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Mohamed A. El-Erian

The Secret to Southwest's Success

Southwest shows how companies can keep their spirit even when they get big.
Quick turnaround.
Quick turnaround.

Every time I fly Southwest Airlines I come away impressed by what they do and how they do it. You don't have to be a management guru to understand that the company offers insight into one of the toughest corporate challenges out there: maintaining focus, hunger and success in a large organization.

Started in 1971 with just three planes, Southwest now flies more than 100 million passengers a year on a fleet of 680 planes and employs 45,000 people. By some measures, such as domestic passenger origination, it is the nation's largest carrier. It got there by disrupting the industry and introducing several new approaches to air travel. Recently it opted to acquire another airline, AirTran.