Southwest Airlines in Baltimore: Case Analysis on Business Expansion Plan

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Issue at Hand: Baltimore is one of the eight mega stations for Southwest Airlines. The airline plans to expand operations there, rapidly. But the operational performance at Baltimore station is lagging behind the system-wide average of the airline. The challenge is to overcome this impediment so that the station can accommodate additional growth as planned.

Q 1: Comparative Advantages:

Strategic business policy which envisions car and bus as Southwest’s rivals, thus creating a commitment to most inexpensive fares and most frequent flights between urban markets separated by 500 miles or less. •Use of a single operating platform i.e., Boeing 737 gives enhanced efficiency of spare parts, maintenance and ramp operations. •Use of less congested airports with easy access to large metropolitan areas. This choice saves both money and time for the company as well as passengers. •No in-flight meals and no transfer baggage to other airlines also save major hassles. •Open single class seating does away with the need of computer hardware and software required for sorting purposes. Moreover, this system encourages the passengers to board quickly so as to lay claim to their desired seats (in-built mechanism). •Decentralized control making the system more responsive to circumstantial need. •Maintaining a young fleet bestows the reliability of service necessary to deal with rigour of use. •Effective human resource practices and a well defined and rigorous selection process ensure that applicants are tested for attitude, teamwork and service orientation. •Strong training emphasis for new recruits as well as the old employees says a lot about commitment to human capital development. •Company has a culture of empowerment as well as that of forgiveness. This ensures a steady stream of new and bold ideas for operational and service improvement. •A high priority is given to resolving conflicts between functional groups. This ensures a smooth working relationship central to corporate success. •Healthy relationships with the union helps secure flexible work rules thus giving the company leverage on high flexibility. •By making travel inexpensive, Southwest is not only taking larger market share rather it is expanding the overall market size. •Cross training is given to enhance flexibility. Switching jobs is also encouraged to keep work assignments challenging and interesting. •Fortune magazine has ranked Southwest among the 100 best companies to work for in America which entails being the consistent choice of new aviation workforce.

Q 2: Evaluation of Turnaround Process, Resource Utilization, Capacity, Bottlenecks, Information Flow & How is the Process Working:

Turnaround Process Evaluation: At Baltimore passenger connections are a major operational challenge. Minimum connecting time is 35 minutes. The coordination is decentralized. Operations coordinators and supervisors manage the inbound and outbound flights of the station while operations agent mange each flight’s turnaround. The successful turnaround is heavily dependent on strong coordination and cooperation between various functions.

OTIS is used for tracking flight information allowing the ground crew to gauge the expected arrival time of a flight. On the station, the gate assignment and timings are displayed on FIDS for all of the employees and passengers. There is a special attention to “hot passengers” that have less than 35 minutes connection time.

During the turnaround, a stable flying configuration and appropriate fueling is ensured. Fuel invoice and Cargo Bin Loading Schedule is hung by the jetway. The passenger who have connecting flights are dismounted with their baggage. Then the boarding process for the new passengers is started. In the meantime clean up and other necessary operations are also performed. Finally, the copy of the trim calculations and information about passengers and baggage is passed onto the...
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