Southwest Airlines Company 10-K 2014
Documents found in this filing:
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Commission File No. 1-7259
Southwest Airlines Co.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Registrant's telephone number, including area code: (214) 792-4000
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes þ No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ No þ
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes þ No ¨
Indicate by checkmark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes þ No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. þ
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ¨ No þ
The aggregate market value of the common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $9,088,020,821 computed by reference to the closing sale price of the common stock on the New York Stock Exchange on June 28, 2013, the last trading day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter.
Number of shares of common stock outstanding as of the close of business on January 30, 2014: 701,991,465 shares
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Definitive Proxy Statement for the Company’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held May 14, 2014, are incorporated into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Southwest Airlines Co. (the “Company”) operates Southwest Airlines (“Southwest”) and AirTran Airways (“AirTran”), major passenger airlines that provide scheduled air transportation in the United States and near-international markets. For the 41st consecutive year, the Company was profitable, earning $754 million in net income.
Southwest commenced service on June 18, 1971, with three Boeing 737 aircraft serving three Texas cities: Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Including the operations of both Southwest and AirTran, the Company ended 2013 serving 96 destinations in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and five near-international countries including Mexico (Cancun, Mexico City, and Cabo San Lucas), Jamaica (Montego Bay), The Bahamas (Nassau), Aruba (Oranjestad), and Dominican Republic (Punta Cana). At December 31, 2013, Southwest’s and AirTran’s combined active fleet consisted of 680 aircraft, including 614 Boeing 737s and 66 Boeing 717s. The Company reached a major milestone in 2013 by completing the connection of the Southwest and AirTran networks. Customers can now fly between any of the combined 96 Southwest and AirTran destinations on a single itinerary.
In 2013, Southwest added service to two new states (Maine and Kansas) and ten new U.S. cities: Branson, Missouri; Charlotte, North Carolina; Flint, Michigan; Rochester, New York; Portland, Maine; Wichita, Kansas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee; Pensacola, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia. The addition of the new Southwest service establishes a Southwest presence in all domestic cities in Southwest’s and AirTran’s combined network. In 2013, Southwest also commenced service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Southwest’s first scheduled service outside of the continental United States. As part of its network optimization efforts, the Company has announced its plans to cease Southwest operations in Branson, Missouri; Key West, Florida; and Jackson, Mississippi beginning in June 2014. Based on the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Transportation, as of September 30, 2013, Southwest was the largest domestic air carrier in the United States, as measured by the number of domestic originating passengers boarded.
During fourth quarter 2013 the Company took steps to supplement its existing service at New York LaGuardia Airport by acquiring 12 takeoff and landing slots (for six roundtrip flights) at LaGuardia (a “slot” is the right of an air carrier, pursuant to regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), to operate a takeoff or landing at a specific time at certain airports). The acquired slots were divested by AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, Inc., as part of its merger with US Airways Group, Inc. Also in connection with the divestiture, the Company gained ownership through the purchase of ten takeoff and landing slots (for five roundtrip flights) at LaGuardia that it previously operated under a lease from American. The Company plans to supplement its existing Southwest service utilizing these newly acquired slots at LaGuardia beginning in May 2014. In January 2014, the Company was notified of its winning bid to acquire 54 takeoff and landing slots (for 27 roundtrip flights) at Washington Reagan National Airport, which must be divested in connection with the merger between American and US Airways. The acquisition of these slots, which is subject to final approval of the Department of Justice and customary written agreements, will supplement the Company's existing service at Washington Reagan.
While AirTran continues to service certain domestic cities and all of the Company’s international markets, the Company has announced plans to convert AirTran’s remaining domestic and international service into Southwest service by the end of 2014.
Southwest principally provides point-to-point, rather than hub-and-spoke, service. This has enabled it to maximize the use of key assets, including aircraft, gates, and Employees, and has also facilitated its ability to provide its markets with frequent, conveniently timed flights and low fares. Point-to-point service is discussed in more detail below under “Company Operations - Route Structure.” AirTran has historically provided hub-and-spoke, rather than point-to-point, service, with approximately half of AirTran’s flights historically originating or terminating in Atlanta, Georgia. As part of its integration efforts, the Company has begun optimizing its operations in many AirTran cities, primarily by transitioning Atlanta to a point-to-point operation, which is enabling efficiencies related to the scheduling of aircraft, flight crews, and ground staff.
The airline industry has historically been an extremely volatile industry subject to numerous challenges. Among other things, it has been cyclical, energy intensive, labor intensive, capital intensive, technology intensive, highly regulated, heavily taxed, and extremely competitive. The airline industry has also been particularly susceptible to detrimental events such as acts of terrorism (for example, 9/11), poor weather, and natural disasters. In addition, in recent years the industry has been significantly affected by an uncertain economy, high and volatile fuel prices, and government sequestration and shutdown. These factors have contributed to unpredictable demand for air travel and related cost and pricing challenges. Reflecting the numerous industry challenges, from 2001 through 2012 total financial losses for the U.S. airline industry exceeded $50 billion. As a result, many U.S. airlines have ceased operations or reorganized through bankruptcy.
Although the U.S. economy has experienced a moderate recovery since emerging from a recession in 2009 and the U.S. airline industry has showed measurable improvement during 2013, slow economic growth and lingering economic uncertainty have led to continued industry restraint with respect to overall capacity (number of available seats). Although some U.S. air carriers, including Southwest, experienced modest year-over-year increases in capacity during 2013, overall domestic airline industry capacity in 2013 remained below pre-recession levels. Leaner flight schedules over the past several years, along with industry consolidation, have contributed to improvements in industry load factors (percentage of seats filled by fare-paying passengers) and yields (revenue production per passenger mile).
Southwest principally provides point-to-point service, rather than the “hub-and-spoke” service provided by most major U.S. airlines. The hub-and-spoke system concentrates most of an airline’s operations at a limited number of central hub cities and serves most other destinations in the system by providing one-stop or connecting service through a hub. By not concentrating operations through one or more central transfer points, Southwest’s point-to-point route structure has allowed for more direct non-stop routing than hub-and-spoke service. For 2013, approximately 72 percent of Southwest’s Customers flew non-stop, and Southwest’s average aircraft trip stage length was 693 miles, with an average duration of approximately 1.9 hours. For 2012, approximately 72 percent of Southwest’s Customers flew non-stop, and Southwest’s average aircraft trip stage length was 678 miles, with an average duration of approximately 1.9 hours.
Southwest’s point-to-point service has also enabled it to provide its markets with frequent, conveniently timed flights and low fares. For example, Southwest currently offers 25 weekday roundtrips from Dallas Love Field to Houston Hobby, 11 weekday roundtrips from Phoenix to Las Vegas, 12 weekday roundtrips from Burbank to Oakland, and 12 weekday roundtrips from Los Angeles International to Oakland. Southwest complements these high-frequency shorthaul routes with longhaul non-stop service between markets such as Los Angeles and Nashville, Las Vegas and Orlando, San Diego and Baltimore, and Houston and New York LaGuardia. As of December 31, 2013, Southwest served 524 non-stop city pairs.
Unlike Southwest, AirTran has historically operated largely through a hub-and-spoke network system, with approximately half of its flights historically originating or terminating at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As part of its integration efforts, the Company has begun optimizing its operations in many AirTran cities, primarily by transitioning Atlanta to a point-to-point operation, which is enabling efficiencies related to the scheduling of aircraft, flight crews, and ground staff.
Southwest does not currently provide international service; however, in April 2013, the Company began converting AirTran service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, into Southwest service, Southwest’s first scheduled service outside of the continental United States. In connection with launching this service, Southwest obtained the necessary FAA approvals to conduct operations, under certain circumstances, outside of the continental United States.
In addition to service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, AirTran also currently provides service to seven destinations in five near-international countries including Mexico (Cancun, Mexico City, and Cabo San Lucas), Jamaica (Montego Bay), The Bahamas (Nassau), Aruba (Oranjestad), and Dominican Republic (Punta Cana). The Company expects to convert AirTran’s service to those seven international markets into Southwest service by the end of 2014.
In January 2014, the Company began selling its first international itineraries to be flown by Southwest aircraft and announced plans to begin Southwest service to Jamaica (Montego Bay), The Bahamas (Nassau), and Aruba (Oranjestad) beginning July 1, 2014. The Company expects to launch Southwest international service to Mexico (Cancun, Mexico City, and Cabo San Lucas) and Dominican Republic (Punta Cana) by the end of 2014.
As part of the Company's near-international service efforts, the Company has agreed with the City of Houston (“City”) to expand the City's existing William P. Hobby airport facility. Pursuant to the agreement, the Company and the City have entered into an Airport Use and Lease Agreement to control the execution of this expansion and its financial terms. This project provides for a new five-gate international terminal with international passenger processing facilities, expansion of the existing security checkpoint, and upgrades to the Southwest ticketing counter area. Construction began during third quarter 2013 and is estimated to be completed during the second half of 2015. Additional information regarding this project is provided below under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
In December 2013, the Company entered into an agreement with Broward County, Florida, which owns and operates Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, to oversee and manage the design and construction of the airport’s Terminal 1 Modernization Project. In addition to significant improvements to the existing Terminal 1, the project includes the design and construction of a new five-gate Concourse A with an international processing facility. Construction is expected to begin in 2014. Additional information regarding this project is provided below under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
The Company’s 2013 operating revenues attributable to foreign operations (all of which were attributable to AirTran) were approximately $212 million. The remainder of the Company’s 2013 operating revenues, approximately $17.5 billion, were attributable to domestic operations. The Company’s 2012 operating revenues attributable to foreign operations (all of which were attributable to AirTran) were approximately $159 million. The remainder of the Company’s 2012 operating revenues, approximately $16.9 billion, were attributable to domestic operations. The Company’s tangible assets primarily consist of flight equipment, the majority of which are interchangeable and are deployed systemwide, with no individual aircraft dedicated to any specific route or region; therefore, the Company’s assets are not allocated to a geographic area. For a discussion of the risks related to the Company’s foreign operations, see “Risk Factors - The Company’s operations may be adversely affected by its expansion into non-U.S. jurisdictions and the related increase in laws to which it is subject.”
A key component of the Company’s business strategy has historically been its low-cost structure, which was designed to allow Southwest to profitably charge low fares. Adjusted for stage length, Southwest has lower unit costs, on average, than the vast majority of major domestic carriers. The Company’s low-cost structure has historically been facilitated by Southwest’s use of a single aircraft type, the Boeing 737, an operationally efficient point-to-point route structure, and highly productive Employees. Southwest’s use of a single aircraft type has allowed for simplified scheduling, maintenance, flight operations, and training activities. Southwest’s point-to-point route structure includes service to and from many secondary or downtown airports such as Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby, Chicago Midway, Baltimore-Washington International, Burbank, Manchester, Oakland, San Jose, Providence, and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood. These conveniently located airports are typically less congested than other airlines’ hub airports, which
has enabled Southwest to achieve high asset utilization because aircraft can be scheduled to minimize the amount of time they are on the ground. This, in turn, has reduced the number of aircraft and gate facilities that would otherwise be required and allows for high Employee productivity (headcount per aircraft).
The Company believes that its fleet modernization initiatives, as well as the continued addition of the larger Boeing 737-800 to the Southwest fleet, will have a favorable impact on the Company’s unit costs. These strategic initiatives are discussed in more detail below under “Operating Strategies and Initiatives - Fleet Modernization” and “Operating Strategies and Initiatives - Continued Incorporation of the Larger Boeing 737-800 into the Southwest Fleet.”
Impact of Fuel Costs on the Company’s Low-Cost Structure
In 2013, the Company again experienced significant Fuel and oil expense as fuel prices, although lower than levels reached in 2012, remained at high levels. In addition, for the ninth consecutive year, Fuel and oil expense represented the Company’s largest or second largest cost and was the Company’s largest cost for the third consecutive year. The table below shows the Company’s average cost of jet fuel and oil over the past eleven years and during each quarter of 2013.
