Southwest tuvo una estrategia ganadora durante décadas. ¿Está intentando lo contrario ahora?

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Esta es una historia sobre Southwest Airlines, modelos de negocios y lecciones que vale la pena aprender sin importar en qué industria se encuentre.

Por el momento es Las aerolíneas se encuentran en medio de una gran crisis debido a la pandemia.

Pierdes dinero todos los días. Las operaciones federales de rescate han expirado. Los actores de la industria están tomando medidas que esperaban que nunca tuvieran que hacer Advertencia de vacaciones o despido del suroeste por primera vez en sus 49 años de historia.

Pero también miras hacia el futuro.

Y después de casi cinco décadas de operar la aerolínea con un modelo único y exitoso, se especula que Southwest Airlines podría agregar algo más.

De hecho, esto podría llamarse lo contrario de lo que se ha hecho principalmente en el pasado.

Aquí está la explicación. Gary Kelly, director ejecutivo de Southwest, en su reciente llamado a ganar, describió parte del plan pospandémico de su aerolínea, uno que implica una expansión significativa, incluso en un momento en que otros competidores se están ajustando el cinturón.

Lo que me llamó la atención de inmediato fue la estrategia de «nieve y sol» de Southwest, que agregó nuevos destinos de vacaciones y nuevos servicios. De esta manera, Southwest ha agregado Colorado Springs a su lista de destinos de viaje, limitando el esfuerzo de 17 años realizado por los políticos locales.

Sin embargo, la expansión no se trata solo de destinos vacacionales. Además, Southwest agregó el servicio de tal manera que algunos forasteros usarían una frase de tres palabras que casi nunca se usaba en relación con Southwest: «Hub and Spoke».

Sería una adición muy interesante. Mientras que los competidores están utilizando en gran medida el modelo «hub and radios», lo que significa que muchos pasajeros en las ciudades centrales tienen que cambiar de avión, Southwest se centró en cambio en viajes de punto a punto que no requieren cambios.

Pongámoslo de esta manera. Si vive cerca de Atlanta, sabrá que este es un centro importante de Delta Air Lines.

¿Aerolíneas americanas? Hay al menos 10 centros, incluidos Dallas y Filadelfia, por ejemplo.

Si es como yo y vive en Nueva Jersey, probablemente piense en United Airlines cuando piense en el aeropuerto de Newark. quizás Houston aún más.

¿Pero al suroeste? Tienes ciudades base operativas, por supuesto.

El suroeste comenzó y se expandió primero, sin embargo, sirviendo a pequeñas ciudades y aeropuertos cerca de las más grandes: Baltimore en lugar de Washington. Chicago Midway en lugar de O’Hare. Providence o Manchester, NH, a diferencia de Boston.

Y S.outhwest ni siquiera usa el término «hub and speak» hasta donde yo sé. Se ha utilizado como diferenciador a lo largo de los años, y Kelly, el director ejecutivo de Southwest, se centró en la retórica no central hace unos meses.

«»[W]con nuestro sistema punto a punto «, le dijo a Ben Mutzabaugh El tipo de punto«y la presencia significativa que tenemos en docenas de ciudades, no dependemos de un sistema de hub-and-radio. Tenemos docenas de puntos de servicio clave a los que podemos conectar».

Pero como Jay Singh del sitio de la aerolínea Vuelo fácil señala que algunas de las nuevas ciudades y servicios que ha agregado Southwest parece que ese tipo de estrategia podría agregarse.

Tomemos a Houston por ejemplo. Southwest ahora está agregando dos nuevos vuelos diarios sin escalas a Chicago Midway, seis a Dallas, tres a Denver, tres a Nashville y cuatro a Nueva Orleans, señala.

¿Cuántos vuelos debe tener una aerolínea fuera de una ciudad en particular, y con cuántos pasajeros, cambiando de avión y yendo a otra parte, antes de que esa ciudad se considere un centro?

Bueno, para nuestros propósitos, honestamente, no necesitamos precisar la nomenclatura.

