The following is a company profile of Southwest Airlines. It details a hypothetical crisis communication situation in which two Southwest employees are robbed outside of JFK Airport in New York. This report was originally completed for my Public Relations Case Studies course at CCSU. The point of the paper was to see how students in the class would react if they were in charge of public relations at Southwest Airlines.
(Brief) History of the Company
Southwest Airlines was incorporated in 1967 as Air Southwest Co. before eventually changing their name to the current Southwest Airlines Co. in 1971. Despite incorporating in 1967, Southwest would not fly their first planes until 1971 after extended legal battles (1966-1971: The Fight to Fly, 2014).
Operating with a limited number of planes and resources, Southwest became adept at the “10-minute turn,” (Employee Relations, 1999, pg. 49-50) meaning they would try to minimize the amount of time a plane sat on an airport tarmac in order to lower operating costs and because during the early years operation, Southwest had a very small number of planes in their fleet.
What initially started as a Texas-based company soon expanded over the southwestern region of the United States, and continued to expand throughout all corners of the country.
Southwest Airlines is now America’s largest low-fare carrier, serving more customers domestically than any other airline with that they call a “unique combination of low fares with no annoying fees, friendly customer service delivered by outstanding people, safe and reliable operations, and an extraordinary corporate culture that extends into the communities [they] serve.” (Southwest Corporate Factsheet, 2014).
According to StatisticBrain.com’s research (using information from the US Bureau of Transportation) conducted for June of 2013 (before the merger between US Airlines and American Airlines), the market overview for the domestic airlines industry are as follows:
|Airline||Domestic Market Share|
(Airline Industry Statistics, 2013).
Southwest Airlines employs a very friendly and personable communication strategy that heavily involves the use of social media to connect with their stakeholders.
Currently, their Facebook has over 4.1 million Likes, and their Twitter has over 1.6 million followers. Their social media accounts are used to clearly represent the brand’s identity, which is vibrant and people-oriented.
Their accounts post relevant information about local weather issues, promotions, and responding to customer feedback. In particular, they have a blog titled Nuts About Southwest written by regular employees (i.e. not professional bloggers) where employees can share what they love about working with Southwest. This is a very authentic gesture that further creates a community-minded attitude that embodies Southwest (Ivey, 2011).
(Hypothetical) Employee Robbery
After the robbery occurs on the grounds of New York City’s JFK Airport, there will be questions directed at Southwest Airlines from reporters, employees, and the family of the employees who were robbed. After meeting with various members of Southwest Airlines upper management, lawyers, and the staff at JFK Airport, our team will use the following strategy:
When reporters call to question our ground security, we will kindly remind them that while the events were unfortunate, the robbery took place on the grounds of JFK Airport. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the airport, and media calls should be directed towards their Media Relations office regarding their ground security.
We will inform JFK Airport that all inquiries will be directed their way so they are not caught off-guard by questions. We will also ask the airport if it is possible to enhance security measures in order to avoid this situation again in the future.
Before Southwest employees begin to express concerns for their safety, we will send out an internal email to all employees reminding them that while the robbery at JFK Airport was a rare and isolated incident, it is still important to be vigilant when walking around on airport grounds, no matter the location or time of day.
For those who fly in and out of JFK Airport, we will have managers stationed there to speak with employees to further express the importance of being aware of their surroundings.
When the families of the robbery victims call for information, we will send them our condolences and give them as much information as we have, while also referring them to JFK Airport’s number for further questioning.
We will tell them about our efforts to remind all employees about being more aware of surroundings, as well as us asking JFK Airport to look into enhancing security measures.
1966-1971: The Fight to Fly. 2014. Retrieved from
Airline Industry Statistics. Statistic Brain. 2013. Retrieved from
Employee Relations. Case 3-2: Southwest Airlines — Where Fun, Luv, and Profits Go
Ivey, Mark. Southwest Airlines and Social Media Strategy: 5 Lessons for Marketers. 2011. Retrieved
Southwest Corporate Factsheet. 2014. Retrieved from