The Company enters into fuel derivative contracts to manage its risk associated with significant increases in fuel prices; however, because energy prices can fluctuate significantly in a relatively short amount of time, the Company must also continually monitor and adjust its fuel hedge portfolio and strategies to address not only fuel price increases, but also fuel price volatility and hedge collateral requirements. Although jet fuel prices were less volatile in 2013 than in some previous years, they remain at high levels and continue to be subject to extreme volatility based on a variety of factors. In addition, the cost of hedging has increased in recent years with current sustained high jet fuel prices and the potential for volatility in the fuel market. The Company’s fuel hedging activities are discussed in more detail below under “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and Note 10 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Southwest offers a relatively simple fare structure that features competitive, unrestricted, unlimited, everyday coach fares, as well as lower fares available on a restricted basis. Southwest bundles fares into three major categories: “Wanna Get Away®,” “AnytimeSM,” and “Business Select®,” with the goal of making it easier for Customers to choose the fare they prefer.
applied to future travel on Southwest. As discussed below under “Operating Strategies and Initiatives - Ancillary Services and Fees,” during 2013, Southwest implemented a No Show policy associated with Wanna Get Away tickets that are not canceled or changed at least ten minutes prior to a flight’s scheduled departure.
AirTran also offers a user-friendly fare structure that features a variety of competitive fares and products. Unlike Southwest, AirTran currently offers a Business Class product. With the exception of Business Class fares, all AirTran fares are nonrefundable, but can be changed prior to departure, subject to payment of a service charge. AirTran Business Class fares are refundable and changeable and include additional perks such as priority boarding, oversized seats with additional leg room, bonus frequent flyer credit, no first or second bag fees, and complimentary cocktails onboard. In addition, AirTran’s Business Class product can be purchased separately or through an upgrade of a non-Business Class fare within 24 hours of travel.
Southwest.com and AirTran.com
The Company’s Internet website, southwest.com®, is the only avenue for Southwest Customers to purchase and manage travel online. Any part of a Customer’s trip can be planned directly from the southwest.com home page. Southwest.com is designed to help make the Customer's experience personal and intuitive with features such as recognizing the Customer's location to provide relevant deals, remembering recent searches to make it easy to get to trips of interest, and shopping cart functionality allowing Customers to purchase air, hotel, and car all at once. Southwest.com highlights points of differentiation between Southwest and other air carriers, as well as the fact that southwest.com is the only place where Customers can purchase Southwest fares online. In addition, southwest.com and swabiz.com (the Company’s business travel reservation web page) are available in a translated Spanish version, which provides Customers who prefer to transact in Spanish the same level of Customer Service provided by the English versions of the websites. Additionally, as discussed further below under "Other Initiatives - Mobile Website and Mobile Boarding Passes," Southwest offers Customers a mobile website and apps to provide Customers the ability to transact with Southwest anytime they have access to their mobile device.
The Internet is also an integral part of AirTran’s distribution network. In addition to being user-friendly and simple, AirTran’s website is designed to sell tickets efficiently. AirTran.com allows Customers to easily book and manage their travel, including the ability to retrieve and change future flight reservations, make seat selections, and check in online. As part of the Company's network connectivity efforts, Customers can now book AirTran flights on southwest.com, including itineraries that include both an AirTran and Southwest flight.
During 2013, southwest.com and airtran.com together accounted for approximately 80 percent of all of the Company’s bookings. In addition, for the year ended December 31, 2013, approximately 84 percent of the Company’s Passenger revenues came through its websites (including revenues from SWABIZ®).
Operating Strategies and Initiatives
During 2013, the Company continued to focus on five strategic initiatives: (i) the integration of Southwest’s and AirTran’s network and operations, (ii) fleet modernization, (iii) the continued incorporation of the larger Boeing 737-800 aircraft into the Southwest fleet, (iv) international capabilities and new reservation system, and (v) the continued growth of Southwest's Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program. In addition to the Company’s five strategic
initiatives, the Company has continued to design, implement, and manage other initiatives to increase revenues, improve cost controls, and attract and retain Customers.
Integration of Southwest’s and AirTran’s Network and Operations
The Company remains on track with its plan to fully integrate Southwest’s and AirTran’s network and operations by the end of 2014. During 2013, the Company continued the process of integrating AirTran into its operations and accomplished the following key integration milestones:
As discussed below, the Company has multiple efforts underway to replace its older aircraft with newer aircraft that are less maintenance intensive and more fuel efficient and that also have a greater range. The Company expects its longterm fleet modernization plan to provide substantial flexibility to manage its fleet needs in a variety of economic conditions. The Company’s future aircraft delivery schedule is set forth in more detail under “Properties - Aircraft.”
The Boeing 737 MAX. The Company is scheduled to be the launch customer for the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which is designed to be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than the Company’s current Boeing aircraft. The Company has placed firm orders for 170 of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and expects to begin to take delivery in 2017. Additionally, in 2013 the Company placed a firm order for 30 of the Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft and expects to begin to take delivery in 2019. The Company also has options to purchase an additional 191 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft during the period from 2021 through 2027. The Company believes the 737 MAX will (i) have the lowest operating unit costs in the single-aisle segment and (ii) benefit the Company with an engine/airframe combination that is uniquely designed to optimize operating performance of the Company’s fleet.
The Boeing Next-Generation 737. The Company has also expanded its orders for the Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. From 2012 through 2013, the Company purchased 45 Boeing Next-Generation 737-800 aircraft and leased, from third parties, seven Boeing 737-800 aircraft and two Boeing 737-700 aircraft. Including the 737 MAX firm orders described above, the Company has overall total firm orders with Boeing of 308 aircraft for 2014 through 2024. Additionally, for 2014 and 2015, combined, the Company has agreed to purchase, as of January 22, 2014, 15 pre-owned 737-700 aircraft from third parties and has agreed to lease two 737-700 aircraft from a third party. The orders and leases are intended to predominately serve as replacement aircraft in the Company’s fleet as it retires older 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft and transitions the 717-200 aircraft out of the Company’s fleet. The Company also has options with Boeing to purchase an additional 36 Boeing 737 Next-Generation aircraft during the period from 2016 through 2018.
Southwest Cabin Refresh. During 2013 the Company completed the retrofit of Southwest’s 737-700 fleet with an updated cabin interior. Evolve: The New Southwest Experience is intended to enhance Customer comfort, personal space, and the overall travel experience, while improving fleet efficiency and being environmentally responsible. The cabin refresh features recyclable carpet, a brighter color-scheme, and more durable, eco-friendly, and comfortable seats that weigh less than the prior seats. By maximizing the space inside the plane, Evolve allows for the added benefit of six additional seats on each retrofitted aircraft, along with more climate-friendly and cost-effective materials. The Company also retrofitted 78 of its 737-300 aircraft with Evolve in 2013. In addition to the 737-700 and 737-300 retrofits, the 737-800 aircraft entering the Company’s fleet also feature the Evolve interior. The 17 AirTran 737-700 aircraft that had been converted to Southwest livery as of December 31, 2013, have received the new Evolve interior, and the remaining 35 AirTran 737-700 aircraft are scheduled to receive the new Evolve interior at the time of conversion to the Southwest fleet.
Transition of Boeing 717 Aircraft. Pursuant to an agreement with Delta Air Lines, Inc. and Boeing Capital Corp., during 2013 the Company began leasing or subleasing AirTran’s 88 Boeing 717-200 aircraft to Delta. Deliveries to Delta began in September 2013 and are expected to continue at the rate of approximately three aircraft per month. As of December 31, 2013, 22 of AirTran’s Boeing 717-200 aircraft had been removed from service and 13 had been delivered to Delta. From a fleet management perspective, this transition allows the Company to minimize the impact of this transaction on operations, as the Boeing 717 capacity lost is expected to be replaced through the capacity gained as a result of (i) the Company’s extension of the retirement dates for a portion of its 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft and (ii) deliveries from Boeing of new 737 aircraft or deliveries of used 737 aircraft from other sources. Transitioning the Boeing 717 fleet to Delta avoids added complexity to the Company’s operations, as the Company has historically operated an all-Boeing 737 fleet. Replacement of the Boeing 717 aircraft capacity with Boeing 737 capacity provides revenue opportunities with more seats per aircraft, while costing approximately the same amount to fly on a per-trip basis as the smaller Boeing 717 aircraft.
Continued Incorporation of the Larger Boeing 737-800 into the Southwest Fleet
To further support its fleet modernization efforts, during 2013, the Company continued to incorporate the Boeing 737-800 into the Southwest fleet. The 737-800’s all coach seating configuration of 175 offers significantly more Customer seating capacity than Southwest’s other aircraft. In addition to the 737-800’s added seating capacity, its configuration includes The Boeing Company’s Sky Interior, which features a quieter cabin, improved operational security features, and LED reading and ceiling lighting. In addition, the domestic airline industry has experienced a decline in shorthaul flying since 2000, and the 737-800 allows the Company to adjust its route network to allow for more longhaul flying. The Company expects the 737-800 will continue to enable it to (i) more economically serve longhaul routes; (ii) improve scheduling flexibility and more economically serve high-demand, slot-controlled, and gate-restricted airports by adding seats to such markets without increasing the number of flights; and (iii) boost fuel efficiency to reduce overall unit costs. Additionally, the Company expects the 737-800 will enable Southwest to profitably expand to new destinations, including extended routes over water, and potentially fly to more distant markets such as Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and other near-international locations. The Company has taken delivery of 52 Boeing 737-800 aircraft from 2012 through 2013 and currently expects to take delivery of an additional 33 and 19 Boeing 737-800s during 2014 and 2015, respectively. The Company’s fleet composition and delivery schedule is discussed in more detail below under “Properties - Aircraft.”
International Capabilities and New Reservation System
In January 2014, the Company launched an international reservation system and began selling its inaugural international daily nonstop service to be flown by Southwest aircraft beginning July 1, 2014, to Jamaica (Montego Bay), The Bahamas (Nassau), and Aruba (Oranjestad). In this first phase of the Company’s international conversion plan, AirTran will continue service between Atlanta and Nassau and between Chicago Midway and Montego Bay, as well as flights to/from Cancun, Mexico City, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The Company expects to complete the launch of Southwest service to Mexico (Cancun, Mexico City, and Cabo San Lucas) and Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), AirTran’s remaining four international destinations, by the end of 2014. The Company worked with Amadeus IT Group to implement Amadeus’ Altea reservations solution to support the Company’s international service.
The Company also intends to replace Southwest’s existing domestic reservation system with a comprehensive system that would provide Southwest with the ability to serve both domestic and international markets. The Company is currently in the planning stages of this multi-year project, and intends to select the vendor in the first half of 2014.
Continued Growth of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Frequent Flyer Program
In March 2011, Southwest launched its current Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, under which members earn points for every dollar spent. The amount of points earned under the program is based on the fare and fare class purchased, with higher fare products (e.g., Business Select) earning more points than lower fare products (e.g., Wanna Get Away). Each fare class is associated with a points earning multiplier, and points for flights are calculated by multiplying the fare for the flight by the fare class multiplier. Likewise, the amount of points required to be redeemed for a flight is based on the fare and fare class purchased. Under the program (i) members are able to redeem their points for every available seat, every day, on every flight, with no blackout dates; and (ii) points do not expire so long as the Rapid Rewards Member has points-earning activity during the most recent 24 months.
Under the program, members continue to accumulate points until the time they decide to redeem them. As a result, the program provides members significant flexibility and options for earning and redeeming rewards. For example, members can earn more points (and/or achieve tiered status such as A-List and Companion Pass faster) by purchasing higher fare tickets. Members also have significant flexibility in redeeming points, such as the opportunity to book in advance to take advantage of a lower fare (including many fare sales) ticket by redeeming fewer points or by being able to redeem more points and book at the last minute if seats are still available for sale. Rapid Rewards Members can also earn points through qualifying purchases with Rapid Rewards Partners (which include, for example, car rental agencies, hotels, restaurants, and retail locations), as well as by using Southwest’s co-branded Chase® Visa credit card. In addition, holders of Southwest’s co-branded Chase Visa credit card are able to redeem their points for items other than travel on Southwest, such as international flights on other airlines, cruises, hotel stays, rental cars, gift cards, event tickets, and more. In addition to earning points for revenue flights and qualifying purchases with Rapid Rewards Partners, Rapid Rewards Members also have the ability to purchase points.