Porque la razón por la que siempre recomiendo estudiar las aerolíneas no es que usted maneje una, sino que tiene la oportunidad de aprender de sus experiencias y dar rienda suelta a sus propios pensamientos creativos como líder empresarial.

Son grandes empresas de productos básicos que cotizan en bolsa en una empresa que es comparativamente fácil de entender y, a menudo, se desviven por explicar públicamente exactamente cómo abordan los desafíos comunes.

Aquí quiero centrarme en dos grandes ideas:

Primero, ¿hay alguna forma en que pueda expandirse cuando otros firmen contratos?

En segundo lugar, ¿debería ceñirse al modelo de negocio que le ha llevado tan lejos, o hay margen para añadir, incluso gradualmente?

No puede vivir en una ciudad que preste servicios a Southwest Airlines. Puede que ya no vueles con tanta frecuencia.

Pero apuesto a que su empresa se enfrenta actualmente a las mismas macro tendencias que las aerolíneas. Y podría ser mucho peor que pensar en cómo sus modelos (y en qué se diferencian de los de sus competidores) podrían afectar a su industria.

Las opiniones expresadas por los columnistas de Inc.com aquí son las suyas propias, no las de Inc.com.

What caught my ear immediately was Southwest's "snow and sun" strategy, adding new vacation destinations and service. That's how Southwest wound up adding Colorado Springs to its list of destinations, capping a 17-year effort by local politicians.

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But, the expansion hasn't just been about vacation destinations. In addition, Southwest has been adding service in a way that has some outsiders using a three-word phrase that almost never used to come up when it came to Southwest: "hub and spoke."

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That would be a very interesting addition. While its competitors largely use the "hub and spoke" model, which means many passengers have to change planes in hub cities, Southwest had instead focused on point-to-point travel that doesn't involve changes.

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Let's put it this way. If you live near say, Atlanta, you know: that's a big Delta Air Lines hub.

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American Airlines? There are at least 10 hubs, including Dallas and Philadelphia for example.

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If you're like me and you live in New Jersey, chances are when you think of Newark's airport, you think of United Airlines; maybe Houston even more so.

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But Southwest? They have operational base cities of course.

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Southwest began and expanded first, however, by serving small cities and airports near bigger ones: Baltimore instead of Washington. Chicago Midway instead of O'Hare. Providence or Manchester, N.H., as opposed to Boston.

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And, Southwest doesn't even use the term "hub and spoke" as far as I can find. It's used it as a differentiator over the years, and Kelly, the Southwest CEO, doubled down on the non-hub rhetoric just a few months ago.

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"[W]ith our point-to-point system," he told Ben Mutzabaugh of The Points Guy, "and the significant presence that we have in dozens of cities -we're not dependent on a hub-and-spoke system. We've got dozens of major service points that we can tie into."

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But as Jay Singh of the airline site Simple Flying observes, some of the new cities and service Southwest has added make it look it might be adding this kind of strategy.

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Take Houston, for example. Southwest is now adding two new daily nonstop flights to Chicago-Midway, six to Dallas, three to Denver, three to Nashville, and four to New Orleans, as he points out. 

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How many flights does an airline have to have out of a specific city--and with how many passengers changing planes and traveling elsewhere--before that city is considered a hub?

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Now, for our purposes, frankly we don't actually need to nail down the nomenclature.

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Because the reason I always advise studying the airlines isn't because you're running one, but instead for the opportunity to learn from their experiences, and trigger your own creative thoughts as a business leader.  

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They're big, publicly-traded, commodity product companies in a business that's comparatively easy to understand--and they are often at pains to explain publicly exactly how they address  common challenges. 

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Here, I'd focus on two big ideas:

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First, are there ways you can expand when others contract?

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And second should you stick with the business model that got you this far, or is there room to add something else -- even on an incremental basis?

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You might not live in a city that Southwest Airlines serves. Heck, you might not even fly all that often anymore.

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But I'll bet your business is facing the same kind of macro trends right now that the airlines are. And you could do a lot worse than think about how their models (and how they differ from their competitors') might apply to your industry.

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