How Southwest Gets Useful Right

by T3 Marketing

The relationship between airlines and passengers is a turbulent one. According to our Travel & Hospitality Report, most airline brands ranked with low marks of usefulness. Potential passengers look for customization, quality, innovation, availability and consistency. The only airline that came close to earning its wings in usefulness was Southwest. United, on the other hand, scored low in the airline category and across the travel industry—a clear sign of consumer frustration.

It’s important to keep in mind that airlines live in their own, highly regulated world with greater instability. For instance, a weather event in Chicago can cause delays
or even cancellations at the other end of the country. Compounding that, consumers’ frustrations grow when they’re faced with airports with limited and expensive dining choices, long security lines, and complicated flight connections. In our report, we spoke to consumers that were quick to acknowledge these realities, but they also expressed displeasure with airline issues that were fully within the airline’s control.

So how is Southwest getting it right?

  • Southwest gets significant brand credit for its historical investment in being more personable and approachable, driven primarily by its commitment to culture.
  • The airline’s A–C boarding process is credited with driving high efficiency scores.
  • Southwest’s over-delivery
in the form of plush seats and in-terminal power jacks combined with its approachable team members and competitive prices create a heightened sense of value.

For airlines, a little can go a long way. Identifying opportunities to be more useful and better meet expectations means segmenting the things the brand can control and designing services or product experiences around those opportunities. The industry as a whole has demonstrated it can meet expectations.

Southwest has clearly shown it can over-deliver.

Download the full Travel and Hospitality Report to see how 24 airlines, hotels, car rental companies and online travel agents stack up.