One Airline's Magic

How does Southwest soar above its money-losing rivals? Its employees work harder and smarter, in return for job security and a share of the profits

Most folks know Buffalo, N.Y., for its chicken wings, but in the airline business it's famous for ferocious winter storms that bring air travel--and sometimes all travel--to a frozen halt. That's what happened last December when Buffalo was buried under a record 7 ft. of snow. Southwest Airlines, with its lean scheduling system, was hit harder than most. One of its planes got stuck so long it came due for a routine maintenance check. Without it, the plane wouldn't be allowed to fly--and that would cost Southwest tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. What to do?

Johnny Bomaster, 38,...

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