The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout Southwest Airlines’ 50-year history, our Warrior Spirit has been and continues to be a key pillar of our Culture. As I reflect on Warrior Spirit and what it means to me, what comes to mind is a term used in change management: Organizational Resilience.

Organizational Resilience is a company’s ability to anticipate and respond to moments of adversity, change, and uncertainty. As you might imagine, a company with a 50-year history has undergone various periods of uncertainty and change. Over the past five decades, Southwest Airlines has grown to nearly 54,000 Employees, expanded our network internationally, survived economic downturns, and weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining our Culture and reputation for Legendary Customer Service. Although Warrior Spirit is symbolic of how we as a Company respond to obstacles, it is also an example of our ability to push beyond complacency and show up each day despite personal circumstances to succeed at providing Hospitality to each other and our Customers.

So, how exactly have we developed and maintained that Warrior Spirit? By demonstrating courage, exercising discipline, and practicing resilience. Courage to challenge the status quo and take the path less traveled. Discipline to remain steadfast during times of crisis and focused on our vision and purpose. And, Resilience by remaining optimistic, never giving up, and striving to be the best each day.

In addition to those three principles, helping Leaders and Employees navigate change is essential to maintaining our Culture and Warrior Spirit. Given that change is a constant and is now occurring at an accelerated pace, our dedicated change management function, Change Leadership, seeks to make change easier while improving the resilience of our People. Although change is never easy, our goal is to equip Leaders and Employees with the right tools and techniques when planning or navigating change.

As we continue to leverage our Warrior Spirit for the next 50 years, here are a few basic change principles that will help us maintain our reputation for Hospitality and protect our Culture:

  • Always remain connected to the larger purpose
  • Remember past successes
  • Extend grace to others and practice self-compassion
  • Innovate and solve problems in new ways
  • Pause, celebrate progress, and recognize each other

Southwest Warriors – One Team, All Heart!


Biron Pickens
Director – Change Leadership

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout Southwest Airlines’ 50-year history, Heart has always been at the cornerstone of our Culture. Living and working with a Servant’s Heart, creates unique opportunities for special connections with our Customers and our communities. This giving spirit is brought to life by our 56,000+ Employees who put their Hearts in action every day to create meaningful impact where they live and work.

While the Company has experienced a number of challenges and obstacles over the last five decades, none compare to the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I think back to the height of the pandemic, I’m still awe-struck by our Employees and their desire to continue to support our community partners, working on the frontlines, to help individuals and families impacted – all while experiencing their own personal struggles and uncertainty.

So, what did we do to honor our 50th birthday, while still working around-the-clock to stabilize the business? We leaned into our Warrior Spirit and we rallied!

Inspired by our Employees and remaining true to our rich Culture, we launched the One Million Acts of Kindness campaign to show the world our Heart. The campaign was designed to engage our Employees, Customers and communities to inspire a kinder, more compassionate world.

I’m proud to share that we achieved and exceeded our One Million Acts goal (before the end of the year)! There was no doubt our People would go above and beyond to show acts of kindness every day. From participating in virtual volunteer opportunities, to gifting a Coheart with a coffee or lunch, to donating toys to our official 50th anniversary community partner – the Birthday Party Project – it was clear our Heart was beating strong!

Of course, we couldn’t stop there. To celebrate reaching one million acts, we’re paying it forward by awarding 50 nonprofits with a Million Dollars of Thanks. We look forward to sharing how these deserving organizations will use their travel awards to achieve their mission and spread kindness across their communities.

As we close out our 50th anniversary and look ahead to the next 50 years, I’m confident our Culture for serving others with Heart will remain strong as we continue to connect People and champion communities – the Southwest way!


Laura Nieto
Director Community Outreach

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

Throughout our 50-year history, Southwest Airlines® has become synonymous with best-in-class Customer Service and Hospitality. We are defined by how we treat our Customers and our Cohearts, and it’s what differentiates us from the rest of the airline industry.

We want every Southwest Customer to feel welcomed, cared for, and appreciated throughout their travel journey. Our Employees are experts at doing just that—by connecting with Customers and tailoring the experience to each individual Customer’s expectations. It’s an intentional practice that can cultivate lifelong Southwest fans who remember that one time a Customer Relations Representative spent extra time on the phone with them to resolve an issue, or that time a Flight Attendant helped a mother traveling alone by walking their baby up and down the aisle of the plane.

How we deliver Hospitality evolves over time—we have to take into account the current environment and its effect on Customers. Right now, we’re navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, which has meant providing Hospitality behind masks, welcoming back Customers who haven’t flown in a year, and welcoming first-time Customers who may not be as familiar with travel protocols. Through it all, our Southwest People remain the same. We intentionally seek out ways to be advocates for our Customers and to create meaningful connections, all while empowering our people to customize how they deliver Hospitality based on a Customer’s particular situation.