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program also features enhanced A-List and Companion Pass programs for the most active members and includes “A-List Preferred” status. Both A-List and A-List Preferred Members enjoy benefits such as “Fly By®” priority checkin and security lane access, where available, as well as dedicated phone lines, standby priority, and an earnings bonus on eligible revenue flights (25 percent for A-List and 100 percent for A-List Preferred). In addition, A-List Preferred Members enjoy free inflight WiFi on equipped flights. Rapid Rewards Members who attain A-List or A-List Preferred status receive priority boarding privileges for an entire year. When these Customers purchase travel at least 36 hours prior to flight time, they receive the best boarding pass number available (generally, an “A” boarding pass). “A-List” or “A-List Preferred” Customers are automatically checked in for their flight in advance of departure. Rapid Rewards Members who fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year automatically receive a Companion Pass, which provides for unlimited free roundtrip travel for one year to any destination available on Southwest for a designated companion of the qualifying Rapid Rewards Member. The Rapid Rewards Member and designated companion must travel together on the same flight.
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program has been designed to drive more revenue by (i) bringing in new Customers, including new Rapid Rewards Members, as well as new holders of Southwest’s co-branded Chase Visa credit card; (ii) increasing business from existing Customers; and (iii) strengthening the Company’s Rapid Rewards hotel, rental car, credit card, and retail partnerships. To date, the program has exceeded the Company’s
expectations with respect to the number of frequent flyer members added, the amount spent per member on airfare, the number of flights taken by members, the number of Southwest’s co-branded Chase Visa credit card holders added, the number of points sold to business partners, and the number of frequent flyer points purchased by program members.
AirTran’s A+ Rewards frequent flyer program currently offers a number of ways to earn free travel, including bonus earnings for Business Class travel. A+ Rewards members currently can earn a credit for each one-way trip flown or 1.5 credits for one-way Business Class travel. A+ Rewards credits currently can also be earned for purchases made with an AirTran Airways A+ Visa card or an AirTran A+ Rewards Chase Visa credit card, qualifying car rentals from Hertz, for purchases from other A+ Rewards partners, and in conjunction with marketing promotions that AirTran may run from time to time. A+ Rewards members currently may purchase A+ Rewards credits, extend the expiration of A+ credits, or give A+ credits to another member to help earn a free flight faster.
The Company has enabled Customers to transfer their loyalty rewards between the Southwest and AirTran frequent flyer programs. As a result, members have the benefit of the entire combined network for redemption.
For the Company’s 2013 consolidated results, Customers of Southwest and AirTran redeemed approximately 5.4 million flight awards, accounting for approximately 9.5 percent of revenue passenger miles flown. For the Company’s 2012 consolidated results, Customers of Southwest and AirTran redeemed approximately 4.5 million flight awards, accounting for approximately 9.0 percent of revenue passenger miles flown. For the Company’s 2011 consolidated results, which include AirTran results from May 2, 2011, through December 31, 2011, Customers of Southwest and AirTran redeemed approximately 3.7 million flight awards, accounting for approximately 8.6 percent of revenue passenger miles flown. The Company’s accounting policies with respect to its frequent flyer programs are discussed in more detail in Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Network Optimization and Revenue Management
The Company uses profitability management tools to manage capacity and route expansion though optimization of its flight schedule to, among other things, better match demand in certain markets. Using its profitability management tools, the Company continually adjusts the Southwest and AirTran networks through the addition of new markets and routes, the adjustment of frequencies in existing markets, and the exiting of certain unsustainable markets and redeployment of aircraft to other markets. For example, prior to 2013, in response to high fuel prices, the Company discontinued service in 15 AirTran destinations. As part of its network optimization efforts, the Company ceased service to Bermuda during 2013. The Company improved its operational network efficiency during 2013 by tightening its scheduled aircraft flying hours per day and turn times to better utilize available aircraft time during the peak flying hours of each day. These efforts contributed to higher yields, strong load factors, and improved revenues. As part of its continuing network optimization efforts, the Company has announced its plans to cease Southwest operations in Branson, Missouri; Key West, Florida; and Jackson, Mississippi beginning in June 2014. The Company believes the optimization and alignment of the Southwest and AirTran schedules and networks can continue to yield significant synergies and other benefits. Over the next several years, the Company also plans to develop new systems to support international service and improve revenue management capabilities.
Over the last several years, the Company has undertaken a number of cost-containment projects for the purpose of preserving Southwest’s low-cost advantage and low-fare brand. These have included the fleet modernization and network optimization strategies discussed above. Among other things, fleet modernization has contributed to lower maintenance and repair expenses, and network optimization is enabling Employee scheduling efficiencies.
In addition, these cost-containment projects have included various fuel conservation and carbon emission reduction initiatives such as the following:
The Company has also taken significant steps towards Required Navigation Performance (“RNP”) operations which are intended to modernize the U.S. Air Traffic Control System by addressing limitations on air transportation capacity and making more efficient use of airspace. RNP combines the capabilities of advanced aircraft avionics, GPS (Global Positioning System) satellite navigation (instead of less precise ground-based navigation), and new flight procedures to (i) enable aircraft to carry navigation capabilities rather than relying on airports; (ii) improve operational capabilities by opening up many new and more direct airport approach paths to produce more efficient flight patterns; and (iii) conserve fuel, improve safety, and reduce carbon emissions. Southwest began conducting GPS approach procedures during the first quarter of 2010, completed RNP training of nearly 6,000 pilots in November 2010, and commenced RNP procedures in revenue service in January 2011. By the end of 2013, Southwest had conducted close to 14,000 RNP approaches, including over 4,000 in 2013. Southwest must rely on RNP approaches published by the FAA, and the rate of introduction of RNP approaches has been slower than expected, with fuel efficient RNP approaches currently available at only 36 airports. In addition, even at airports with approved RNP approaches, the clearance required from air traffic controllers to perform RNP approaches is sometimes not granted. Southwest continues to work with the FAA to develop more RNP approaches and to modify air traffic control rules to support greater utilization of RNP. As a result of the FAA’s recent lack of emphasis on continuing to implement this technology and the Company’s continued retirement of its older Classic (737-300/500) aircraft, the Company has decided not to equip its Classic aircraft with RNP capabilities.
Aggressive Promotion of the Company’s Points of Differentiation from its Competitors
During 2013, the Company continued to benefit from, and aggressively market, Southwest’s points of differentiation from its competitors. For example, Southwest continues to be the only major U.S. airline that does not impose additional fees for first and second checked bags. Through both its national and local marketing campaigns, Southwest has continued to aggressively promote this point of differentiation from its competitors with its “Bags Fly Free®” message. The Company believes its decision not to charge for first and second checked bags on Southwest, as reinforced by the Company’s related marketing campaign, has driven an increase in Southwest’s market share and a resulting net increase in revenues.
Southwest is also the only major U.S. airline that does not impose a fee on any of its fares for a Customer change in flight plans. The Company has continued to incorporate this key point of differentiation in its marketing campaigns. The campaigns highlight the importance to Southwest of Customer Service by showing that Southwest understands plans can change and therefore does not charge a change fee. While a Customer may pay a difference in airfare, the Customer will not be charged a change fee on top of any difference in airfare.
Also unlike most of its competitors, Southwest does not impose additional fees for items such as seat selection, fuel surcharges, snacks, curb-side checkin, and telephone reservations. In addition, Southwest allows each ticketed Customer to check one stroller and one car seat free of charge, in addition to the two free checked bags.
The Company also continues to promote all of the many other reasons to fly Southwest such as its low fares, network size, Customer Service, free live television offerings (discussed below under “Inflight WiFi and Entertainment”), and its Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program.
Business Traveler Amenities
Southwest offers several products that have been designed to attract business/full fare travelers.
Business Select. As discussed above, Southwest’s “Business Select” product includes perks such as priority boarding, a higher frequent flyer point multiplier than other Southwest fares (including twice as many points per dollar spent as compared to Wanna Get Away fares), priority ticket counter and security checkpoint access in select airports, and one complimentary adult beverage coupon for the day of travel (for Customers of legal drinking age).
Fly By® Priority Lanes. Southwest provides Fly By Priority Lane access for its Business Select Customers and Rapid Rewards A-List Members at many of its airports. Fly By Priority Lanes are priority access lanes located at select ticket counters and security checkpoints. The lanes allow Business Select Customers and Rapid Rewards A-List Members direct access to the front of the line at the ticket counter and/or security checkpoint. As of December 31, 2013, Fly By Priority Lane access was available at 68 airports.
SWABIZ. SWABIZ is Southwest’s business travel reservation web page. SWABIZ allows business travelers to plan, book, and purchase Ticketless Travel on Southwest and to efficiently obtain their lowest fares and maximum frequent flyer credit.
In addition, as discussed below under “Inflight WiFi and Entertainment,” Southwest has continued to install equipment on its fleet to provide access to WiFi connectivity and live television utilizing the Customer's mobile device.
AirTran currently offers Business Class on every flight; however the Company has stated it intends, upon full integration of AirTran, to have a consistent all-coach product offering.
Ancillary Services and Fees
During 2013, the Company continued to experience revenue benefits from service offerings such as Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-in® and Pets Are Welcome on Southwest (P.A.W.S.) products. EarlyBird Check-in provides Customers with automatic checkin so Customers are checked in 12 hours before general boarding positions become available, improving Customers' seat selection options. Customers can purchase EarlyBird Check-in for an additional $12.50 each way (priority boarding privileges are already included in the purchase of a Business Select fare and are a benefit of being an A-List frequent flyer - see “Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Frequent Flyer Program” above). Southwest’s P.A.W.S. offering allows Customers to bring a small cat or dog into the aircraft cabin for a $95 one-way fare. In 2013, as part of the Company’s network connectivity efforts, it began enabling Customers to book a small cat or dog into the aircraft cabin on domestic shared itineraries with AirTran. Southwest also charges an additional $50 per one-way trip for unaccompanied minor travel to address the administrative costs and the extra care necessary to safely transport these Customers. The Company also expects to continue to benefit from ancillary revenue opportunities created by Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program.
During January 2013, Southwest began selling open premium boarding positions systemwide at the gate for a $40 charge per flight. Southwest’s sale of open premium boarding positions at the gate provides another early boarding choice for its Customers in addition to Southwest’s “Business Select” product and EarlyBird Check-in. Also in 2013, as part of the Company’s network connectivity efforts, it began enabling Customers booking shared itineraries through AirTran channels to purchase these open premium boarding positions at the gate on Southwest-operated flights.
During second quarter 2013, Southwest announced its implementation of a No Show policy that applies to nonrefundable fares that are not canceled or changed by a Customer at least ten minutes prior to a flight's scheduled departure. If a Customer has booked a nonrefundable fare anywhere in his/her itinerary and that portion of the flight is not used and not canceled or changed by the Customer at least ten minutes prior to scheduled departure, all unused funds on the full itinerary will be forfeited, and the remaining reservation will be canceled. This policy does not apply to military fares, senior fares, or travel during certain irregular operations, including severe weather conditions. The No Show policy will not impact Customers who simply cancel a Wanna Get Away or DING! ® fare at least ten minutes prior to scheduled departure; in this case, Customers may reuse their funds toward future travel on Southwest, without a change fee, as they have always done. Customers who are traveling on a fully refundable itinerary that does not contain a Wanna Get Away or DING! fare will continue to have the option of either requesting a refund or holding funds for future travel. Southwest expects that the No Show policy will promote Customer behavior that will enable Southwest to re-sell the open seat prior to departure.
