An analysis of the mission and vision of Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is a leading American airline with its head office in Dallas, Texas. The company has adopted a competitive pricing structure which is also its leading source of competitive advantage apart from its differentiated operational model. While most other domestic carriers operate on a hub and spoke model, Southwest Airlines operates a point to point model. To reduce its fuel expenses and maintain the low-cost advantage, Southwest Airlines flies only Boeing 737 aircraft, more than half of which are 737-700 model. The company started its operations in 1971 with just three Boeing 737 aircraft. Today, it serves 99 destinations ad has a fleet of 750 aircraft. Apart from 40 states in the US, it also serves some international destinations including Mexico, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Aruba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Belize, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement briefly describes the fundamental purpose of an organization. It addresses the question – why a business exists? It articulates the purpose of the organization for internal and external stakeholders. According to Fred David, a mission statement is an enduring statement of purpose distinguishing one organization from similar others and a declaration of the reason behind the organization’s existence. It also explains what an organization wants to be and whom it wants to serve. A mission statement also serves as a foundation for business strategy and planning as well as work design and business structure.
Mission Statement of Southwest Airlines:
The mission of Southwest Airlines is ‘dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit’.
Apart from maintaining lower costs compared to the other domestic airlines operating in the US, Southwest Airlines focuses on customer service mainly. However, the company does not mention any of the other factors like its competition, business model, pricing structure or stakeholders in its mission statement but only its customer-centered business strategy. In a simple line, Southwest Airlines explains that its main focus is on customer experience and that it wants to offer its customers the best in class service and a warm and friendly inflight environment.
Competition in the domestic airline industry in the US has grown quite intense and every airline has to focus upon customer service in order to find faster growth and retain its existing customers. Brand image and brand equity are also important factors that drive business growth and profitability in the US airline industry. The focus of Southwest Airlines is to maintain an image of low cost and customer-oriented airlines. The brand focuses on keeping fuel costs low so as to maintain lower prices. Therefore, it uses only Boeing 737 aircraft in its fleet. Moreover, the most important stakeholders according to its mission statement are the customers. The company explains its customer orientation which is the central pillar of its business strategy through its mission statement. Offering warm and friendly inflight experiences to its customers while maintaining low fares is the primary focus of the airline. On the one hand, it has helped it grow its competitive advantage, on the other, it has helped the company maintain a strong customer connection.
However, there are some more factors that have been omitted from the mission statement. Broadly, a mission statement should include customer focus, organizational activities, and capabilities as well as business structure. Southwest Airlines explains its customer focus but not the other areas including its low-cost business structure and its leading capabilities like the large fleet size or the highly competitive industry environment. However, the company also highlights its focus upon maintaining a strong image in the market in its mission statement apart from its customer focus. Both are important sources of competitive advantage for the airline brand.
Vision Statement of Southwest Airlines:
To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Vision statements are also a basic pillar of business strategy. A vision statement basically answers the question ‘what do we want to become?’ However, a vision statement needs to be established first and foremost. It is also the first step in strategic planning. Most vision statements are short, one-line statements. A vision statement should at least spell out what sort of business a firm engages in.
However, the vision statement of Southwest Airlines is a bit broad. Its vision statement focuses on customers and long term growth. According to the vision statement of Southwest Airlines, it aspires to become the most favored and most profitable airlines in the world. The company can improve its vision statement to make it more specific. For example, “Our vision is to become the most well known domestic and international airlines, offering sincere customer service, a friendly atmosphere and unequaled quality of service at lowest costs.’
Apart from the mission and vision statements, Southwest Airlines also has a purpose statement: Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
The purpose statement explains the unique focus of the business which is to provide people an affordable, reliable and friendly means to reach their destinations.