Southwest in Baltimore case questions:
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.
1. How does Southwest airlines (SWA) compete? What are its advantages to other airlines?
Southwest Airlines is a marketing driven company. It views cars and busses as its main competition. They use less congestive airports that provide easy access to metropolitan areas. A focus on hiring and controls is implemented. Only one operating platform, the Boeing 737, is used. Costs are cut though limited flight services being offered. A chief focus for Southwest is providing quick turnaround, directing traffic swiftly through the gates. They have a commitment to offering cheap fares and frequent flights. Employees are given the freedom to make decisions, keeping a focus on customer service at all times. Employees are cross-trained, and encouraged to change jobs within the company.
Advantages Southwest Airlines has are lower costs, quicker turn-around, open and single class seating. The work environment is fun –filled with a focus on family and team and service orientation. Each agent is assigned only one flight, allowing the agent to give complete focus to ensuring the success of this flight.
2. The plane turnaround process requires coordination among twelve functional groups at SWA to service, in a brief period of time, an incoming plane and match it up with its new passengers and baggage for a prompt departure. Please evaluate the plane turnaround process at Baltimore – resource utilization, capacity, bottlenecks, information flows, etc. How is the process working?
Per Matt Hafner’s decision, ramp supervisors have the responsibility of managing two gates, in addition to ensuring that both gates are not scheduled at the same time. This could result in a possible bottleneck in the case of a schedule error or delayed flights, causing two gates to be filled at the same time. There is a maximum of 16 gates. In the event of having several delayed flights, there will not be enough gates to accommodate all flight traffic.
One problem concerning resource utilization at the Baltimore Station is that its bag sorting area has reached its capacity. This can also result in a bottleneck for the company, as it slows down the entire flight process. As Southwest is able to turn around a jet in 15 minutes, this proves to be an efficient process. A continuous coordination and communication among all departments should be evaluated. 3 .Why is the operations performance at Baltimore eroding? What issues do you identify that require action?
One reason that Southwest Airlines is eroding is its current turnover. There is a current lack of employee retention, which is affecting the company having fast turnarounds. This is a direct problem that requires attention. The employees are only well-trained in their individual job and do not have a functional understanding of the overall work process. The night shift workers are the lowest-seniority and are not able to respond in a timely fashion when conditions change suddenly.
Passenger connections are a challenge in that the passengers are not able to connect flights that are scheduled in less than 35 minutes of each other. Connections have been in the 20% range for the past ten years. At Baltimore, they are 30%. The Baltimore Station has reached maximum capacity in its bag sorting area, slowing down the entire flight process. This problem also requires immediate attention.
4. What would you recommend Matt Hafner do?
One recommendation is that group leaders could be just like flight attendants, and fly in on a scheduled basis. This would ensure having a leader that is qualified and well-trained. An investment in a new and more efficient bagging system should be made. This would alleviate connection problems. Another recommendation is that Matt Hafner could seek advice from Phoenix, as they successfully implement a more efficient connecting system. Southwest also needs to cut the amount of overtime employees are currently working. There is a direct correlation linking current employee overtime with the amount of complaints coming from customers about bagging.