The Cranky Flier Interview: Southwest CRO Andrew Watterson Talks California

Podcast, Southwest, The Cranky Flier Interview

Let’s start this week off with a podcast. I already wrote about Southwest’s declaration of war against Alaska and anyone else who tries to challenge the airline in California. Now you can hear about it right from the horse’s mouth.

It was Southwest Chief Revenue Officer Andrew Watterson’s presentation at the Boyd Conference that sparked my post, and he sat down with me for a few minutes after that talk. Below, you can hear our conversation that mostly, but not entirely, focused on the airline’s plans in California. (I had to ask about the airline’s decision to end overbooking once again as well…)

This is a relatively short one at 15 minutes in length, so you should be able to squeeze it into your commute. Have a listen below.

I’m almost done with all the content from the Boyd Conference, but I still need to turn my conversation with Spirit CEO Bob Fornaro into something for the blog. Stay tuned for that.

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15 comments on “The Cranky Flier Interview: Southwest CRO Andrew Watterson Talks California

  1. The mention of the “swing zones” and using customers’ locations when they are searching for fares to determine which airports they prefer (or might be swayed to prefer) is an interesting concept.

    Glad to hear that Andrew still has the same hyperactive, upbeat personality (and I imagine the same broad smile) that he had when I worked in an office with him in fall 2009 and spring 2010.

    Also, props for using the DoJ as the fake sponsor for this one. I doubt Andrew will be allowed to admit it, but I’m sure he’ll love that one when he hears this podcast.

    1. Rich – It’s pretty common to say it that way in the airline industry. I know when I did airline pricing, we used all kinds of shortcuts since we just spoke in city codes all day long. Bee-wee was definitely one of them.

      1. “Bee-Wee” was also what we used to refer to “BWIA” (British West Indies Airways) as when I was a travel agent.

        1. Yes, it actually originated in the Caribbean when they lovingly referred to BWIA as “Bee-Wee”! That was long before BWI became popular and referred to as the same!

        1. Agreed, this topic would be a fun post on “inside airlines” jargon.

          That said, I’m not sure I want to know what airline people call Pensacola (PNS) or Charlotte (CLT).

        2. MRY-SMF – Sure, but most aren’t exciting. It’s really just about sounding out the words instead of saying the letters in most cases. So things like SAT, SFO, SIN, IST, and yes, CLT and FAT. You just say those as if they were words, throwing in a vowel where needed. BWI (BeeWee) and SMF (Smurf) are the ones that stand out as being different. I’ve heard HNL as Honol before. In the pricing world it’s a little different too because pricing is done by city codes, not airport codes. So you file fares to NYC and not JFK or LGA. Some are really weird, such as DTT instead of DTW, MKC instead of MCI, ORL instead of MCO, and YTO instead of YYZ. Though except for ORL, none of those are said as words.

          I will say there are some that are probably not as common, but I do say as words. Like FCO. Just stick a U in there after the F and that’s how I say it. Not sure if others do that or just say the letters.

          1. Interesting. I’ve used NYC before when searching for fares, but never understood why typing in Detroit brings up DTT as an option. I wonder why the city codes are still used for cities like Detroit that only have one major airport.

    2. Sacramento International Airport(SMF) is another nicknamed city code commonly referred to as Smurf in the industry.

  2. The tidbit about Short Haul flying coming back was interesting, as it’s not supported by the data on average stage length. However, they might obviously be seeing very recent trends not reflected in somewhat stale reported data.

    1. They are probably actually seeing stimulation in intra-Cal markets caused by Alaska bringing in lower fares. But that wouldn’t be convenient to mention for Watterson.

  3. Brett- long time reader of your blog. Andrew did a great job in this podcast, but you however didn’t. Frankly it is painful to hear you interview given your jaded and uncooperative tone. I’m all for journalist (not sure if you define yourself as this tho) asking hard questions, but the pros find a way to do it with more grace, ease, and maturity than you displayed. Andrew had a lot of interesting things to share (like the basin-area analysis of home location of ticket buyers compared w airports searched/booked) which you sort of glossed over in your grumbling effort to stumble through this interview. Perhaps written blogs are a better medium for you as I don’t typically get that tone from them and I appreciate the humanity you infuse in your writing, including some dose of skepticism or snark. I’m only posting this because I’m a fan of yours and the blog and want to see it succeed. However, I’d wince at the thought of having to listen to another podcast interview with you without significant improvement in your audio-based interviewing skills.

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