An awe5ome adventure.

Time flies when you’re democratizing the skies. Since 1971, Southwest’s purpose has been to connect People to what’s important in their lives and give them the freedom to fly through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. Join us as we look back on 50 years of upholding that purpose, and visit this page often to find out how you can be a part of our year-long celebration.

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Heart in Action

Join us in sharing One Million Acts of Kindness.

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50 years. One heart.

Moments in time.

1967 – 1971

Herb & Rollin: The Birth of Southwest Airlines®.

When two transplanted Yankees, bonded in the belief that air travel could be more affordable and more democratic, met at St. Anthony’s in San Antonio, they hatched a plan to revolutionize the industry with nothing but a few stiff drinks, a cocktail napkin and one outrageous idea that ticked off existing airlines.

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1971

Courting Success: Early Southwest Legal Battles.

After rivals tied up Southwest in a host of legal battles, Herb Kelleher jumped on a plane to Austin, Texas, in 1971 and crashed a party, hoping to plead his case to a few Texas Supreme Court justices. The next day, wearing the same suit, he made a persuasive argument before the Texas Supreme Court.

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1972 – Present

Fare Play: $13 Bottles of Booze and The Two-Tier Fare System

On an otherwise ordinary morning in February 1973, Southwest President Lamar Muse was paging through one of the local Texas papers. And that’s when he saw it: a full-page ad from Braniff Airlines, a particularly bitter rival that had previously waged a prolonged legal fight to keep Southwest from taking flight.

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1973

Paying It Forward: The Southwest ProfitSharing Plan

Christmas of 1971 was just around the corner—and so were Joy’s money troubles. Joy, a part-time model, had taken a temporary gig managing a Christmas tree lot in Hurst, Texas, to make ends meet. But Christmas trees weren’t a year-round business. When the holidays ended, so did the income she needed to stay afloat.

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1980

The Ultimate Report Card: The Southwest Effect

Blair, owner of a tour company in Bristol, Connecticut, dialed his print shop in a hurry. They were about to print 350 brochures announcing tours to Nashville for the year 2000, with flights originating in Providence, Rhode Island—nearly two hours away by bus. But Southwest Airlines had just announced plans to open routes from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, 30 minutes from Bristol.

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1990s

Tickets, Please: Southwest in the Internet Age

In the spring of 1994, three of Southwest’s largest competitors—Delta, United, and Continental—launched a coordinated surprise attack on their rival, hoping to muscle it out of the skies.

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1990

To Preserve and Enrich: The Birth of Southwest’s Culture Committee

One morning in 2005, back when Vice President Southwest Airlines University Elizabeth Bryant worked in the People Department, a buzz went through the office: A Team Member who had been out for months to get cancer treatment was finally coming back. In minutes, the local Culture Committee turned it into a celebration. Everybody stopped what they were doing. “We went out to the lobby and the next thing we knew,” Elizabeth said, “we all just lined the hallway to welcome him back.”

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1991

Operation Midway: Preserving Chicago’s Second Airport

In late November 1990, a Team of Southwest Airlines representatives booked a flight to Chicago, hoping for a Thanksgiving miracle. For months, Southwest had been dogged in its attempts to bolster its presence at Chicago’s Midway International Airport (MDW), where it was offering 43 flights per day from just a few jam-packed gates.

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1992

Armed and Dangerous: The Malice in Dallas

What had begun as some gentle ribbing between Steven Aviation Inc., a general aviation service center, and Southwest Airlines seemed to be escalating…quickly.

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1996

Risks and Rewards: The Rapid Rewards® Program

Prior to the summer of 1987, most domestic frequent flyer airline programs were virtually indistinguishable from one another. Similar rewards. Similar mileage-based systems. Slightly different corporate logos.

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2005

Parks’ Place: The Last Flight of Rosa Parks

When Rosa Parks, one of the soft-spoken champions of the Civil Rights movement, passed away on October 24, 2005, the nation, as a whole, seemed to rise in her honor.

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2007

Recognizing Employees for “Kicking Tail”

Overhauling a corporate culture is difficult. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary when Tonda Ferguson joined Southwest in 1982 as Manager of Employee Communications.

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2019

Pure Aloha: Southwest Goes to Hawaii

It was the one question that refused to go away. Over the years, it had been asked so often by so many different people you’d have sworn Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly was caught in some kind of time loop. “Gary,” Employees and reporters would ask with an undercurrent of genuine hope in their voices, “will Southwest ever fly to Hawaii?”

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2020

Air Care: Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program

Sometimes getting urgent medical care requires more than an ambulance ride to the local hospital. When a little girl in Florida named Wrenn was diagnosed at birth with a potentially deadly condition, reaching treatment several states away was a matter of life and death.

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2020

Flying Through a Pandemic

As 2020 dawned, Southwest was poised for another banner year. But in less than a month, everything changed. January brought reports of a dangerous new virus spreading rapidly around the globe, one that would dramatically impact life as we know it. In particular, it brought the travel and tourism industry to a near-standstill, affecting every related business, from hotels to entertainment events to restaurants, and, of course, airlines.

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2021

Heroes of the Heart

Southwest is exceedingly proud of our Customer-facing Employees who often get well-deserved attention and accolades, but so many Employees work tirelessly behind the scenes.

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Be on the lookout for more of Southwest’s iconic stories.


Check back for more moments that will be added throughout our 50th year!

The Heart of our People.

The Heart of our People.

Our Heart is to take care of People because we are more than an airline, we’re your neighbor.

Since 2008 we’ve contributed…

1.5 million hours of volunteer work by our Employees.

Over $222 million dollars toward local communities.

Nearly 480 thousand flights for those in need.

In honor of our 50th year, we’re inviting our Customers, communities, partners, and friends to join us in the call to put Hearts in Action to inspire a kinder, more compassionate world. Stay tuned for how you can join, and click below to learn more about our current Community Programs.

Learn about our community efforts

Source: Southwest Airlines One Report.

Our Founder’s Philosophy.

Our Founder’s Philosophy.

Herb Kelleher, Founder of Southwest Airlines.
More quotes from Herb Herb’s legendary Laugh

#Southwest50

Celebrate 50 years with us by sharing your stories and photos using #Southwest50.

Celebrate with us!

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Our memorable runway looks.

Our planes have been instantly recognizable for decades. Take a look at some of our high-flying fashions from the past.

Feeling inspired?

Make your own history with us!

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