The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

People Always Come Before Profit

On April 29th, 2013, posted in: Uncategorized by

Dear President of Southwest Airlines:

I’m getting worried about your brand. You know – that thing that is the compilation of buyers’ emotions and feelings about your company? I’m afraid yours is taking some hits. I am but one of your fliers, but I wonder how many others who frequent your airlines have similar negative feelings?

I’m not looking for a fight. I’ve loved you guys for years, but I definitely love you less in recent times. Your value to me has been on a nosedive, and some recent occurrences are pushing me closer and closer to your competitors. Your brand has slipped from being the “love” airline to the “lesser of the evils” airline. Really? That’s the brand you want? I can’t imagine that you aspire to benchmark against others who call the friendly skies their home. But dude, you’re about a hot second from being a United Airlines lookalike.

Let’s be honest – you’ve been taking from me for a while. I’m sure in the board room you’ve effectively justified your actions in the name of stockholder delight. But, the fact is that you are no longer the low-cost provider. Rapid Rewards are a long way from rapid; drink coupons rival gold in value; and early bird check-in is up to $12.50 – far from its final resting place.

The question for you and your executive gurus is when do the changes you’ve implemented in the name of shareholder return shift the value paradigm to a place that no longer makes you good for me and others? I get it. You’re testing the market. But with me, it has gotten real close. Yes, stockholders matter, but stakeholders have a place too. People always come before profit. Look it up in the dictionary – “people” then “profit” – every time.

I am genuinely concerned for what’s going on outside of the corporate office where your brand takes shape. At your gates and in your planes, I have noted a pervasive concern among those in your employ. I have concluded that your staff either can’t tell time or can’t tell the truth. In either instance, I am alarmed.

What do a “couple of minutes” mean to you? What do a “couple of minutes” mean to you when you’re 6’6” tall, 240 lbs., and jammed in a middle seat on a Friday night? I am embarrassed to say that I believed your pilot when he announced, after an on-time arrival from Chicago to St. Louis, that “it will be just a couple of minutes while they push back the plane in our gate.” Eighteen minutes later, he announced that “it will be a few more minutes.” Seven minutes later, we were finally hearing the “ding” to get the hell out. Don’t respond with excuses. Just tell me the truth. “This is your pilot speaking, I have no idea how long we’re going to be waiting for a gate, but I do know this, we appreciate you flying with us. Without you, none of us in logo wear have a job. Sit tight, I’ll keep you informed.”

The current manner for handling such an incident can’t be the best solution. I am especially concerned that a pilot, in such an extremely responsible position (with my life in his accomplished hands) either can’t tell time or can’t tell the truth. You sir, either have a hiring problem, or a concern for ethics. Might I suggest that telling the truth can’t possibly hurt you worse than the pervasive lying going on among your personnel?

In either instance, the value that I have always found in SWA is to a breaking point. Value is on the rocks and your brand may be beginning a free fall.

“DING,” we can always improve.

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