AirTran currently charges fees for checked baggage, carriage of pets, liquor sales, advance seat assignments, call center services, priority seat selection, special services such as the transportation of unaccompanied minors, and extension or transfer of A+ Miles Rewards (in addition to fees for the purchase of A+ Miles Rewards). The Company intends, upon full integration of AirTran, to have a consistent product offering.
Inflight WiFi and Entertainment
Southwest offers inflight satellite-based WiFi service on all of its 737-700 and 737-800 aircraft, representing over 75 percent of Southwest’s fleet. Southwest’s arrangement with its WiFi provider enables the Company to control the pricing of the WiFi service, which is currently $8 a day per device, including stops and connections. As discussed below in “Economic and Operational Regulation - Operational, Safety, and Health Regulation,” Southwest’s Customers are now able to use small portable electronic devices to utilize the airline’s onboard WiFi from gate-to-gate when travelling on a Southwest WiFi-equipped airplane. Southwest is currently the only carrier to offer gate-to-gate connectivity.
AirTran currently offers GoGo’s inflight internet connectivity on every Air Tran flight. Gogo establishes the charges for the service, which are based on flight length.
In 2013, Southwest continued to grow the onboard entertainment options on WiFi-equipped aircraft for viewing on Customers’ personal wireless devices. In July 2013, the Company joined with DISH Network to give Customers on WiFi-equipped aircraft free access to Southwest’s live and on-demand television product. In January 2014, the Company and DISH Network agreed to extend this promotion through the end of 2014. The television product currently consists of 17 live channels and up to 75 on-demand recorded episodes from popular television series.
Southwest also added movies-on-demand, which are currently priced at $5 per movie and, in December 2013, became the first airline to offer a Messaging-only option for $2 a day per device, including all stops and connections. Messaging is currently only available for Apple’s iMessage service, but is expected to expand in early 2014 to other messaging platforms.
Customers do not have to purchase WiFi to access television offerings, movies-on-demand, or the Messaging-only service.
Proactive Customer Communications
The Company’s Automated Outbound Messaging (“AOM”) service enables it to (i) proactively deliver customized automated voice, text, and e-mail messages to Southwest Customers when there has been a change in their flight status as a result of a cancellation or flight delay (of 30 minutes or more), as well as potential disruptions to Southwest’s scheduled service; and (ii) give Southwest Customers the option to connect to a Customer Representative or rebook online in the case of cancelled flights. Southwest Customers who book their travel on southwest.com have the option to receive these notifications via telephone (landline or mobile), SMS texting, or email. In addition to providing flight information to Southwest Customers using their preferred contact method, if applicable, the Company directs Southwest Customers to rebook their flights online via southwest.com/rebook. The AOM strategy is designed to increase proactive Customer outreach and accommodations, reduce inbound calls, improve contact center management, save costs, and provide a better overall experience.
Mobile Website and Mobile Boarding Passes
In 2013, Southwest introduced a new completely redesigned Southwest mobile website and app for iPhone and Android. Southwest added new features and functionality, and also updated the design and navigation to provide a more contextual and personalized online experience than the prior mobile website. With the redesigned mobile experience, Southwest began the rollout of its mobile boarding pass pilot launched during November 2013. The rollout began with single Passengers on nonstop and direct flights originating from Austin, Texas, and Southwest expects to continue the rollout of mobile boarding pass to other cities across its network throughout 2014.
Management Information Systems
The Company has continued its commitment to technology improvements to support its ongoing operations and initiatives. The Company has continued to invest in significant technology necessary to support several of its initiatives, including the implementation of connecting capabilities between the Southwest and AirTran reservation
systems, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, enhanced southwest.com website, WiFi implementation, live television connectivity, and its introduction of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft into the Southwest fleet. In addition, the Company has added new reservation system technology to support Southwest's international itineraries and, in January 2014, began selling its first international itineraries to be flown by Southwest aircraft.
The Company intends to continue to devote significant technology resources towards, among other things, (i) continued improvement of its revenue management technical capabilities, (ii) replacement of Southwest's existing domestic reservation system with a comprehensive system that would provide Southwest with the ability to serve both domestic and international markets, and (iii) a new suite of operational tools that the Company expects will improve operational management.
The airline industry is heavily regulated, especially by the federal government. Examples of regulations affecting the Company and/or the industry are discussed below.
Economic and Operational Regulation
Consumer Protection Regulation by the U.S. Department of Transportation
The U.S. Department of Transportation (the “DOT”) regulates aviation safety, as well as economic operating authority and consumer protection. The DOT may impose civil penalties on air carriers for violating its regulations.
To provide passenger transportation in the United States, a domestic airline is required to hold a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity issued by the DOT. A certificate is unlimited in duration, and the Company’s certificate generally permits it to operate among any points within the United States and its territories and possessions. Additional DOT authority, in the form of a certificate or exemption from certificate requirements, is required for a U.S. airline to serve foreign destinations either with its own aircraft or via codesharing with another airline. The DOT also has jurisdiction over international tariffs and pricing in certain markets. The DOT may revoke a certificate or exemption, in whole or in part, for intentional failure to comply with federal aviation statutes, regulations, orders, or the terms of the certificate itself.
The DOT’s consumer protection and enforcement activities relate to areas such as unfair and deceptive practices and unfair competition by air carriers, deceptive airline advertising (e.g., fare, ontime performance, schedule, and codesharing), and violations of rules concerning denied boarding compensation, ticket refunds, and baggage liability requirements. The DOT is also charged with prohibiting discrimination by airlines against consumers on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex.
Under the above-described authority, the DOT has adopted so-called “Passenger Protection Rules,” which address a wide variety of matters including tarmac delays, chronically delayed flights, denied boarding compensation, and advertising of airfares, among others. Under the Passenger Protection Rules, U.S. passenger airlines are required to adopt contingency plans that include the following: (i) the assurance that no domestic flight will remain on the airport tarmac for more than three hours unless the pilot-in-command determines there is a safety-related or security-related impediment to deplaning passengers or air traffic control advises the pilot-in-command that returning to the gate or permitting passengers to disembark elsewhere would significantly disrupt airport operations; (ii) the assurance that air carriers will provide adequate food and potable drinking water no later than two hours after the aircraft leaves the gate (in the case of departure) or touches down (in the case of arrival) if the aircraft remains on the tarmac, unless the pilot-in-command determines that safety or security considerations preclude such service; and (iii) the assurance of operable lavatories, as well as adequate medical attention, if needed. Air carriers are required to publish their contingency plans on their websites.
The Passenger Protection Rules also subject airlines to potential DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices in the event of chronically delayed flights (i.e., flights that operate at least 10 times a month and arrive more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time during that month). In addition, airlines are required to (i) display ontime performance on their websites; (ii) adopt customer service plans, publish those plans on their website, and audit their own compliance with their plans; (iii) designate an employee to monitor the performance of their flights; (iv) provide information to passengers on how to file complaints; and (v) respond in a timely and substantive fashion
to consumer complaints. Airlines that violate the Passenger Protection Rules are subject to potential fines of up to $27,500 per passenger, the maximum allowed for violating any aviation consumer rule.
The Passenger Protection Rules also require airlines to (i) pay up to $1,300 in denied boarding compensation to passengers bumped from flights; (ii) refund any checked bag fee for permanently lost luggage; (iii) prominently disclose all potential fees for optional services on their websites; and (iv) refund passenger fees paid for ancillary services if a flight cancels or oversells and a passenger is unable to take advantage of such services.
The Passenger Protection Rules also require that (i) advertised airfares include all government-mandated taxes and fees; (ii) passengers be allowed to hold a reservation for up to 24 hours without making a payment; (iii) passengers be allowed to cancel a paid reservation without penalty for 24 hours after the reservation is made, as long as the reservation is made at least seven days in advance of travel; (iv) fares may not increase after purchase; (v) baggage fees must be disclosed to the passenger at the time of booking; (vi) the same baggage allowances and fees must apply throughout a passenger’s trip; (vii) baggage fees must be disclosed on e-ticket confirmations; and (viii) passengers must be promptly notified in the event of delays of more than 30 minutes or if there is a cancellation or diversion of their flight.
The DOT has announced its intention to further expand the Passenger Protection Rules, with particular focus on the public disclosure of airline-imposed ancillary fees for the sale of optional products and services. The DOT is reportedly considering, among other things, whether to require airlines to disclose and make such optional products and services available for purchase through all sales channels, including “global distributions systems,” that an airline uses to sell its flights rather than only through proprietary airline websites. The DOT’s proposed expansion of the Passenger Protection Rules is expected to be released in the first half of 2014. The Company is not able to predict the impact of such a requirement on its services, although the Company is likely to be affected to a lesser degree than most other airlines, which generally offer more ancillary products and services. The DOT has expressed its intent to aggressively investigate alleged violations of the Passenger Protection Rules.
The DOT has also proposed new rules that would require airlines to report more information to the DOT on the amount and types of ancillary fees collected from passengers, as well as the number of checked bags and mishandled wheelchairs. The proposal would revise current reporting requirements to increase data collection on the amount airlines receive from different, specific types of fees. The proposed rule would require airlines to report 18 categories of fee revenue. The DOT is expected to issue a final rule in this proceeding in 2014.
The statutory authority for the federal government to collect most types of aviation taxes, which are used, in part, to finance the nation’s airport and air traffic control systems, and the authority of the FAA to expend those funds must be periodically reauthorized by the U.S. Congress. In 2012, Congress adopted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which extends most commercial aviation taxes through September 30, 2015. In addition to FAA-related taxes, there are additional federal taxes related to the Department of Homeland Security. These taxes do not need to be reauthorized periodically. However, in an effort to reduce the federal deficit and generate more government revenue, Congress approved legislation in December 2013 that will generate more net federal revenue by (i) increasing the Transportation Security Fee paid by passengers from $2.50 per passenger segment to $5.60 per one-way passenger trip, effective July 2014; and (ii) eliminating a duplicative security fee paid by airlines directly, called the Aviation Security Infrastructure Fee, effective October 2014. In 2014, Congress may consider comprehensive tax reform legislation, which could result in a lower corporate tax rate and the elimination of certain tax deductions and preferences, as well as separate legislation that could increase one or more of the passenger-paid fees used to support the operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”). Grants to airports and/or airport bond financing may also be affected through future deficit reduction legislation, which could result in higher fees, rates, and charges at many of the airports the Company serves.
The Wright Amendment
Section 29 of the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979, as amended (commonly known as the “Wright Amendment”), prohibited the carriage of non-stop and through passengers on commercial flights between Dallas Love Field and all states outside of Texas, with the exception of the following states (the “Wright Amendment States”): Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Originally, the
Wright Amendment permitted an airline to offer flights between Dallas Love Field and the Wright Amendment States only to the extent the airline did not offer or provide any through service or ticketing with another air carrier at Dallas Love Field and did not market service to or from Dallas Love Field and any point outside of a Wright Amendment State. In other words, a Customer could not purchase a single ticket between Dallas Love Field and any destination other than a Wright Amendment State. These restrictions did not apply to flights operated with aircraft having 56 or fewer passenger seats. The Wright Amendment also did not restrict Southwest’s intrastate Texas flights or its air service to or from points other than Dallas Love Field.
In 2006, the Company entered into an agreement with the City of Dallas, the City of Fort Worth, American Airlines, Inc., and the DFW International Airport Board, pursuant to which the five parties sought enactment of legislation to amend the Wright Amendment. Congress responded by passing the Wright Amendment Reform Act of 2006, which immediately repealed the original through service and ticketing restrictions by allowing the purchase of a single ticket between Dallas Love Field and any destination (while still requiring the Customer to make a stop in a Wright Amendment State), and reduced the maximum number of gates available for commercial air service at Dallas Love Field from 32 to 20. Pursuant to the Wright Amendment Reform Act and local agreements with the City of Dallas with respect to gates, the Company can expand scheduled service from Dallas Love Field. The Wright Amendment Reform Act also provides for substantial repeal of the remainder of the Wright Amendment in October 2014. At such time Southwest will be able to fly to any U.S. destination from Dallas Love Field unless such destination is restricted or otherwise limited by law. Nonstop international service from Dallas Love Field will continue to be prohibited. The Company currently leases 16 gates at Dallas Love Field and expects to lease at least 16 gates at the airport following substantial repeal of the remainder of the Wright Amendment in October 2014.
