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Southwest Airlines’ (SWA) decision to serve LaGuardia was a disruptive one based on their previous business model. They had previously operated out of low-cost and non-congested airports that enabled them to offer low fares and excellent customer service while ensuring on-time reliability and quick turnaround times (Heskett & Sasser, 2013). In order to effectively offer the same quality service with the new challenges of a more congested airport while scaling up operations, both the HR and operations would have to work closely together to dovetail covering the operations per SWA standards yet in an economical way. While expanding into congested airports like LaGuardia, HR would face several new challenges. Of many, one would be that a staff composed of primarily new hires would struggle to preserve SWA service culture, ethos, and capabilities that are such a key part of the SWA ‘Way.’ As Krause indicated, placing interested long term staff into the LaGuardia operation would be a key for preserving the service standard (Heskett & Sasser, 2013). HR could then take the time to hire more slowly as LaGuardia expanded offerings to develop a permanent local staff imbued with the SWA quality. HR should collaborate closely with the initial TNA analysis teams to prepare staff for the challenges of working out of a more congested airport. What kind of skills does the service staff need to deal with a higher expected number of delays? SWA operations planned to mitigate some of this risk by having most of the LaGuardia routes come through a few other routes and avoid a high impact on the wider network (Heskett & Sasser, 2013). But could HR strategize new process for autonomy and local decision-making with operations for ground teams working with flight crews to reduce delays? Or in the case of delays, make a delay with SWA a fun and memorable experience? HR has apparently screened and trained SWA staff to high levels. SWA HR understands that the service experience is ‘produced and consumed’ right on the spot by staff that require skills but also specific personality traits (Heskett, et al., 2015). As operations and HR are synergizing to maintain the best experience into LaGuardia they should make decisions together about which personnel should be full-time SWA for culture reasons and which can be contracted out for budget and part-time work reasons.

Perhaps operations and HR can have something like a ‘center of excellence’ innovations team cross-departmentally to maintain a highly visible and strong pipeline of constant improvements as they are ramping up operations. This would help ensure constant and formal improvement communications on maintaining standards in a disrupted environment. A small team responsible for drawing constant innovations for incremental improvements in this new congested market could optimize operations.

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Heskett, J.L. & Sasser, W. E. Jr., (2013). Southwest Airlines: In a Different World. Boston, Ma.: Harvard Business School. HBS No.:910-419. 

Heskett, J. L., Sasser, W. E., & Schlesinger, L. A. (2015). What great service leaders know and do: creating breakthroughs in service firms (First ed.). Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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