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Southwest Airlines in Baltimore Case Solution
Southwest airlines connected passengers between urban markets separated by 500 meters or less. They competed by offering low fares which were made possible by the no-frills service offered by Southwest with only snacks instead of meals offered on flights and no baggage transfer facility offered. Baltimore station has become one of the mega stations for Southwest operating greater than 100 flights per day. This rapid expansion has posed a number of challenges for Baltimore as its operational performance continues to deteriorate. This worsening performance can be attributed to the high pressure on facilities of Baltimore due to strong demand and the decline in the number and skills of staff which has led to a decline in service quality. Matt Hafner, the Southwest Airlines station manager was faced with the dilemma of taking appropriate action to bring performance of Baltimore station up to the standards of Southwest. He could either continue to expand to take advantage of anticipated demand or slow down on expansion to increase customer satisfaction.
Following questions are answered in this case study solution
How does Southwest Airlines compete? What are its advantages relative to other airlines?
The plane turnaround process requires coordination among 12 functional groups at SWA to service, in a brief period of time, an incoming plane and match it up with its new passengers and baggage for a prompt departure. Please evaluate the plane turnaround process at Baltimore resource utilization, capacity, bottlenecks, information flow, etc. How is the process working?
Why is the operational performance at Baltimore eroding? What issues do you identify that requires action?
What would you recommend Matt Hafner do?
Case Analysis for Southwest Airlines in Baltimore
1. How does Southwest Airlines compete? What are its advantages relative to other airlines?
Southwest Airlines views cars and buses as its main competitor and competes by offering frequent and low-cost flights between urban markets separated by 500 miles or less. It competes by offering only limited services to passengers with no in-flight meals, only snacks and drinks, and no facility to transfer baggage to other airlines. This ensures that it can keep its costs and hence fares for passengers low which builds customer loyalty. Its open, single class seating is highly efficient as it saves on spending company resources on software to sort seats and printing and verification of boarding passes. This saves time passengers spent on obtaining boarding passes and also motivates them to board a plane on time to get their desired seats.
Southwest makes use of multiple strategies to increase its efficiency relative to other competitors in the industry. Compared to its competitors which are faced with limitations and productivity inefficiencies associated with a short-haul point-to-point flight, Southwest has a number of advantages as it focuses on turning aircraft around quickly at gate to minimize the time its airplanes spend on ground and hence save costs. This also ensures flights are on time which increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Southwest airplanes have an advantage over other carriers as they comparatively spend less time afloat as they have a hub and spoke system that consolidates passengers from small markets at hub airports to ensure relatively full planes for long0haul flights, saving costs for Southwest. By using only, the single operating platform of Boeing 737, Southwest Airlines is able to enhance efficiency by reducing training requirements for pilots, easing the maintenance and change of spare parts, and standardizing the cleanup, provisioning, and ramp operations. Moreover, by using less-congested airports with easy access to metropolitan areas, Southwest Airlines is able to maximize time of its airplanes in air and avoid disruption in its flight operations.
2. The plane turnaround process requires coordination among 12 functional groups at SWA to service, in a brief period of time, an incoming plane and match it up with its new passengers and baggage for a prompt departure. Please evaluate the plane turnaround process at Baltimore resource utilization, capacity, bottlenecks, information flow, etc. How is the process working?
Baltimore is one of Southwest’s eight mega stations as it offers greater than 100 flight departures per day. Quick plane turnaround at the gate involves a high amount of coordination among twelve functional groups namely pilots, gate agents, ticket agents, flight attendants, ramp agents, cargo agents, operations agents, baggage transfer agents, airplane cleaners, mechanics, aircraft fuelers, and caterers. All of these groups were separated by skills, expertise, and status and were traditionally not known to be cooperative in the U.S. airline industry.
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