Operational, Safety, and Health Regulation
The FAA has the authority to regulate safety aspects of civil aviation operations. Specifically, Southwest, AirTran, and their third-party service providers are subject to the jurisdiction of the FAA with respect to aircraft maintenance and operations, including equipment, ground facilities, dispatch, communications, flight training personnel, and other matters affecting air safety. The FAA, acting through its own powers or through the appropriate U.S. Attorney, has the power to bring proceedings for the imposition and collection of fines for violation of the FAA regulations.
To address compliance with its regulations, the FAA requires airlines to obtain an air carrier operating certificate and other certificates, approvals, and authorities. Pursuant to FAA regulations, the Company has received a single air carrier operating certificate, in addition to other necessary certificates, approvals, and authorities from the FAA, that allows the Company to operate aircraft and perform maintenance operations for both Southwest and AirTran aircraft, subject to some restrictions. These certificates, approvals, and authorities are subject to suspension or revocation for cause.
In December 2011, the FAA issued a rule to amend the FAA’s flight, duty, and rest regulations. Among other things, the new rule, which went into effect in January 2014, requires a ten hour minimum rest period prior to a pilot’s flight duty period; mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the rest period; and imposes new pilot “flight time” and “duty time” limitations based upon report times, the number of scheduled flight segments, and other operational factors. The new rule may reduce the Company’s staffing flexibility, which could impact the Company’s operational performance, costs, and Customer Experience.
In October 2013, the FAA issued guidance that allows airlines to expand passenger use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight. After conducting appropriate testing and developing necessary operational procedures, the Company received confirmation from the FAA that the Company’s PED program meets the requirements of, and is consistent with, the guidance established by the FAA. As a result, the Company’s Customers are now able to use small PEDs and connect to onboard wireless communications systems, in certain circumstances, from gate to gate. This includes the use of onboard WiFi when travelling on a Southwest WiFi-equipped airplane. Customers travelling on AirTran flights are unable to use GoGo WiFi below 10,000 feet due to GoGo transmission restrictions. Customers may use small PEDs such as smartphones, e-readers, tablets, or MP3 players to read a book, play a built-in game, or listen to their personal music during all phases of flight. However, once the main cabin door is closed, cell phones must be turned off or placed in the device’s airplane/game mode for the duration of the flight. The new FAA policy considers laptops and any device larger than a tablet (generally more than two pounds) as posing a hazard due
to the physical size and weight of the device. Such devices must be stowed in an approved stowage location during taxi, takeoff, and landing.
The Company is subject to various other federal, state, and local laws and regulations relating to occupational safety and health, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Food and Drug Administration regulations.
Pursuant to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (“ATSA”), the Transportation Security Administration (the “TSA”), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for certain civil aviation security matters. ATSA and subsequent TSA regulations and procedures implementing ATSA address, among other things, (i) flight deck security; (ii) the use of federal air marshals onboard flights; (iii) airport perimeter access security; (iv) airline crew security training; (v) security screening of passengers, baggage, cargo, mail, employees, and vendors; (vi) training and qualifications of security screening personnel; (vii) provision of passenger data to U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and (viii) background checks. Under ATSA, substantially all security officers at airports are federal employees, and significant other elements of airline and airport security are overseen and performed by federal employees, including federal security managers, federal law enforcement officers, and federal air marshals. TSA personnel and TSA-mandated security procedures can affect the Company’s operations, costs, and Customer experience. For example, in 2006, the TSA implemented security measures regulating the types of liquid items that can be carried onboard aircraft. In 2009, the TSA introduced its Secure Flight program. Secure Flight requires airlines to collect a passenger’s full name (as it appears on a government-issued ID), date of birth, gender, and Redress Number (if applicable). Airlines must transmit this information to Secure Flight, which uses the information to perform matching against terrorist watch lists. After matching passenger information against the watch lists, Secure Flight transmits the matching results back to airlines. This serves to identify individuals for enhanced security screening and to prevent individuals on watch lists from boarding an aircraft. It also helps prevent the misidentification of passengers who have names similar to individuals on watch lists. The TSA has also implemented enhanced security procedures as part of its enhanced, multi-layer approach to airport security by employing advanced imaging technology (full body scans), as well as new physical pat down procedures, at security checkpoints. Such enhanced security procedures have raised privacy concerns by some air travelers. In response to a congressional mandate, beginning in June 2013, airport scanners were outfitted with software designed to enhance passenger privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images and instead using only a generic image of a passenger.
Beginning in November 2013, Southwest, in conjunction with the TSA and CBP, is participating in TSA PreCheck™, a pre-screening initiative that allows a select group of low risk passengers the ability to move through security checkpoints with greater efficiency and ease when traveling. Eligible passengers may use dedicated screening lanes at certain airports that Southwest serves for screening benefits, which include leaving on shoes, light outerwear and belts, as well as leaving laptops and compliant liquids in carryon bags.
Southwest also participates in the TSA Known Crewmember® program, which is a risk-based screening system that enables TSA security officers to positively verify the identity and employment status of flight-crew members. The program expedites flight crew member access to sterile areas of airports.
The Company has made significant investments to address the effect of security regulations, including investments in facilities, equipment, and technology to process Customers, checked baggage, and cargo efficiently and restore the airport experience; however, the Company is not able to predict the impact, if any, that various security measures or the lack of TSA resources at certain airports will have on Passenger revenues and the Company’s costs, either in the shortterm or the longterm.
The Company is subject to various federal laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment, including the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, as well as state and local laws and regulations. These laws and regulations govern aircraft drinking water, emissions from operations, and the discharge or disposal of materials such as jet fuel, chemicals, hazardous waste, and aircraft deicing fluid. Additionally, in conjunction with airport authorities, other airlines, and state and local environmental regulatory agencies, the Company, as a normal course of business, undertakes voluntary investigation or remediation of soil or
groundwater contamination at several airport sites. The Company does not believe that any environmental liability associated with these airport sites will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s operations, costs, or profitability, nor has it experienced any such liability in the past that has had a material adverse effect on its operations, costs, or profitability. Further regulatory developments pertaining to the control of engine exhaust emissions from ground support equipment could increase operating costs in the airline industry. The Company does not believe, however, that pending environmental regulatory developments in this area will have a material effect on the Company’s capital expenditures or otherwise materially adversely affect its operations, operating costs, or competitive position.
The federal government, as well as several state and local governments, the governments of other countries, and the International Civil Aviation Organization are considering legislative and regulatory proposals and voluntary measures to address climate change by reducing green-house gas emissions. At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Endangerment Finding in January 2010 regarding greenhouse gas emissions set the stage for possible legislative or regulatory action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from various segments of the economy, including from aviation. The airline industry could be affected directly through new unfunded mandates or indirectly through higher fuel costs as fuel providers pass on any additional costs to fuel consumers. Regardless of the method of regulation, policy changes with regards to climate change are possible, which could significantly increase operating costs in the airline industry and, as a result, adversely affect operations.
The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 gives airport operators the right, under certain circumstances, to implement local noise abatement programs, so long as they do not unreasonably interfere with interstate or foreign commerce or the national air transportation system. Some airports have established airport restrictions to limit noise, including restrictions on aircraft types to be used and limits on the number of hourly or daily operations or the time of operations. These types of restrictions can cause curtailments in service or increases in operating costs and could limit the ability of air carriers to expand operations at the affected airports.
As part of its commitment to corporate sustainability, the Company has published the Southwest One ReportTM describing the Company’s sustainability strategies, which include efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address other environmental matters such as energy and water conservation, waste minimization, and recycling. As discussed above under “Operating Strategies and Initiatives - Cost Containment,” the Company has also committed significant resources towards implementation of RNP procedures, which are designed to conserve fuel and reduce carbon emissions. In addition, the Company’s “Green Team” targets areas of environmental improvement in all aspects of the Company’s business, while at the same time remaining true to the Company’s low-cost philosophy.
All international service is subject to certain federal requirements and approvals, as well as the regulatory requirements of the appropriate authorities of the foreign countries involved. Southwest and AirTran have obtained the necessary economic authority from the DOT, as well as FAA approvals, to conduct operations, under certain circumstances, outside of the continental United States. To the extent the Company seeks to serve additional international routes in the future, it will be required to obtain necessary authority from the DOT and approvals from the FAA, as well as any applicable foreign government or other authority.
Moreover, CBP is the federal enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security charged with facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations with respect to trade, customs, and immigration. As the Company expands its international flight offerings, CBP will become an increasingly important federal presence. For instance, arriving international flights may only land at CBP-designated airports, and CBP officers must be present and in sufficient quantities to effectively process and inspect arriving international passengers and cargo. Thus, CBP personnel and CBP-mandated procedures can affect the Company’s operations, costs, and Customer experience. The Company will make significant investments in facilities, equipment, and technologies at certain airports in order to improve the Customer experience and to assist CBP with the inspection and processing duties; however, the Company is not able to predict the impact, if any, that various CBP measures or the lack of CBP resources will have on Company revenues and costs, either in the short term or the long term.
The Company carries insurance of types customary in the airline industry and in amounts deemed adequate to protect the Company and its property and to comply both with federal regulations and certain of the Company’s credit
and lease agreements. The policies principally provide coverage for public and passenger liability, property damage, cargo and baggage liability, loss or damage to aircraft, engines, and spare parts, and workers’ compensation.
Through the 2003 Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act (the “Wartime Act”), the federal government has provided war-risk insurance coverage to commercial carriers, including for losses from terrorism, for passengers, third parties (ground damage), and the aircraft hull. The government-provided supplemental coverage from the Wartime Act is currently set to expire on September 30, 2014. It is uncertain whether further extensions will be granted. The withdrawal of government support of airline war-risk insurance would require the Company to obtain war-risk insurance coverage commercially. Such commercial insurance could have material differences in coverage than currently provided by the U.S. government and may not be adequate to protect the Company's risk of loss from future acts of terrorism.
Competition within the airline industry is intense and highly unpredictable, and Southwest and AirTran currently compete with other airlines on a majority of the Company's scheduled routes. Key competitive factors within the airline industry include (i) pricing and cost structure; (ii) routes, frequent flyer programs, and schedules; and (iii) customer service, comfort, and amenities. Southwest and AirTran also compete for customers with other forms of transportation, as well as alternatives to travel. In recent years, the majority of domestic airline service has been provided by Southwest and the other largest major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways. In 2013, the parent company of American Airlines emerged from bankruptcy and merged with US Airways Group, Inc. The newly merged entity is the parent company of the following operating carriers: American Airlines, American Eagle Airlines (expected to be branded as Envoy beginning in early 2014), US Airways, US Airways Shuttle, and US Airways Express. The DOT defines the major U.S. airlines as those airlines with annual revenues of at least $1 billion; there are currently 14 passenger airlines offering scheduled service, including Southwest, meeting this standard.
Pricing and Cost Structure
Pricing is a significant competitive factor in the airline industry, and the increased availability of fare information on the Internet allows travelers to easily compare fares and identify competitor promotions and discounts. Pricing can be driven by a variety of factors. For example, airlines often discount fares to drive traffic in new markets or to stimulate traffic when necessary to improve load factors and/or cash flow. In addition, multiple airlines have been able to reduce fares because they have been able to lower their operating costs as a result of reorganization within and outside of bankruptcy. Further, some of the Company’s competitors have continued to grow and modernize their fleets and expand their networks, potentially enabling them to better control costs per available seat mile (the average cost to fly an aircraft seat (empty or full) one mile), which in turn may enable them to lower their fares. These factors can reduce the pricing power of the Company and the airline industry as a whole.
