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Service With A Smile, Almost All Of The Time

July 21, 1996

Southwest Airlines does have quite an unusual operation ("Southwest Airlines: Masters of Zany Business Administration," by Jesse Katz, June 9). Captains and first officers help clean the cabin as soon as the last passenger has disembarked. Check-in personnel handle five to 10 times the number of people as their counterparts at other airlines, and with courtesy and genuine consideration for standby passengers. Cabin crews work hard to make a trip as pleasant as possible for passengers.

And if the employees you see are so devoted to doing their job right, it's a good bet those you don't see are doing so also--and that's reassuring.

David W. Harlowe

Tarzana

*

Southwest is generally a fun group. But don't even think about making last-minute changes. Jekyll turns into Hyde. Smiles are likely to be replaced by frowns, rigid intractability ("it's policy") and even some downright hostility. I learned this as a result of incidents at Burbank and Las Vegas airports.

Once, tempted by special low prices, I bought far in advance. I got to the airport early and asked whether I could take a flight leaving right then. Not unless I paid full price, I was told, despite a difference of only one hour and the presence of plenty of empty seats. I stayed polite while they slipped into rudeness and said: "Next time, don't come early."

Another time, I was with my usually spry 89-year-old father, who on this occasion was exhausted. I hadn't learned my lesson, and I arrived early at the airport, where a Southwest flight was about to leave. After I explained about my father, "policy" locked in again, and I was told to get on standby or forget about it. Fortunately, another employee had the decency to be embarrassed and whispered that she'd get us on, and she did.

Rita Lakin

Los Angeles

*

Southwest Airlines knows that happy, secure people produce better than frightened employees worried about being fired. The advantages of the "family" workplace atmosphere seem to have eluded many Southern California employers, who'd do well to stop treating people like expendable widgets on a production line.

Edward G. Garren

Los Angeles

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