+ Don’t let us down; keep Southwest Airlines
Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent to Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines.
Dear Mr. Kelly:
A recent e-mail to Rapid Rewards members from your Senior Director, Loyalty and Partnership Marketing, ended with … “We look forward to seeing you onboard soon.” We would look forward to being on board except that, as of Aug. 11, 2012, Southwest Airlines (and Airtran) will not serve the Sarasota market. My family, friends and I believe that this is a grave mistake, for us and for the airline.
First, because my husband and I both work, we have literally commuted on Airtran from Chicago or Milwaukee to Sarasota. Last year we flew more than 20 times — apiece. This year, the weather has been great and the economy is picking up. More and more seniors are becoming “snowbirds,” and direct flights from the Midwest to the Sarasota area are, by far, the most expeditious and comfortable. We believe that Sarasota must be a reasonable market. On all of all flights, from both Chicago and Milwaukee, the planes were full. Anecdotally, these full flights, from October through April, demonstrate a popular route.
With Southwest’s acquisition of Airtran to Sarasota, you have the opportunity to become the airline to a demographic new to you: both seniors and younger members of our population who fly to Sarasota. Assuming that your service would please this new, flying population, Southwest Airlines, with its Rapid Rewards program, could become the carrier of choice to other airports. For example, if we are flying to another part of the country and are frequent SWA flyers, would we choose United with its Mileage Plus program or SWA as our carrier? Of course, we would choose the airline we knew best and the one in which we were building the quickest awards.
Finally, the Sarasota airport and community need Southwest Airlines to stay as vibrant as they are and will be. We, your new customers, have every desire to be loyal to you. Don’t let us down.
Susan and Marc Benjamin
Longboat Key and Highland Park, Ill.