68 love marks from Southwest Airlines’ Paula Berg that can help British Airways prevent a future strike by Unite

A special day in aviation

Two important events took place in aviation today – both of which conjured up mixed feelings in me.

1. The British High Court declared illegal the potential X-mas strike by British Airways‘ Unite union. The good news is that this promises hassle-free travel for almost a million BA travelers over the holiday period. The downside is that the union is keen on re-grouping to go on strike early next year.

2. It was the last day at work for Paula Berg, the force behind the successful new media brand strategy of Southwest Airlines for the past decade. She’s leaving to move back with the true love of her life – the mountains. So again, a bitter-sweet news. (Watch Paula’s video interview on SWA’s media strategy here)

What’s the link between Southwest Airlines and British Airways?

“So, what’s the connection”, you may wonder?

Paula had emailed me about her move last week and in her note included 68 reasons why she loved working at Southwest over the last ten years. Can you imagine an employee putting in so much affection and effort while she’s leaving? This only happens when the company has treated her like family.

This is not just something Paula expressed, but also what Southwest’s outgoing President Colleen Barrett confirmed over a year ago in her final interview – that the airline’s prime customers are its employees. And keeping them happy keeps the end-customer happy too.

Now, Southwest Airlines has some of the largest number of employees who’re in a union. But they seldom have employee trouble. Probably because they feel loved and give love back. Whereas at British Airways (and many other airlines), there often seems to be employee trouble. I think two things need to happen here:

1. The airline needs to think more about the employees like family, rather than numbers. If they’ve been promised something, they should be granted it on time

2. The union and employees shouldn’t just think of the airline as a golden goose they can hold hostage on a whim. Think of the long term too. If the Unite strike had gone through during the holiday period, it would have probably brought British Airways to its knees!

And even now, when customers fly British Airways over the holidays, do you think they’d feel the love? Probably not. And this would reflect in their lower service delivery standards too, which already isn’t the best in the world.

Hence, I’d like to share with the world, and especially anyone who works at British Airways, a classic from Southwest Airlines’ Paula Berg , which I’ve sought permission for re-publishing from her email. I hope this warms some hearts and melts some hot-heads and make life better for everyone this holiday season.