The Company believes its low-cost operating structure continues to provide it with an advantage over many of its airline competitors by enabling Southwest and AirTran to continue to charge low fares. The Company also believes it has gained a competitive advantage by differentiating Southwest from all of its major competitors by not charging additional fees for items such as first and second checked bags, flight changes, seat selection, fuel surcharges, snacks, curb-side checkin, and telephone reservations.
Routes, Frequent Flyer Programs, and Schedules
The Company also competes with other airlines based on markets served, frequent flyer opportunities, and flight schedules. Some major airlines have more extensive route structures than Southwest and AirTran, including more extensive international networks. In addition, many competitors have entered into significant commercial relationships with other airlines, such as global alliances, codesharing, and capacity purchase agreements, which increase the airlines’ opportunities to expand their route offerings. For example, an alliance or codesharing agreement enables an airline to offer flights that are operated by another airline and also allows the airline’s customers to book travel that includes segments on different airlines through a single reservation or ticket. As a result, depending on the nature of the specific alliance or codesharing arrangement, a participating airline may be able to (i) offer its customers access to more destinations than it would be able to serve on its own, (ii) gain exposure in markets it does not otherwise serve, or (iii) increase the perceived frequency of its flights on certain routes. Alliance and codesharing arrangements not only provide additional route flexibility for participating airlines, they can also allow these airlines to offer their customers
more opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles. A capacity purchase agreement enables an airline to expand its route structure by paying another airline (e.g., a regional airline with smaller aircraft) to operate flights on its behalf in markets that it does not, or cannot, serve itself. The Company continues to evaluate and implement initiatives to better enable Southwest and AirTran to offer additional itineraries. In addition, the Company’s acquisition of AirTran enabled the Company to (i) expand its presence in key markets Southwest already served, (ii) grow the Company’s presence in key markets Southwest did not previously serve, (iii) extend service to smaller domestic cities Southwest did not previously serve, and (iv) provide access to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and key near-international markets in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Customer Service, Comfort, and Amenities
Southwest and AirTran also compete with other airlines in areas of Customer Service such as ontime performance, passenger amenities, flight equipment type, and comfort. According to statistics published by the DOT, Southwest consistently ranks at or near the top among domestic carriers in Customer Satisfaction for having the lowest Customer complaint ratio. Some airlines, including AirTran, have more seating options and associated passenger amenities than does Southwest, including first-class, business class, and other premium seating and related amenities. Additionally, some major U.S. airlines have announced plans to add a significant number of new aircraft to their fleets. Such efforts could provide cost benefits to these airlines through fleet simplification, improved fuel efficiencies, and lower maintenance costs. Additionally, such new aircraft could have newer and different passenger amenities than those contained in the Company’s existing fleet. The Company is addressing this competitive factor with its fleet modernization initiatives, which are discussed above under “Operating Strategies and Initiatives - Fleet Modernization” and “Operating Strategies and Initiatives - Continued Incorporation of the Larger Boeing 737-800 into the Southwest Fleet.”
Other Forms of Competition
The airline industry is subject to varying degrees of competition from surface transportation by automobiles, buses, and trains. Inconveniences and delays associated with air travel security measures can increase surface competition. In addition, surface competition can be significant during economic downturns when consumers cut back on discretionary spending and fewer choose to fly. Because of the relatively high percentage of shorthaul travel provided by Southwest, it is particularly exposed to competition from surface transportation in these instances. The airline industry is also subject to competition from alternatives to travel such as videoconferencing and the Internet, which can increase in the event of travel inconveniences and economic downturns. The Company is subject to the risk that air travel inconveniences and economic downturns may, in some cases, result in permanent changes to consumer behavior in favor of surface transportation and electronic communications.
The Company’s business is somewhat seasonal. Generally, in most markets the Company serves, demand for air travel is greater during the summer months, and therefore, revenues in the airline industry tend to be stronger in the second (April 1 - June 30) and third (July 1 - September 30) quarters of the year than in the first (January 1 - March 31) and fourth (October 1 - December 31) quarters of the year. As a result, in many cases, the Company’s results of operations reflect this seasonality. Factors that could alter this seasonality include, among others, the price of fuel, general economic conditions, extreme or severe weather, fears of terrorism or war, or changes in the competitive environment. Therefore, the Company’s quarterly operating results are not necessarily indicative of operating results for the entire year and historical operating results in a quarterly or annual period are not necessarily indicative of future operating results.
At December 31, 2013, the Company had 44,831 active fulltime equivalent Employees, consisting of 19,003 flight, 2,689 maintenance, 15,464 ground, Customer, and fleet service, and 7,675 management, finance, marketing, and clerical personnel (associated with non-operational departments). Approximately 83 percent of these Employees were represented by labor unions. The Railway Labor Act establishes the right of airline employees to organize and bargain collectively. Under the Railway Labor Act, collective-bargaining agreements between an airline and a labor union generally do not expire, but instead become amendable as of an agreed date. By the amendable date, if either party wishes to modify the terms of the agreement, it must notify the other party in the manner required by the Railway
Labor Act and/or described in the agreement. After receipt of the notice, the parties must meet for direct negotiations. If no agreement is reached, either party may request the National Mediation Board to appoint a federal mediator. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the National Mediation Board may determine an impasse exists and offer binding arbitration to the parties. If either party rejects binding arbitration, a 30-day “cooling off” period begins. At the end of this 30-day period, the parties may engage in “self-help,” unless a Presidential Emergency Board is established to investigate and report on the dispute. The appointment of a Presidential Emergency Board maintains the “status quo” for an additional 60 days. If the parties do not reach agreement during this period, the parties may then engage in “self-help.” “Self-help” includes, among other things, a strike by the union or the airline’s imposition of any or all of its proposed amendments and the hiring of new employees to replace any striking workers. Following the AirTran acquisition, the various Company labor groups were covered by 18 different collective-bargaining agreements (“CBAs”). As noted in the table below, AirTran Employees in certain labor groups have transitioned to Southwest Employees under a single contract. The following table sets forth the Company’s Employee groups and the status of the respective CBAs:
Pending completion of operational integration of AirTran with the Company, it will be necessary to maintain a “fence” between Southwest and AirTran Employee groups subject to CBAs, during which time the Company and AirTran will continue to keep these Employee groups separate, each applying the terms of its own existing CBAs, unless other terms have been negotiated.
Seniority list integration methodologies have been resolved for all Southwest and AirTran workgroups.
Additional Information About the Company
The Company was incorporated in Texas in 1967. The following documents are available free of charge through the Company’s website, www.southwest.com: the Company’s annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and any amendments to those reports that are filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) pursuant to Sections 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These materials are made available through the Company’s website as soon as reasonably practicable after they are electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC. In addition to its reports filed or furnished with the SEC, the Company publicly discloses material information from time to time in its press releases, at annual meetings of Shareholders, in publicly accessible conferences and investor presentations, and through its website (principally in its Press Room and Investor Relations pages).
DISCLOSURE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This Form 10-K contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward-looking statements are based on, and include statements about, the Company’s estimates, expectations, beliefs, intentions, and strategies for the future, and the assumptions underlying these forward-looking statements. Specific forward-looking statements can be identified by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts and include, without limitation, words such as “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “expects,” “intends,” “may,” “will,” “should,” and similar expressions. Although management believes these forward-looking statements are reasonable as and when made, forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties that are difficult to predict. Therefore, actual results may differ materially from what is expressed in or indicated by the Company’s forward-looking statements or from historical experience or the Company’s present expectations. Known material risk factors that could cause these differences are set forth below under “Risk Factors.” Additional risks or uncertainties (i) that are not currently known to the Company, (ii) that the Company currently deems to be immaterial, or (iii) that could apply to any company, could also materially adversely affect the Company’s business, financial condition, or future results.
Caution should be taken not to place undue reliance on the Company’s forward-looking statements, which represent the Company’s views only as of the date this report is filed. The Company undertakes no obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.
The airline industry is particularly sensitive to changes in economic conditions; an increase in unfavorable economic conditions or continued economic uncertainty could negatively affect the Company’s results of operations and could require the Company to adjust its business strategies.
The airline industry, which is subject to relatively high fixed costs and highly variable and unpredictable demand, is particularly sensitive to changes in economic conditions. Unfavorable U.S. economic conditions have historically driven changes in travel patterns and have resulted in reduced spending for both leisure and business travel. For some consumers, leisure travel is a discretionary expense, and shorthaul travelers, in particular, have the option to replace air travel with surface travel. Businesses are able to forego air travel by using communication alternatives such as videoconferencing and the Internet or may be more likely to purchase less expensive tickets to reduce costs, which can result in a decrease in average revenue per seat. Unfavorable economic conditions also hamper the ability of airlines to raise fares to counteract increased fuel, labor, and other costs. The Company continues to face challenges associated with economic uncertainty, and a weakened state of the U.S. and global economy could continue for an extended period of time. These conditions could negatively affect the Company’s results of operations and could cause the Company to adjust its business strategies.
The Company’s business has been significantly impacted by high and/or volatile fuel prices; therefore, the Company’s strategic plans and future profitability are likely to be impacted by the Company’s ability to effectively address fuel prices.
Fuel prices continue to present one of the Company’s most significant challenges, as (i) the cost of fuel remains at high levels and continues to be both unpredictable and subject to volatility, and (ii) airlines are inherently dependent upon energy to operate; therefore, even a small change in market fuel prices can significantly affect profitability. Fuel prices can be volatile and unpredictable because of many external factors that are beyond the Company’s control. For example, fuel prices can be impacted by political and economic factors, such as (i) dependency on foreign imports of crude oil and the potential for hostilities or other conflicts in oil producing areas; (ii) limited domestic refining or pipeline capacity; (iii) worldwide demand for fuel, particularly in developing countries, which has resulted in inflated energy prices; (iv) changes in U.S. governmental policies on fuel production, transportation, taxes, and marketing; and (v) changes in exchange rates. The Company’s ability to react to fuel price volatility can also be affected by factors outside of its control. For example, the Company’s profitability is affected in part by Southwest’s and AirTran’s ability to increase fares in reaction to fuel price increases; however, fare increases can be difficult to implement in difficult economic environments when low fares are often used to stimulate traffic. The ability to increase fares can also be limited by factors such as the historical low-fare reputation of both Southwest and AirTran, the portion of their Customer
base that purchases travel for leisure purposes, the competitive nature of the airline industry generally, and the risk that higher fares will drive a decrease in demand.
Jet fuel and oil consumed for 2013 and 2012 represented approximately 35 percent and 37 percent of the Company’s operating expenses, respectively, and constituted the largest expense incurred by the Company in both years. As a result, the price of fuel has impacted, and could continue to impact, the timing and nature of the Company’s growth plans and many of the Company’s strategic initiatives.
The Company purchases jet fuel at prevailing market prices, but often seeks to protect against significant increases in fuel costs by entering into over-the-counter financial fuel derivative contracts. In addition, the Company enters into some of these fuel derivative contracts in an effort to reduce volatility in its operating expenses. Although the Company may periodically enter into jet fuel derivatives for short-term timeframes, because jet fuel is not widely traded on an organized futures exchange, there are limited opportunities to hedge directly in jet fuel for time horizons longer than approximately six to 12 months into the future. However, the Company has found that financial derivative instruments in other commodities, such as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, Brent crude oil, and refined products, such as heating oil and unleaded gasoline, can be useful in decreasing its exposure to jet fuel price volatility. As discussed in detail in Note 10 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, derivatives that are designated as hedges and deemed “effective” (i.e., that meet certain requirements under applicable accounting standards) are granted hedge accounting treatment, which can reduce volatility in the Company’s operating expenses. Nevertheless, because energy prices can fluctuate significantly in a relatively short amount of time and due to the fact that the Company uses a variety of different derivative instruments and at different price points, the Company is subject to the risk that the fuel derivatives it uses will not provide adequate protection against significant increases in fuel prices.
