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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

- 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 Plain Sense," and there was another aviation company that had a similar tagline. They sued, and they resolved this issue over an arm wrestling match that Herb lost. Paid $5,000 to a charity, and then was allowed to use the-- 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-- yeah, it was just plain smart, and it was a, you know, a tongue in cheek trademark dispute and great fun. It obviously, you know, continues to attract attention almost 30 years later, I guess-- 29 years later. But yeah, I think it's, you know, what would you-- what would you hope out of a company? That it's 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-- we want to strive to be the best, and that's a never-ending pursuit.

But it just pays to be humble, because, you know, 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. To-- just to care, and especially about your employees.