HR Publication (Print)

Pilots’ booklet helps Southwest Airlines glide deftly through merger headwinds

If you’re an aviator with Southwest Airlines, just show your merger counterparts what a sweet deal you’ve got—in a succinctly readable HR booklet—and avoid the arbitration ugliness.

There are a number of things we love in the short HR booklet, Not your typical Flyer, that the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association put out to prepare for Southwest’s merger with AirTran in 2011:

  • It gets down to brass tacks immediately, no wordy HR windup, no boring “overview” of the whole HR situation at Southwest, no tedious, grandiose statement of HR “goals,” “mission,” “vision,” “objectives” and other meaningless, time-wasting claptrap.
  • The graphics (photographs) in this booklet say, “I don’t know what life is like for pilots at other airlines, but here’s what it feels like at Southwest: Blue skies that go on forever, looking down at sun-dappled fields, lakes and woods from 37,000 feet, smiles all around, everybody more or less happy most of the time.” Very effective HR, to say the least!
  • This booklet tackles a huge, sensitive, loaded-with-dynamite situation, the merger of two big airlines. Remember some of the messy airline marriages in the last 20 years? (Messy because pilots in the merging airlines went to war over wages, assignments, time off, seniority, and other infinitely complicated matters.) And yet, this booklet is daringly, incredibly short, concise, and bulging with pertinent facts. Remarkable.
  • The editors and writers at SWAPA say, in effect, “Don’t believe us when we talk up Southwest Airlines’ salaries, scheduling, treatment of junior officers, emergency time off and other benefits. Listen to what pilots who’ve come to Southwest from other pretty good airlines have to say about us.” And those testimonials are convincing.
  • A minimum of acronyms, abbreviations, initialese, unspeakable HR-speak. And there’s no executive vice presidential bullroar anywhere in the booklet. No senior exec foot-in-mouth logorrhea.
  • The booklet starts with pay, and makes a very clear set of simple pay charts explain Southwest’s leading position in the industry. Then the editors move very quickly on to “Retirement,” “Codeshare Protection,” “Pilot Representation,” “Crew Bases,” “Benefits,” “Family-Oriented,” and last, but not least, “Quality of Life.” All these get adequate coverage in the fewest possible words, and no jargon.
  • The booklet ends with facts about Southwest, and with pilot testimonials among the most believable we’ve ever read. Every sentence, every phrase has been ruthlessly cut, and cut again by the vigilant, literate editors of the booklet. There’s not one sentence, not one line of text in this whole 10-page booklet from which an AirTran pilot won’t learn something useful, necessary, or interesting about his or her future employer.

The booklet is not only a model merger document, it would be a superb pilot recruiting piece. It is a superb pilot recruiting piece. AirTran pilots thought so. They didn’t ask for arbitration when they joined the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association last year.

To see the whole booklet, click here.

Editor: Ann Spencer

To view the winning work please click here.


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