These principles ring true within our walls as well—they can be seen when our Flight Crews grab food for one another while on the ground,  when an Operations Agent takes a moment to ask a Flight Attendant how they’re doing in between flights, or how our Employees take the time to recognize each other for acts of kindness or lending a helping hand.

I’m impressed every day by our Employees and the lengths they go to serve our Customers and each other. And I hope you’ll join us to hear more—about Southwest and some of the other most loved brands—in our upcoming webinar. Please join me as we share what it takes to have A Culture of Hospitality.


Steve Goldberg
Senior Vice President – Operations and Hospitality

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

We just wrapped up one of my favorite months. There are so many reasons to celebrate this time of year! First, we got to celebrate my favorite holiday, Independence Day, with family, sunshine, food, fireworks, and all things freedom (and a lot of things that sparkle!). We’re also well into the summer travel season, and the airports and planes are filled with people taking vacations and visiting family. Every single day in the summer at Southwest we get to play an important role in fulfilling our Purpose: Connecting People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.

Celebration is an important aspect of the Southwest Culture, and I would even say we might be experts at it! Part of showing up for your co-workers (or as we call them, Cohearts), is genuinely caring about their lives. Do we celebrate service anniversaries and special awards for excellence at work? Of course we do! But we also celebrate the personal milestones—birthdays, marriages, babies, pets, new houses, and even special vacations.

In addition to those personal milestones, celebrating organizational milestones is key to our Culture. We see it as an opportunity to reinforce how much we value both our Employees and Customers — because without either, we wouldn’t be here. For example, on June 18, Southwest celebrated our 50th Anniversary. We held an epic birthday party and invited all of our 56,000+ Employees to join us online to celebrate, and we unveiled the newest member of the Southwest fleet, Freedom One!

That entire week, our Employees all across the Southwest system decorated, played games, and celebrated the milestone birthday with our Customers and, of course, with tons of Heart.

Colleen always encouraged our Employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work. Celebrating together tells Employees they are a valued and appreciated part of the family. Without our Southwest Family, we can’t get you to see your family this summer. And we know you are counting on us!

We have a couple new items to check out in the Institute this month, including some heart-warming Employee recognition in the latest installment of LUV Mail, and a new podcast as part of our 50th Anniversary celebration. I hope you can feel our love and virtual confetti sprinkles from here!


Whitney Eichinger
Managing Director, Culture and Engagement at Southwest Airlines

The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service Newsletter

On June 18th, Southwest Airlines® celebrated an amazing 50 years of service. It’s still hard to believe that we’ve come this far. I certainly would not have predicted it all those years ago when we were fighting just for the right to get our little Texas-based airline off the ground! And I absolutely never expected to be writing to you as the namesake of an Institute created to share the tenets of Culture and Customer Service for which Southwest® is now so well-known.

When I reflect on those early days, I vividly remember wanting to be part of this airline—this new experiment in air travel—and believing in my heart that I could help make a difference. I recognized, even then, all of the influences that would come to bear in building our Company, in particular the importance of taking care of our People and our Customers. I did that best by being perceptive when it came to needs, staying organized, being supportive, and frankly, making sure things got done. I thank my mother for imparting the guiding principle at a very early age to “do good unto others,” which I have tried to live by my whole life. It has become fundamental to the way we live and work at Southwest. But make no mistake: I was one piece of a much larger relationship between our Company, our Employees, and our Customers, and it’s a relationship that has continued to grow and thrive, along with our business.

A genuine sense of Family is at the Heart of our Culture and Customer Service at Southwest Airlines, and we have tried to capture that in every part of the CCB Institute. I could not feel more privileged to be part of it and to welcome you as you explore these truly unique elements of our story. And what better timing to launch this labor of “LUV” than as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Southwest Airlines!

Each month moving forward, we’ll pop into your inbox to share resources to help you make your own impact in your organization and on our world. You’ll hear from friends of mine offering their thoughts and tips on all things Culture and Customer Service. And we’ll also provide opportunities for you to go even deeper through virtual and in-person learning experiences.

For today, I say “welcome!” And I’ll leave you with this gem from one of my favorite books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: “Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”


Sign up to receive the free Colleen C. Barrett Institute Roundtable event: Lessons in Customer Service from some of the World’s Most Loved Brands. This event event was filmed in September 2021 with leaders from Southwest Airlines, Drury Hotels, and Chick-fil-A, discussing what makes legendary Customer Service and how to leverage a Culture of Hospitality to win and keep loyal Customers. You will also receive regular updates from The CCB Institute, including information about future events and offerings.

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