Quoted from Paula’s personal email…

68 REASONS WHY I’VE LOVED WORKING AT SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

  1. This puddle.
  2. The response you receive when you tell someone that you work for Southwest Airlines.
  3. Free flights.
  4. The People – There are times when I pass folks in the halls that I don’t even know and am overwhelmed with the feeling that any one of these people would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.
  5. Bags Fly Free – It just feels good to work for a Company that tries to do right by its Customers.
  6. The Freedom to move about the Company – I love that several of our VP’s began their careers on the frontline – loading bags, working the ticket counter, and servicing aircraft.
  7. On business trips with colleagues, I can look around the dinner table and think, “There’s no one else I’d rather be with right now.”
  8. Halloween – how many people can say they’ve seen their CEO in platform boots and a cod piece?
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  9. Having a team of Schedule Planners on hand to “optimize” our Halloween performance schedule.
  10. The view from the deck.
  11. Having a personal weather man to let you know when to head home or hunker down to avoid bad weather.
  12. Lunch in the cafeteria always feels like a high school reunion.
  13. The Button Man (sometimes known also as The Magnet Man) – because every Southwest event needs a souvenir.
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  14. Hearing the Southwest Choir practice in the atrium behind my office.
  15. Casual Dress.
  16. Hand-written notes from Colleen Barrett.
  17. Kisses from Herb Kelleher.
  18. That Warrior Spirit.
  19. Parties in the hanger.
  20. Rapping, singing, flipping, and beat-boxing Flight Attendants.
  21. Aviation bloggers and enthusiasts.
  22. Employee lanes at the airport.
  23. Eight percent 401k match.
  24. Best corporate blog three years running according to PR News (…and if I do say so myself).
  25. The Culture Committee.
  26. There is no shortage of peanuts or peanut references.
  27. There is never a dull moment.
  28. The Spirit Jr. Costume.
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  29. This photo.
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  30. Texas – From the hospitality to the maverick spirit, and all the folks that call you honey, sugar, and darling.
  31. Southwest swag – like the Southwest Airlines lint roller, the Cargo koozie with the crab arms (“we ship your catch”), the flip-flops that leave the Southwest logo imprinted in the sand, and the Southwest bike (one of these days, I’m gonna get my hands on one of those bikes).
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  32. Fred Taylor and Proactive Customer Service.
  33. Employees first, Customers next, Shareholder’s last.
  34. 36 years of profitability.
  35. Profit sharing.
  36. Free parking in the Employee lot at the airport.  With the upcoming renovation of Dallas Love Field, this option in no longer available.  And, technically, being that I wasn’t actually an airport Employee, I was never really supposed to park back there anyway.  But, oh the good ole days!  (NOTE:  To the owners of the red Camero and the black Porsche that are still parked over there, you better move your cars ASAP or you’re gonna get towed!)
  37. Crazy email strings – Like the one a co-worker accidently sent to hundreds of people that revealed highly confidential information about a new city.  Doh!  Or the one that someone intended for a few friends, but accidently sent to the entire company, asking what they wanted her to pick up for a Bar-B-Que.  Everyone responded.  Not everyone thought it was funny.  I think you know where I stand on this one.  It still makes me giggle.
  38. Weekly emails from Carla looking for her missing mail cart (…I love you, girl!).
  39. Daily emails announcing that there is queso, Bar-B-Que, or birthday cake in the breakroom.
  40. Parking next to a Boeing 737.
  41. That new plane smell.
  42. Driving into work with the planes taking off on the runway along Denton Drive.  Sometimes I want to race them, but the potholes and my less than favorable standing with the police always stop me.
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  43. Stuart Thomas’s abstract Halloween costume illustrating RASM and CASM.
  44. Countless “Wanna Get Away” moments – like the time I took a fly ball to the chin at the Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards softball game and had to come to work for a week with a black and blue goatee.  Or the time that I split my pants from seam to seam and walked around all day in chaps.  Or the time I walked into a plate glass window escorting Jim Wimberly to a photo shoot.
  45. The joy of looking up someone’s phone number in the online Company Directory and discovering a ridiculous employee photo.
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  46. The “no drinking before 5pm” rule.
  47. The Freedom to be yourself – In 2002, while working in the Customer Relations Department, I went nearly three months without washing my hair, just for fun. In the third month, my supervisor called me in to his office and gently suggested that I may want to “keep our Customers in mind.”  I love that it took that long.
  48. Secret project codewords like Sockeye, Wyatt ERP and Tipper.
  49. The crossword puzzle in Spirit Magazine.
  50. Brainstorming sessions in the Magic Factory.
  51. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride from Headquarters to Dallas Love Field on the Southwest shuttle bus.
  52. On any given day you might see a live Texas longhorn, NBA Legend Bill Walton, the Stanley Cup, or a margarita machine on campus.
  53. The Southwest cans of water.  I mean really…how cute are these things!
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  54. Doug Lawson – our resident “Viv Engineer” who, among other things, studies the movements and behavioral patters of animals (like ants, bees, and herds) and applies that knowledge to algorithms that make our airport operations more intuitive and efficient.
  55. Linda Rutherford – without Linda, there would be no blog and no Emerging Media Team.
  56. License plate frames that say “my other car is a Southwest 737.”
  57. Bob Jordan’s Mustache.
  58. Sitting on a plane and listening to the folks around you talk about how much they love Southwest Airlines.
  59. Amazing people like Bill Owen, Anne Hancock, Brian Lusk, and Carole Adams, who, for me, will always epitomize the Spirit of Southwest.
  60. Dallas Love Field – just 15 minutes from my apartment to the gate.
  61. Lunch at the PR table.
  62. The view from the window seat.
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  63. Getting a thumbs’ up from Gary.
  64. Chetto Drafts in the Landing.
  65. James Tibbons and this video.
  66. The Southwest Communications Department – I’ve spent nearly every work day for the past six years with the same group of people.  They know me as well or better than anyone, and they have loved me, nonetheless.
  67. My very good friends, who have taken care of me when I was sick, had me at their homes for holidays, allowed me to loaf on their couches when I didn’t have a television or a home, and were on call to bail me out of jail if I were ever arrested.
  68. Bloody Marys on a plane – they’re just better up there.

Much LUV, my friends.

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco. Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others. Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 13 comments
  • oussama
    Reply

    WOW, you are right a very heart warming 68 reasons to love your job. It all boils down to respecting and treating your employees as individuals and encouraging them to be themselves. The diversity of personalities makes for a great fun place to work. The work ethic of “we are all in the same boat” we are all equally important to getting the job done right is another important reason that makes for a great workplace.
    When I do Quality Awareness briefings I always stress that an airline is about people never about airplanes, buildings or check in counters and lounges. It is about people, those who work here and those who travel with us. It is about people interacting and not grand standing, people talking to each other TO get it right and not people talking AT each others scoring points.
    SWA has captured that spirit of accepting employees for what they are, great individuals who deserve respect and support and the rest is history.
    Well, wish you all the luck Paula in your new passion.

  • maxtrescott
    Reply

    I've read a lot about Southwest in the past but had never read that “the airline’s prime customers are its employees.” It makes total sense. I absolutely love flying Southwest. In November I flew from San Jose to Tampa staying in the same seat for all three legs of the flight. I had fun kidding one of the flight attendants during the nearly 8 hours we were together. As I was getting off the plane, she leaned forward and gave me a hug. First time that's ever happened, but it felt great. The return flight was on another airline and I was in the smallest, cramped seat I can remember sitting in for many years. The contrast was stark–which is why I fly Southwest whenever I can!

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