Make us your home page
Instagram

Southwest Airlines ready for bumpy ride, says communications director

Ginger Hardage discusses the culture inside Southwest Airlines at a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Ginger Hardage discusses the culture inside Southwest Airlines at a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

As Southwest Airlines grew into a national powerhouse, Ginger Hardage directed how the low-fare carrier told its story. A year ago, the airline's longtime communications director took on the additional duty of protecting Southwest's gung-ho, people-first culture.

Hardage told a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce lunch crowd Thursday how the airline built its brand based on the internal culture. She talked with the Times about challenges at Southwest, checked bag fees and how passengers feel about cell phones on planes.

How is Southwest dealing with the big drop in airline passengers and sales of higher-priced walk-up fares?

Business travel is declining with the economy, so more and more we're discounting our fares and bringing in more leisure travelers. On an aircraft, if we lose our five business travelers we're having to replace those with 15 leisure customers.

Doesn't that present a problem as the leisure-heavy summer travel season winds down?

Kids go back to school, so it always drops off in September. And business travel is really not recovering. We're really watching that in the next three quarters.

Isn't escalating unemployment dampening leisure travel as well?

We know it's having an impact. If you're not working, you're probably not taking your family very far away on vacation. That's one of the reasons for all the discounting. So you saw fares on Southwest Airlines recently for $30. So, we are deeply discounting to incentify people to travel.

Do you expect more fare sales by Southwest and competitors?

Air travel is a bargain, and it will probably continue to be for some time.

How long can you continue to let passengers check two bags for free?

Our competitors are all charging for bags. So, we have to be open-minded. We carry close to 100 million customers a year for a reason. They come to us for our low fares. They are aware of how much the total cost of a trip is going to be. So, we have not said that we will never do that. But it's something we always have to weigh with the impact on our brand.

How close is Southwest to offering Wi-Fi in its fleet?

We're testing four aircraft. We're testing quality, customer receptivity, usage, and also we're doing some price testing. We're out to make a decision by the end of the summer.

That could enable your aircraft to let passengers use cell phones in flight. Is that in the cards if federal agencies drop cell phone bans?

By and large, customers don't want that. They primarily don't want to sit by somebody else who's doing that. Overwhelmingly.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Southwest Airlines ready for bumpy ride, says communications director 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 9:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy

    Business

    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  3. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy

    Retail

    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. Owners to level Port Richey flea market but may rebuild

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — The owners of the recently shuttered USA Flea Market have agreed to demolish all structures on the property, leaving open the possibility of rebuilding the weekend shopping attraction, according to Pasco County officials.

    Pasco County officials shut down the USA Flea Market after it received hundreds of citations for health and code violations.