largest airlines in the United States because it differentiates itself as the most successful low-fare, high frequency, point-to-point carrier. Since 1987 Southwest has consistently led the entire airline industry with the lowest ratio of complaints per passenger boarded. What does Southwest do differently that no one else in airlines does? It keeps things simple and consistent, which drives costs down, maximizes productive assets, and helps manage customer expectations.

First, one plane fits all. Unlike the network carriers which operate all manner of regional jets, Southwest flies just one plane type, the Boeing 737 series.
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For example, for most of 2007, Southwest had just over 70% of its jet fuel needs protected near $51. More recently its fuel-hedging strategy backfired as oil prices dropped and Southwest found itself paying more than market value for its fuel. The hedge cost the airline approximately $117 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.3

Southwest Airlines fares influence other airlines in many markets. Other low cost carriers, notably AirTran and JetBlue, have copied and in some ways improved on Southwest’s no-frills service. For example, New York-based JetBlue Airways started by following Southwest’s approach of offering low-cost travel but distinguishes itself by its amenities. JetBlue has created a new airline category based on value, service and style and is known for its low fares, award-winning service, seats with more legroom, in-flight entertainment, and 36 channels of DIRECTV service at every seat. JetBlue also flies internationally and offers reserved seating. JetBlue also recently introduced complimentary in-flight e-mail and instant messaging services on aircraft “BetaBlue,” a first among U.S. domestic airlines. Customers traveling on BetaBlue can use their Wi-Fi enabled devices to send and receive email messages and instant messages from their accounts. Customers can also log onto’s site for mobile phones to shop from the sky. JetBlue is also America’s first and only airline to offer its own Customer Bill of Rights, with meaningful and

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