Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2010 (Revised January 2013)

Southwest Airlines: In a Different World

by James L. Heskett and W. Earl Sasser Jr.


This is the fourth in a 35-year series of HBS cases on an organization that has changed the rules of the game globally for an entire industry by offering both differentiated and low-price service. The focus of the case is on whether Southwest Airlines should buy gates and slots to initiate service to New York's LaGuardia airport, which does not fit the airline's profile for cost, ease of service, and other factors. The bigger issue is how the organization should deal with competition that has successfully emulated more and more of what it does in an operating environment that has changed significantly. Hence the subtitle, which was suggested by Herb Kelleher, Southwest's Chairman and CEO, Emeritus.

Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Service Delivery; Service Operations; Organizational Culture; Competitive Strategy; Air Transportation Industry; New York (city, NY);


Heskett, James L., and W. Earl Sasser Jr. "Southwest Airlines: In a Different World." Harvard Business School Case 910-419, April 2010. (Revised January 2013.)