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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Southwest Airlines

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The employees of Southwest Airlines are free to move around the House floor. Up at the dais, at least.
On Tuesday, the House honored the 40th anniversary of the Dallas-based airline's founding. Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, began on a wry note, saying, "Members, you might want to make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position." The House then unanimously passed a resolution by the dean of the House, Rep. Tom Craddick , R-Midland. It notes that on June 18, 1971, Southwest began commercial flights with three Boeing 737s and fewer than 70 employees. Today, it's the largest commercial airliner in the U.S., with a fleet of more than 500 737s and nearly 35,000 people on the payroll.

"Southwest is a true icon of Texas," Craddick said. "They changed the face of this state, the way people got around and the way business was done."
Former Southwest chairman and chief executive officer Herb Kelleher said it was a phenomenon even bigger than Texas (if the mind can conceive of anything so large).

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Kelleher, in brief remarks to the House, built on this passage in the resolution: "Over the last four decades, the percentage of American adults who have flown on a commercial airliner has risen from 15 to 85 percent, a result that is often referred to as the 'Southwest Effect.'"

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Kelleher (above, 2008 DMN photo) called it "a worldwide revolution, as well as a Texas revolution." He thanked the Legislature and Texas Supreme Court for siding with the infant Southwest in its battles with entrenched airlines. Calling the Lege Southwest's daddy, he said "your child has really served as a role model for carriers around the world. Southwest has been emulated every place on the inhabitated continents, and what has that caused? Billions of people have been enabled to fly that previously could not."
Kelleher, current chairman and CEO Gary Kelly and other Southwest executives and their spouses then formed a receiving line and chatted with House lawmakers for a good half hour.

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