Prince Of Midair

Once dismissed as an oddity, Herb Kelleher's no-frills Southwest Airlines is soaring while others struggle

Imagine a major airline that seems to go out of its way to put its passengers in a blind rage: it routinely denies them assigned seats, refuses to transfer their baggage or arrange connections, and crams them three abreast into planes with only crackers and cookies to nibble. It sells no tickets through the industry's computerized reservations system and avoids flying to many large- city airports. As though to compensate for all this, its chief executive dresses in clown suits and Elvis costumes and paints his planes to resemble whales.

Yet Southwest Airlines has used just such perverse tactics to accomplish...

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