A TWA, featuring the Boeing 707, ad seen in The Saturday Event Post in 1959 – Image: Jeremy’s Collection
I love looking back at old airline advertisements that promote a new type of aircraft that will soon become the flagship of the fleet. We are talking about the iconic birds of yesteryear; like the Lockheed Constellation, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and Lockheed L1011. However, there was one aircraft that let the world know that your airline has arrived (literally and figuratively): the 747 Jumbo Jet.
Before I continue, let’s make sure we are on the same page about the definition of “flagship.” I really hate it when people just say “well, Merriam-Webber defines <insert word here> as…” because it is just a super lazy way to get your point across. Whatever, it is really easy to do it that way…
flag·ship | \ ˈflag-ˌship \
1: the ship that carries the commander of a fleet or subdivision of a fleet and flies the commander’s flag
2: the finest, largest, or most important one of a group of things (such as products, stores, etc.) —often used before another noun
In AvGeek terms, the flagship is often the coolest airplane that they have that will make passengers think “golly gee, that is a swell plane and I want to fly on it, I am going to take that airline” (I actually tried to make that sound sarcastic, but that is how I legit feel when I am looking for flights).
With so many airlines moving to smaller aircraft (B737, A320, E-Jet, and A220) and operating aging fleets (B767,B 757, A330ceo, etc), what aircraft do they see as their flagship today? I found some that were pretty obvious, and others that had me scratching my head. I am making my best guesses based on the information that airlines put out there to the public, so I might be wrong. With one or two, I am pretty sure that I am wrong. Let me break it down by airline, let you know what I found, and you tell me if you disagree.
Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
Alert: a new player has entered the game. At long last, Southwest Airlines is flying to Hawaii. It’s a major milestone for the airline, which has had its eyes on the Hawaii prize for a years. So when the first flight departed Oakland for Honolulu on March 17th, the airline threw a BIG party to celebrate.
There were hula dancers, live musicians, cakes, speeches, and (of course) TONS of Hawaiian shirts. Passengers on the flight — who mostly seemed to be Southwest employees and die-hard fans — got luggage tags and flower leis before taking to the skies. And we got to head out onto the airfield to see the flight off. Read on! We have so many photos, you’ll feel like you were there with us.
Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
What’s next for Southwest Airlines? – Original Photo: Stephen M. Keller for Southwest Airlines
In 2016, I wrote a piece titled Nine Reasons Why I Think Southwest is the Best. For me, those nine reasons stand, even today. I still fly Southwest enough to renew my A-List elite flyer status annually. They are still my first choice when booking travel. There was a time not long ago that I would go out of my way to fly Southwest, and the overwhelming majority of my 20-30 trips a year were with the LUV airline. However, I would be remiss not to recognize that my mix of airlines flown is increasingly more diverse.
The airline’s piece of my overall business has been shrinking. This is a trend that I’ve been cognizant of on the periphery for a few years now. It is something I have long ignored because so much of what makes me an AvGeek is tied to my love, study, and ridership of Southwest. Many of my best aviation memories are linked to the airline. In December of 2017, I finished my most recent academic pursuit and received an M.A. in Organizational Leadership. My academic team and I frequently joked I minored in “Southwest Airlines” because so many of my projects focused on the company, their culture, and leadership philosophy. All of this, plus gobs of friends who are Southwest employees, I honestly feel as if I’m an honorary part of the family.
Here’s the tough question: If Southwest is always my first choice when picking a flight, why am I riding the other guys with more frequency? I have given this a lot of thought and I don’t think that this trend is because Southwest is doing anything particularly wrong. Rather, I think the competition has, in some cases, become way more competitive.
I have long kept a wishlist for the airline. Perhaps the implementation of a few of these would help the airline pull ahead of the competition where, in my mind, they have historically always been. Without further ado, my wishlist, presented in David Letterman-reverse countdown style.
Southwest’s Heart One – Photo: Stephen M. Keller for Southwest Airlines
I frequently find myself explaining why Southwest is my favorite airline for personal and business travel. I get this question so often that last year I decided to create a list in my favorite note-taking app to help organize my thoughts. As a self-anointed brand ambassador, frequent flyer, and card-carrying A-Lister, I take this opportunity to educate curious travelers (and future Southwest loyalists) very seriously. Last week, I again had this question pop up and, upon opening my note, I realized I had more than enough content for a full-length AirlineReporter piece. So, without further ado, here are my top nine reasons why Southwest is the best domestic airline.