A Busy and Exciting Day with Southwest


I do my best to get a thoughtful post out for you every weekday, so I apologize that today is a very light one. See, I spent yesterday with Southwest Airlines, and I’m just now sitting down to do some writing. As I write this, it’s 10pm, I have an early flight out, and I’m tired. Tomorrow I head to Phoenix for the Aviation Symposium, so I will have plenty of good material coming up. It’s just going to be tough keeping my regular schedule this week.

So, come back tomorrow and hopefully I’ll do better. Until then, I’ll leave you with this picture.

Herb Kelleher and Brett Snyder

Yep, that’s me and Southwest’s legendary founder Herb Kelleher. As you can see from the grin on my face, this was like a teenage girl meeting Miley Cyrus. I was definitely star-struck, and that doesn’t really happen often.

I’ll have more about our discussion and the rest of my visit to Southwest (including my time flying the simulator) as soon as I can get it together.

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18 comments on “A Busy and Exciting Day with Southwest

  1. CF–Your blurbs/comments/tales are really appreciated! Keep up the good work.

    Still remember the day I met with Fred Smith when he was trying to get his little company up and running. Absolutely, positively convinced this Federal Express thing was nothing more than a pipedream!

    Herb’s getting to look a little old [I’m not, haha!] but bet he could still hold his own in a smackdown with Fred, and Bob Crandall. [I’d pay to watch!]

  2. I agree–how exciting it would be to meet Herb! I worked for another airline but Herb was always the top guy in the industry. I have met Bob Crandall, and that did nothing for me! Hey, I would pay to watch the smackdown, too. No doubt who the winner would be.

  3. Dude! Make sure in the future you are wearing a matching belt and shoes. Black and brown is a fashion faux pas!

  4. But, Brad, I should add that it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to catch a fashion faux pas on me. If it weren’t for my wife, I’d be completely screwed.

    Robert D – I have to say that I would like to meet Crandall just as much as Herb. Crandall is one of the greatest minds in airline history. His rivalry with Herb is legendary and the mutual respect is something that often seems to get lost today. I would love to meet him.

  5. Yep. Gotta get a lighter belt to wear with those shoes (or darker shoes to wear with that belt).

    Did he give you any peanuts while you were there?

  6. I’ve met Crandall, never met Herb. Crandall quit smoking, Herb didn’t. Crandall was a known fitness freak…finding time to run in the morning as well as run most of his competitors in to the ground.

    Long odds on Herb vs. Crandall. Just put a current picture of both up next to each other. Crandall in the first round with a mercy TKO.

  7. I got to witness Crandall once at an event, and was amazed at the arrogance. He demanded his own personal lecture stand and had a phalanx of minions doing everything for him. As for his speech? Typical AA bluster and propaganda (10 years ago), nothing of note, but he really looked like the tail end of the old school mentality.

    Never met Herb, got to final interviews twice with SW, never got hired, in retrospect, that would not have been a good choice for me at the time though. Herb looks good, I wish him a long and happy life.

  8. I had a brief conversation with Crandall and he did come across as very arrogant…which didnt really surprise me. I doubt Herb would come across that way. I really have respect for the man.

  9. Cranky – you consistently put out a good column, and you deserve to see some of the benefits in things like meeting Herb. Enjoy the rewards.of what you do.

  10. Crandall usually came across strong but I have nothing but praise for the man and his accomplishments. I also got to enjoy his sense of humor. That he has a funny side caught most people off guard as much as his strength of will.

    When he told a joke or shared a laugh he bared his teeth much the same as he would going in for the kill. He was exactly what AA needed at exactly the right time.

  11. Wo wo wo, Brad…that advice on matching shoes and belt is so early-2000s. Swanky brown shoes with a black belt as Cranky is rockin’ – or vice versa – got the green light from fashionistas at least a year ago. I’m sure that’s what he was going for

  12. CF, whenever we architects hear laypeople criticize a design for being a Taj Mahal, we cringe with embarrassment for how silly the people look who use the reference. I hear it most often from small-minded government officials who pay us over and over to rebuild the junky buildings they “value engineered.” I always get a chuckle going back and reading these criticisms from media and politicians in the 1960’s over this theater they were building in Australia. Have you ever seen an any ad, show, commercial or book about Australia that doesn’t show the Sydney Opera House? The real problem with the analogy is that the Taj Mahal is the most famous building in India, has brought millions of visitors, has survived centuries and will continue to do so without much maintenance, and is responsible for thousands of jobs. If we were lucky, we might build a couple here.

    But the more important point is that you only need to look at Dulles Airport to see the problem with the fiscal lynch mob thinking. The main terminal is over 40 years old and it is still a positive symbol for Washington. It is the model for every major international airport (I just wish they’d invested in the rail a while ago). Terminal C/D was a value-driven design that is just miserable by any standard and the total cost after they replace it will be astronomical – but who’s around to take responsibility for that thinking?

    That doesn’t mean that I think every airport should expand with architectural abandon. CDG is Exhibit A: Every terminal design swings for the bleachers and tries to outdo the others. The result looks like a boat show for buildings (sorry about all the analogies here, but I think they work). It is needlessly a confusing mess.

    I’d like to see more criticism of the LAX expansion for its merits and flaws (which you have done). But if they’re going to build it, they need to think about the long life of the building even though they have to pay it off in a short time. Otherwise, they’ll be rebuilding and rebuilding. Maybe we can look at the design from this angle and decide whether or not they’re wasting our money on poor materials (ATL & PIT), poor layout (Dubai T3 and CDG), cheesy design features (BWI) or chaotic planning (JFK and MIA).

    Love your blog and read it every chance I get.

  13. Great comments, Mark B. Thanks for posting.

    With an airport, the costs are passed on to the airlines and ultimately the customer. So if you end up building something that’s architecturally significant, it nearly always ends up being more expensive and you get fewer flights. That’s not good for anyone. Airports shouldn’t be architectural statements but rather functional buildings.

    Dulles isn’t really a great example, because that midfield concourse was built as a temporary building. That wasn’t a smart move, and it was an awful design. I’m not suggesting that airports skimp on quality building materials and important designs that improve functionality. But when you build a soaring glass roof like LAX is proposing or you overbuild an airport like Indianapolis did, you will suffer the consequences of having fewer flights because the airport is too expensive.

    I’m not suggesting that facilities be built as cheap as possible. I’m just suggesting that making something a soaring architectural statement should be reserved for other buildings that won’t have such a negative economic impact on the city when they end up being so expensive.

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