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Southwest CEO: Why we've never had a layoff or furlough

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In a new interview with Yahoo Finance's Adam Shapiro, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says that taking good care of its employees is a major priority — which is why it's never had a layoff or furlough.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: I mean, pre-COVID, you had more than 4,000 flights. As we wrap up, what advice do you have for other CEOs? And you brought up Mr. Kelleher. There's that story about the malice in Dallas years ago. I think the tagline United was-- oh, United, excuse me-- Southwest was using was "just plane sense."

And there was another aviation company that had a similar tagline. They sued and they resolve this issue over an arm wrestling match that Herb lost, paid $5,000 to a charity, and then was allowed to use the slogan. That kind of humility, you don't see that in a lot of CEOs. What advice do you have for corporate America about that lesson?

GARY KELLY: Well, yeah, it was "just plane smart." And it was, you know, a tongue in cheek trademark dispute and great fun. It obviously continues to attract attention almost 30 years later-- I guess 29 years later. But yeah, I think it's, you know, what would you hope out of a company that is passionate about what it does, that it's really good at it, that it makes money, to paraphrase Jim Collins.

And then, you know, when we look at our people, we ask them to work hard and treat everybody with respect. But, you know, don't take yourself too seriously. We want to strive to be the best, and that's a never ending pursuit, but it just pays to be humble because sometimes things don't go perfectly.

But I think the word "love," "humor," "family," those are all important for us. And it all leads up to a strong desire to take great care of our people and then, in turn, our customers. That's why we've never had a layoff. That's why we've never had a furlough because we care about our people. They're part of our family. So all that, I think, is critically important to our success. And I think it works for any company just to care and especially about your employees.