Published on .

Herb Kelleher, hailed for taking on the big boys while making his low-fare, low-cost Southwest Airlines one of the few profitable lines in the business, is banking on advertising to help him win his biggest gamble.

In what's being viewed by some as a precursor to establishing ticketless reservations, Southwest has balked at paying fees to be on three of the four major computer-reservation systems. One has dropped the airline, and if the others follow, it will become more difficult for travel agencies to book flights on Southwest.

Playing the underdog role to the hilt, Mr. Kelleher took page ads in the newspapers, an open letter "to those who appreciate Southwest Airlines' low fares." Explaining how the computer systems, owned by other, major airlines, are blocking easy access to Southwest's fares and schedules, he urges fliers to change travel agencies if one won't book on Southwest, or call the airline directly.

The ad goes on to explain how helpful Southwest's own reservation system can be, getting as close as any airline dares to ruffling the feathers of the all-important travel agents.

But Mr. Kelleher apparently sees the emergence of a new type of traveler, one willing to search for the best deal. And if, through his personal consumer education campaign, he can swing them into a new type of ticketless reservation system for airlines, he could again be setting a standard the big guys would be forced to follow.

Most Popular
In this article: