Southwest Proves Sky’s the Limit for a Beloved Brand

Southwest Airlines employees (L to R) Captain Armin Irvani, Rose Dunn, Joshua Pumphrey and Julia Bell in the new TLC series On the Fly.

Throughout the economic downturn, Southwest Airlines emerged as one of the most resilient airlines, overcoming previous downturns in large part thanks to its low cost structure and strategic long-term planning. Also contributing to its success are years of building relationships with customers via its blog and social media feed.

Now, On the Fly, a new 13-part reality series on TLC, airing Thursdays starting May 24, shares an insider's view of Southwest—at the gates, in the air and behind the scenes—revealing the hectic, unexpected and over-the-top happenings with customers and employees.

If this concept for a television pilot sounds familiar, it's because this is the second time Southwest has been the center of a reality show. In 2004, Southwest let the A&E channel shoot a well-received reality TV show called Airline about its interaction with employees and passengers (warts and all), building on the company's tradition of openness and a commitment to customer service.

For On the Fly, TLC considered a few other airlines but chose Southwest because it has “a really compelling corporate culture [and] it’s known for its customer service and it was willing to be transparent about its business,” TLC spokesman Dustin Smith told The Dallas Morning News.

What started as a commitment to communication and transparency has evolved into a second on-air opportunity for Southwest—a brand that is obviously very good at more than just getting you from point A to point B. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg