Turnaround at Southwest Airlines

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Southwest Airlines is one of the largest domestic carriers in the United States, with over 3400 flights every day from 64 domestic destinations. Since 2011, Southwest Airlines is the airline that “carries the most domestic passengers of any US airline” ("Scheduled passengers carried", 2011). The major factor that contributes to the success of Southwest Airlines and makes it different from the other airlines is its approach in designing and managing the processes.

Measuring capacity and utilization at Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines uses the unified system to measure its capacity. The measure for capacity of an airline is the available seat mile (ASM), which refers to the number of seats in an airplane, multiplied by the flying length between the takeoff and landing destination. This measure gives information about the capacity, but there are many other factors that influence on the performance of the airline. The utilization at Southwest Airlines makes the performance of this airline different than its competitors. In order to increase the average output rate and perform close to the maximum capacity, Southwest Airlines brought strategic decisions such as, using unified airplane models, implementing Operational Terminal Information System (OTIS) etc. These decisions affect different areas of operations, from maintenance and training to turnaround efficacy. For example, Southwest trains its crew only for Boeing 737, the only model in the fleet, which gives the airline flexibility regarding the scheduling and the trainings. Also OTIS provides the necessary information for better efficacy of the ground operations team before the plane arrives, so they can turn around the plane in just 25 minutes or less. The company focuses on the gate turn-around time and invests in different programs and employee trainings for turn-around efficacy and recognizes it as one of the main utilization factors: “If we can save one minute off every turn system...
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