In addition, the Company is subject to the risk that its fuel derivatives will not be effective or that they will no longer qualify for hedge accounting under applicable accounting standards. In some situations, an entire commodity type used in hedging may cease to qualify for special hedge accounting treatment. As an example, during third quarter 2013, the Company's routine statistical analysis performed to determine which commodities qualify for special hedge accounting treatment on a prospective basis dictated that WTI crude oil based derivatives no longer qualify for hedge accounting. This is primarily due to the fact that the correlation between WTI crude oil prices and jet fuel prices during recent periods has not been as strong as in the past, and therefore the Company can no longer demonstrate that derivatives based on WTI crude oil prices will result in effective hedges on a prospective basis. As a result, the changes in fair value of all of the Company's derivatives based in WTI have been recorded to Other (gains) losses, and all future changes in the fair value of such instruments will continue to be recorded directly to earnings in future periods. Adjustments in the Company’s overall fuel hedging strategy, as well as the ability of the commodities used in fuel hedging (principally crude oil, heating oil, and unleaded gasoline) to qualify for special hedge accounting, are likely to continue to affect the Company’s results of operations. In addition, there can be no assurance that the Company will be able to cost-effectively hedge against increases in fuel prices. The Company’s fuel hedging arrangements and the impact of hedge accounting on the Company’s results of operations are discussed in more detail under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in Note 10 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
The Company has used financial derivative instruments for both shortterm and longterm time frames, and primarily uses a mixture of purchased call options, collar structures (which include both a purchased call option and a sold put option), call spreads (which include a purchased call option and a sold call option), and fixed price swap agreements in its portfolio. Although the use of collar structures and swap agreements can reduce the overall cost of hedging, these instruments carry more risk than purchased call options in that the Company could end up in a liability position when the collar structure or swap agreement settles. With the use of purchased call options and call spreads, the Company cannot be in a liability position at settlement, but may be exposed to price changes beyond a certain market price.
The Company’s low-cost structure has historically been one of its primary competitive advantages, and many factors have affected and could continue to affect the Company’s ability to control its costs.
The Company’s low-cost structure has historically been one of its primary competitive advantages, as it has enabled Southwest to historically offer low fares, drive traffic volume, and grow market share. The Company’s low-cost structure has become increasingly important as a result of the Company’s decision to limit capacity growth in
response to high fuel prices and uncertain economic conditions. While the Company has in the past been able to cover increasing costs through growth, the combination of capacity control and increasing costs has contributed to an increase in the Company’s costs per available seat mile.
The Company has limited control over fuel and labor costs, as well as other costs such as regulatory compliance costs. Jet fuel and oil constituted approximately 35 percent of the Company’s operating expenses during 2013, and the cost of fuel is subject to the external factors discussed in the second Risk Factor above. Salaries, wages, and benefits constituted approximately 31 percent of the Company’s operating expenses during 2013. The Company’s ability to control labor costs is limited by the terms of its CBAs, and increased labor costs have negatively impacted the Company’s low-cost competitive position. As discussed further under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” the Company’s unionized workforce, which makes up the majority of its Employees, have had pay scale increases as a result of increased seniority and contractual rate increases. Furthermore, as indicated above under “Business-Employees,” approximately 99 percent of Southwest’s unionized Employees, including those represented by nine of Southwest’s eleven unions, are in unions currently in negotiations for labor agreements or have labor agreements that become amendable in 2014, which could continue to put pressure on the Company’s labor costs. In addition, the Company anticipates that the combination of the various Southwest and AirTran labor contracts and frontline workforces will increase AirTran labor costs over their historical levels. As discussed above under “Business-Regulation,” the airline industry is heavily regulated, and the Company’s regulatory compliance costs are subject to potentially significant increases from time to time based on actions by the regulatory agencies. Additionally, when other airlines reduce their capacity, airport costs are then allocated among a fewer number of total flights, which can result in increased landing fees and other costs for the Company. The Company is also reliant upon third party vendors and service providers, and its low-cost advantage is also dependent in part on its ability to obtain and maintain commercially reasonable terms with those parties.
As discussed above under “Business-Insurance,” the Company carries insurance of types customary in the airline industry and is also provided supplemental, first-party, war-risk insurance coverage by the federal government. If the supplemental coverage is not extended, the Company will be required to obtain war-risk insurance coverage commercially. Such commercial insurance could have material differences in coverage than is currently provided by the U.S. government and may not be adequate to protect the Company's risk of loss from future acts of terrorism. In addition, an accident or other incident involving Southwest or AirTran aircraft could result in costs in excess of its related insurance coverage, which costs could be substantial. Any aircraft accident or other incident, even if fully insured, could also have a material adverse effect on the public’s perception of the Company.
The Company cannot guarantee it will be able to maintain or improve upon its current level of low-cost advantage. For example, in recent years the Company’s maintenance costs have been pressured with the aging of its fleet, which has required the Company to spend more to maintain a portion of its fleet and to implement a related fleet modernization and replacement plan. Further, some of the Company’s competitors have achieved substantially lower employee pay scales through bankruptcy than the Company. Additionally, in response to volatile fuel prices and economic uncertainty, some of the Company’s competitors have taken additional efficiency and cost reduction measures, such as capacity cuts and headcount reductions, which have reduced the Company’s cost advantage. Further, other competitors have continued to grow their fleets and expand their networks, potentially enabling them to better control costs per available seat mile. In addition, some competitors have announced plans to add a significant number of new aircraft to their fleets, which could potentially decrease their operating costs through better fuel efficiencies, and lower maintenance costs. Some of the Company’s competitors have taken advantage of reorganization in bankruptcy, and even the threat of bankruptcy, to decrease operating costs through renegotiated labor, supply, and financing agreements. In addition, some airlines have consolidated and reported significant expected cost synergies.
The Company is increasingly dependent on technology to operate its business and continues to implement substantial changes to its information systems; any failure or disruption in the Company’s information systems could materially adversely affect its operations.
The Company is increasingly dependent on the use of complex technology and systems to run its ongoing operations. In addition, technology is critical to the success of the Company’s strategic initiatives. In recent years the Company has been committed to technology improvements to support its ongoing operations and initiatives. For example, the Company has invested in significant technology changes to support initiatives such as the implementation of connecting capabilities between the Southwest and AirTran reservations systems, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards
frequent flyer program, introduction of the Boeing 737-800 to its fleet, enhanced southwest.com website, WiFi implementation, and live television connectivity. In addition, the Company has added new reservation system technology to support Southwest's international itineraries and, in January 2014, began selling its first international itineraries to be flown by Southwest aircraft. The Company intends to continue to devote significant technology resources towards, among other things, (i) continued improvement of its revenue management technical capabilities, (ii) replacement of Southwest's existing domestic reservation system with a comprehensive system that would provide Southwest with the ability to serve both domestic and international markets, and (iii) a new suite of operational tools that the Company expects will improve operational management.
Integration of complex systems and technology presents significant challenges in terms of costs, human resources, and development of effective internal controls. Integration also presents the risk of operational or security inadequacy or interruption, which could materially affect the Company’s ability to effectively operate its business. The Company is also reliant upon third party performance for timely and effective completion of many of its technology initiatives.
In the ordinary course of business, the Company’s systems will continue to require modification and refinements to address growth and changing business requirements, including requirements related to international operations. In addition, the Company’s systems may require modification to enable the Company to comply with changing regulatory requirements. For example, new software was developed for Pilot scheduling in response to the DOT’s and FAA’s new flight, duty, and rest regulations that went into effect in January 2014. Modifications and refinements to the Company’s systems have been and are expected to continue to be expensive to implement and may divert management’s attention from other key initiatives. In addition, the Company’s operations could be adversely affected, or it could face imposition of regulatory penalties, if it is unable to timely or effectively modify its systems as necessary.
The Company may occasionally experience system interruptions and delays that make its websites and services unavailable or slow to respond, which could prevent the Company from efficiently processing Customer transactions or providing services. This in turn could reduce the Company’s operating revenues and the attractiveness of its services. The Company’s computer and communications systems and operations could be damaged or interrupted by catastrophic events such as fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, power loss, computer and telecommunications failures, acts of war or terrorism, computer viruses, security breaches, and similar events or disruptions. Any of these events could cause system interruptions, delays, and loss of critical data, and could prevent the Company from processing Customer transactions or providing services, which could make the Company’s business and services less attractive and subject the Company to liability. Any of these events could damage the Company’s reputation and be expensive to remedy.
The Company’s business is labor intensive; therefore, the Company would be adversely affected if it were unable to maintain satisfactory relations with its Employees or its Employees’ Representatives or if the Company were unable to employ sufficient numbers of qualified Employees to maintain its operations.
The airline business is labor intensive. Salaries, wages, and benefits represented approximately 31 percent of the Company’s operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2013. In addition, as of December 31, 2013, approximately 83 percent of the Company’s Employees (including AirTran Employees) were represented for collective bargaining purposes by labor unions, making the Company particularly exposed in the event of labor-related job actions. Employment-related issues that may impact the Company’s results of operations, some of which are negotiated items, include hiring/retention rates, pay rates, outsourcing costs, work rules, and health care costs. The Company has historically maintained positive relationships with its Employees and its Employees’ Representatives. However, as indicated above under “Business-Employees,” approximately 99 percent of Southwest’s unionized Employees, including those represented by nine of Southwest’s eleven unions, are in unions currently in negotiations for labor agreements or have labor agreements that become amendable in 2014, which could continue to put pressure on the Company’s labor costs. Increasing labor costs, whether or not combined with curtailed growth, could negatively impact the Company’s competitive position.
The Company’s success also depends on its ability to attract and retain skilled personnel. Competition for skilled personnel may intensify if overall industry capacity increases and/or if high levels of current personnel reach retirement age. The Company may be required to increase existing levels of compensation to retain or supplement its skilled
workforce. The inability to recruit and retain skilled personnel or the unexpected loss of key skilled personnel could adversely affect the Company’s operations.
The Company may be unable to successfully complete the integration of AirTran’s business and realize the anticipated benefits of its acquisition of AirTran. In addition, delays in integration could cause anticipated synergies to take longer than anticipated to realize.
Risk factors associated with the Company’s acquisition and integration of AirTran are discussed below under “Risk Factors Related to the Company’s Acquisition and Integration of AirTran.”
The Company is currently dependent on single aircraft and engine suppliers, as well as single suppliers of certain other parts; therefore, the Company would be materially adversely affected if it were unable to obtain additional equipment or support from any of these suppliers or in the event of a mechanical or regulatory issue associated with their equipment.
The Company is dependent on Boeing as its sole supplier for aircraft and many of its aircraft parts and is dependent on other suppliers for certain other aircraft parts. Although the Company is able to purchase some aircraft from parties other than Boeing, most of its purchases are directly from Boeing. Therefore, if the Company were unable to acquire additional aircraft from Boeing, or if Boeing were unable or unwilling to make timely deliveries of aircraft or to provide adequate support for its products, the Company’s operations would be materially adversely affected. In addition, the Company would be materially adversely affected in the event of a mechanical or regulatory issue associated with the Boeing 737 or Boeing 717 aircraft type, whether as a result of downtime for part or all of the Company’s fleet or because of a negative perception by the flying public. The Company believes, however, that its years of experience with the Boeing 737 aircraft type, as well as the efficiencies Southwest has historically achieved by operating with a single aircraft type, currently outweigh the risks associated with its single aircraft supplier strategy. To enable Southwest to sustain the benefits associated with operating a single aircraft type, in July 2012 the Company entered into an agreement with Delta Air Lines, Inc. and Boeing Capital Corp. to lease or sublease all 88 of AirTran’s Boeing 717-200 aircraft to Delta. Deliveries to Delta began in September 2013 at the rate of approximately three aircraft per month. As of December 31, 2013, 22 of AirTran’s Boeing 717-200 aircraft had been removed from service and 13 had been delivered to Delta. The Company is also dependent on sole suppliers for aircraft engines and certain other aircraft parts and would therefore also be materially adversely affected in the event of the unavailability of, or a mechanical or regulatory issue associated with, engines and other parts.
