Letter To The CEO of Southwest

He’ll probably not spend a ton of time with this letter. But it felt good to write it.

Q: How can an airline make you more productive? -Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines

A: Hey Gary – I like the cupholder idea below a lot. Do that! And as your team’s busy wedging those little buckets into some impossible nook of every passenger’s already impinged personal space (quick fix: hand out holders that can strap just above our knees with an elastic band), it’s a good time to think about how air travel got to where it is today and what might be done to radically change the entire experience. Because that experience is mostly sucky, Gary, and cupholders alone cannot negate a preponderance of sucky. Think big, Gary!

I’m thinking increase fares by, say, 50% across the board. And maybe slash half the flights as well. The evidence is all around us that airline travel is far too accessible and volume-driven. Ignore the outcry from the folks who’d secretly rather be at an airport Radisson than at home with their families or in the office with their bosses (this and the liberal application of expense accounts motivates 43.6% of “business” travel until someone convinces me otherwise); watch the relief from all who now feel burdened by the expectation that they should hop on a plane to go eat a ham sandwich with a client at the slightest suggestion. You can reward remaining frequent travelers, and those who book 3+ months in advance for their well-deserved vacations, with special fares for folks who truly need to fly.

How did we ever make do back when air travel was a rationed luxury, back before we even had faxes, video conferences, and email? We got by just fine, of course. So let’s ratchet up the cost again. With a little margin to play with, perhaps you can carve enough room around a coach seat to open a laptop (the calls for connectivity seem a bit misguided in a world where airline seats do not afford enough room to type…or even just tie your shoe) or provide foodstuffs suitable for sentient beings (the test: would you choose to consume it if not confined for 3 hours in a metal tube hurtling through the sky at 500 MPH?). People will again understand that flying is something to evaluate carefully for its contribution to productivity and should not be confused with productivity itself – jetting to Phoenix is not an accomplishment.

Create a world where we expect less travel and expect more from it. That is how you can make me more productive. Thanks for asking!”

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~ by joshuakelly on February 9, 2008.

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