Originally incorporated to serve three cities in Texas as Air Southwest on the 15th of March, 1967, today’s Southwest Airlines had to go through a three-year legal battle against other airlines that tried to deny its right to fly in Texas
In 1971, with President Lamar Muse at the helm, Southwest Airlines takes off on its maiden voyage and begins service between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
1973 was Southwest’s first profitable year.
In 1974, the airline carried its one millionth passenger.
By 1977, Southwest gets listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has five aircraft in the fleet, and flies its five millionth passenger.
In 1979, Southwest begins flights outside Texas, reaching New Orleans and Dallas.
One year later, the 22nd Boeing 737 joins the fleet.
At the end of 1981, after a decade of commercial operation, Southwest had over 2,100 employees and a fleet consisting of 27 aircraft.
In 1984, Southwest ranks number one in Customer satisfaction for the fourth consecutive year, also introducing its first Boeing 737-300 during that year.
In 1986, after 15 years of activity, Southwest has 79 aircraft and almost 6,000 employees. So far, 13 million passengers travelled with the airline.
In the following years, Southwest continued its expansion, introducing new routes and, in 1990, the Boeing 737-500 was added to the fleet.
By the end of 1991, Southwest had almost 10,000 eployees and 124 aircraft.
At the end of 1993, Southwest acquired Morris Air, opening up the Pacific Northwest to Southwest service.
In 1995, ticketless travel becomes available, and Southwest Airlines wins the fourth consecutive Triple Crown. At the same time, the airline is one of the first ones to launch its website, the “Southwest Airlines Home Gate,” located at iflyswa.com, later to become southwest.com.
At the end of the following year, Southwest had 243 aircraft in the fleet and almost 23,000 employees.
In 1997, the 50th destination, Jacksonville, joined the network, and at the end of the year, Southwest received its first Boeing 737-700 as a launch customer (the airline was also launch customer for the 737-300 and the 737-500).
In August, 1999, Southwest’s fleet received its 300th aircraft.
At the end of 2001, after 30 years of operations, Southwest has almost 30,000 employees and 344 aircraft.
In 2002, self-service check-in kiosks were introduced and, one year later, Southwest Airlines announced that Blended Winglets will be added to its entire Boeing 737-700 fleet.
In 2003, Air Transport World selects Southwest Airlines the Airline of the Year, and Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards Program is honoured with first place awards for Best Customer Service, Best Bonus Promotion, and Best Award Redemption at InsideFlyer magazine’s 15th annual Freddie Awards.
2004 is the 31st consecutive year of profitability of the airline. Boarding passes are offered online via southwest.com, and its 60th destination, Philadelphia, joins the network.
In 2005, Airtran Airways was the first airline to introduce a downloadable desktop application notifying customers of exclusive hot offers, DING!
In 2007, Southwest reached almost 3,200 daily flights, a 15% increase compared to 2004.
In October 2009, Southwest Airlines launched the “Green Plane”, a test for eco-friendly cabin materials that are recyclable and lighter weight, saving up to five pounds per seat thus saving fuel and reducing emissions.
In february 2010, a revised southwest.com is launched with the ability to personalize the home page. Next month, the option to book Unaccompanied Minors is added on southwest.com.
In 2010, Southwest completed the installation of winglets on 102 of Southwest Airlines 737-300 aircraft, estimating annual fuel savings of more than six million gallons.
In December 2010, Southwest Airlines and Volaris launch their partnership, allowing Southwest customers to book flights to Mexico.
In May 2, 2011, Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran Airways, the two airlines continuing to operate as separate carriers..
In March 2012, Southwest began retrofitting its current fleet of Boeing 737-700s with a refreshed cabin design, Evolve, which utilizes durable and environmentally responsible products to reduce waste and create weight savings onboard the aircraft.
In February 2013, Southwest Airlines ends its partnership with Volaris. AirTran Airways provides affordable flights to Mexico available for purchase via southwest.com.
By 2015, Airtran Airways was completely integrated into Southwest Airlines.
In June 2016, Southwest introduced fully-branded Heart interior that includes the widest Boeing B737 seat that provides additional space and comfort with more leg room.
In August 2017, Southwest took delivery of the first Boeing B737 MAX 8 aircraft, becoming the first in North America when to put the new type of aircraft into service in October.
In 2018, Southwest appeared in FORTUNE Magazine’s Most Admired Companies list for the 24th year and was the only commercial airline among the Top 10.
In March 2019, Southwest operated its first flight to Hawaii, from Oakland to Honolulu, and new routes between mainland US and Hawaii, including direct flights to Maui and inter-island flights, are to be opened in the next months.
In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world affecting the airline industry especially hard, Southwest incurred its first annual net loss since 1972, annual 2020 operating revenues declining approximately 60%, year-over-year. However, the airline adjusted its flight schedules numerous times and implemented new health and safety protocols for both employees and customers, thus getting to be named the #1 U.S. airline in the Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking for 2020.
In 2021, Southwest continues to tailor its schedule with added flights to address the demand for leisure destinations while making foundational additions to the destinations map that position its network for the future. Also, Southwest reached an agreement with Boeing for 100 firm orders for MAX 7 aircraft, with the first 30 scheduled for delivery in 2022, showing its commitment to the continued modernization of its fleet with more fuel-efficient and climate-friendly aircraft.
During its history, Southwest Airlines had one incident, in December 2005, that caused a fatality on the ground and one accident, in April 2018, when a passenger suffered critical injuries and died after being partially pushed by depressurization through a passenger window smashed by debris from the left engine failure.