Any failure of the Company to maintain the security of certain Customer-related information could result in damage to the Company’s reputation and could be costly to remediate.
The Company must receive information related to its Customers in order to run its business, and the Company’s online operations depend upon the secure transmission of information over public networks, including information permitting cashless payments. This information is subject to the risk of intrusion, tampering, and theft. Although the Company maintains systems to prevent this from occurring, these systems require ongoing monitoring and updating as technologies change, and security could be compromised, confidential information could be misappropriated, or system disruptions could occur. The Company must also provide certain confidential, proprietary, and personal information to third parties in the ordinary course of its business. While the Company seeks to obtain assurances that these third parties will protect this information, there is a risk the confidentiality of data held by third parties could be breached. A compromise of the Company’s security systems could adversely affect the Company’s reputation and disrupt its operations and could also result in litigation against the Company or the imposition of penalties. In addition, it could be costly to remediate. Although the Company has not experienced cyber incidents that are individually, or in the aggregate, material, the Company has experienced cyber attacks in the past, which have thus far been mitigated by preventive and detective measures put in place by the Company.
The Company’s results of operations could be adversely impacted if it is unable to grow or to timely and effectively implement its revenue and other initiatives.
Southwest has historically been regarded as a growth airline; however, less than satisfactory returns on capital caused by the combination of a difficult economic environment and growing jet fuel costs led to the Company’s decision to limit organic growth for the indefinite future. In addition, organic growth has become increasingly difficult, because (i) the number of opportunities for domestic expansion has declined; (ii) with the exception of AirTran’s near-
international service, the Company currently does not have international service; and (iii) the Company has faced an increased presence of other low-cost, low-fare carriers. As a result, the Company has become increasingly reliant on the success of revenue initiatives to help offset increasing costs and to continue to improve Customer Service. The timely and effective implementation of these initiatives has involved, and will continue to involve, significant investments by the Company of time and money and could be negatively affected by (i) the Company’s ability to timely and effectively implement, transition, and maintain related information technology systems and infrastructure; (ii) the Company’s ability to effectively balance its investment of incremental operating expenses and capital expenditures related to its initiatives against the need to effectively control costs; and (iii) the Company’s dependence on third parties to assist with implementation of its initiatives. The Company cannot ensure the timing of implementation of certain of its initiatives or that they will be successful or profitable either over the short or long term.
Instability of credit, capital, and energy markets can result in pressure on the Company’s credit ratings and can also negatively affect the Company’s ability to obtain financing on acceptable terms and the Company’s liquidity generally.
During the recession in 2009, the Company’s credit ratings were pressured by weak industry revenue and an extraordinarily volatile fuel price environment. While the Company’s credit rating is “investment grade,” factors such as future unfavorable economic conditions, a significant decline in demand for air travel, or instability of the credit and capital markets could result in future pressure on credit ratings, which could negatively affect (i) the Company’s ability to obtain financing on acceptable terms, (ii) the Company’s liquidity generally, and (iii) the availability and cost of insurance. A credit rating downgrade would subject the Company to credit rating triggers related to its credit card transaction processing agreements, the pricing related to any funds drawn under its revolving credit facility, and some of its hedging counterparty agreements. The potential effect of credit rating downgrades is discussed in more detail below under “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.”
The airline industry has faced on-going security concerns and related cost burdens; further threatened or actual terrorist attacks, or other hostilities, could significantly harm the airline industry and the Company’s operations.
Terrorist attacks and threatened attacks have from time to time materially adversely affected the demand for air travel and also have resulted in increased safety and security costs for the Company and the airline industry generally. Safety measures create delays and inconveniences and can, in particular, reduce the Company’s competitiveness against surface transportation for shorthaul routes. Additional terrorist attacks, even if not made directly on the airline industry, or the fear of such attacks or other hostilities (including elevated national threat warnings or selective cancellation or redirection of flights due to terror threats) would likely have a further significant negative impact on the Company and the airline industry.
Airport capacity constraints and air traffic control inefficiencies could limit the Company’s growth; changes in or additional governmental regulation could increase the Company’s operating costs or otherwise limit the Company’s ability to conduct business.
Almost all commercial service airports are owned and/or operated by units of local or state governments. Airlines are largely dependent on these governmental entities to provide adequate airport facilities and capacity at an affordable cost. Similarly, the federal government singularly controls all U.S. airspace, and airlines are completely dependent on the FAA operating that airspace in a safe and efficient manner. The air traffic control system, which is operated by the FAA, could continue to face airspace and/or airport congestion challenges in the future, which could limit the Company’s opportunities for growth. As discussed above under “Business - Regulation,” airlines are also subject to other extensive regulatory requirements. These requirements often impose substantial costs on airlines. The Company’s initiatives and results of operations could be negatively affected by changes in law and future actions taken by domestic and foreign governmental agencies having jurisdiction over its operations, including, but not limited to:
Because expenses of a flight do not vary significantly with the number of passengers carried, a relatively small change in the number of passengers can have a disproportionate effect on an airline’s operating and financial results. Therefore, any general reduction in airline passenger traffic as a result of any of the factors listed above could adversely affect the Company’s results of operations. In addition, in instances where the airline industry shrinks, many airport operating costs are essentially unchanged and must be shared by the remaining operating carriers, which can therefore increase the Company’s costs.
The airline industry is affected by many conditions that are beyond its control, which can impact the Company’s business strategies.
In addition to the unpredictable economic conditions and fuel costs discussed above, the Company, like the airline industry in general, is affected by conditions that are largely unforeseeable and outside of its control, including, among others:
The airline industry is intensely competitive.
As discussed in more detail above under “Business - Competition,” the airline industry is intensely competitive. The Company’s primary competitors include other major domestic airlines, as well as regional and new entrant airlines, surface transportation, and alternatives to transportation such as videoconferencing and the Internet. The Company’s revenues are sensitive to the actions of other carriers with respect to pricing, routes, frequent flyer programs, scheduling, capacity, Customer Service, comfort and amenities, cost structure, aircraft fleet, and codesharing and similar activities.
Risk Factors Related to the Company’s Acquisition and Integration of AirTran
The Company may be unable to effectively complete the integration of AirTran’s business and realize the anticipated benefits of the acquisition. In addition, delays in integration could cause anticipated synergies to take longer to realize than currently anticipated.
The Company must devote significant management attention and resources to integrating the business practices and operations of AirTran. Potential difficulties the Company may encounter as part of the integration process include the following:
Any of the foregoing factors could adversely affect the Company’s ability to maintain relationships with Customers, suppliers, Employees, and other constituencies or the Company’s ability to achieve the anticipated benefits of the acquisition on a timely basis, or at all, or could reduce the Company’s earnings or otherwise adversely affect the business and financial results of the Company. In addition, integration requirements have caused, and may continue to cause, the Company to delay other strategic initiatives. There can be no assurances that the Company will be successful or that it will realize the expected operating efficiencies, cost savings, revenue enhancements, and other benefits currently anticipated from the acquisition.
The Company’s future results will suffer if it does not effectively manage its expanded operations, including its international operations.
Upon completion of the Company’s acquisition of AirTran, the size of the Company’s business increased significantly beyond the then current size of either the Company’s or AirTran’s businesses. The Company’s future success depends, in part, upon its ability to manage this expanded business, which may pose substantial challenges for management, including challenges related to the management and monitoring of new operations, including new international operations, and associated increased costs and complexity.
As the Company expands its international flight offerings, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) will become an increasingly important federal presence. CBP personnel and CBP-mandated procedures can affect the Company’s operations, costs, and Customer experience. The Company will make significant investments in facilities, equipment, and technologies at certain airports in order to improve the Customer experience and to assist CBP with the inspection and processing duties; however, the Company is not able to predict the impact, if any, that various CBP measures or the lack of CBP resources will have on Company revenues and costs, either in the short term or the long term.
International flying will require Southwest to modify certain processes, as the entire airport experience is dramatically different in certain international locations with respect to, among other things, common-use ticket counters and gate areas, open-air terminals, and cultural preferences.
The Company’s expansion, initially through AirTran, of its operations into non-U.S. jurisdictions also expands the scope of the laws to which the Company is subject, both domestically and internationally. In addition, operations
in non-U.S. jurisdictions are in many cases subject to the laws of those jurisdictions rather than U.S. laws. Laws in some jurisdictions differ in significant respects from those in the United States, and these differences can affect the Company’s ability to react to changes in its business, and its rights or ability to enforce rights may be different than would be expected under U.S. law. Further, enforcement of laws in some jurisdictions can be inconsistent and unpredictable, which can affect both the Company’s ability to enforce its rights and to undertake activities that it believes are beneficial to its business. As a result, the Company’s ability to generate revenue and its expenses in non-U.S. jurisdictions may differ from what would be expected if U.S. law governed these operations. Although the Company has policies and procedures in place that are designed to promote compliance with the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates, a violation by the Company’s Employees, contractors, or agents or other intermediaries, could nonetheless occur. Any violation (or alleged or perceived violation), even if prohibited by the Company’s policies, could have an adverse effect on the Company’s reputation and/or its results of operations.
The need to integrate AirTran’s workforce presents the potential for delay in achieving expected synergies and other benefits, or labor disputes that could adversely affect the Company’s operations and costs.
The successful integration of AirTran and achievement of the anticipated benefits of the acquisition depend significantly on integrating AirTran’s Employees into the Company and on maintaining productive Employee relations. Failure to do so presents the potential for (i) delays in achieving expected synergies and other benefits of integration or (ii) labor disputes that could adversely affect the Company’s operations and costs. In addition, disputes regarding the integration of AirTran Employees could negatively affect the Company’s historically positive Employee culture.
Pending operational integration of AirTran with the Company, it will be necessary to maintain a “fence” between Southwest and AirTran Employee groups subject to CBAs, during which time the Company and AirTran will continue to keep the Employee groups separate, each applying the terms of its own existing CBAs, unless other terms have been negotiated.
The Company has incurred, and expects to continue to incur, substantial expenses related to the acquisition and integration of AirTran’s business.
The Company has incurred, and expects to continue to incur, substantial integration and transition expenses in connection with the acquisition of AirTran, including the necessary costs associated with integrating the operations of Southwest and AirTran. There are a large number of processes, policies, procedures, operations, technologies, and systems that must be integrated, including reservations, frequent flyer, ticketing/distribution, maintenance, and flight operations. While the Company has assumed that a certain level of expenses will be incurred, there are many factors beyond its control that could affect the total amount or the timing of the integration expenses. Moreover, many of the expenses that will be incurred are, by their nature, difficult to estimate accurately. These expenses could, particularly in the near term, exceed the financial benefits the Company expects to achieve from the acquisition, including the elimination of duplicative expenses and the realization of economies of scale and cost savings. These integration expenses likely will continue to result in the Company taking substantial charges against earnings in future periods, and the amount and timing of such charges are uncertain at present.
The Company will need to continue certain branding or rebranding initiatives in connection with the acquisition that may take a significant amount of time and involve substantial additional costs and that may not be favorably received by Customers.
The Company may incur substantial additional costs in rebranding AirTran’s products and services, and it may not be able to achieve or maintain brand name recognition or status under the Southwest brand that is comparable to the recognition and status previously enjoyed by AirTran in any of AirTran’s markets. The failure of any such rebranding initiative could adversely affect the Company’s ability to attract and retain Customers, which could cause the Company not to realize some or all of the anticipated benefits contemplated to result from the acquisition.
AirTran is currently subject to pending antitrust litigation, and if judgment were to be rendered against AirTran in the litigation, such judgment could adversely affect the Company’s operating results.
A complaint alleging violations of federal antitrust laws and seeking certification as a class action was filed against Delta Air Lines, Inc. and AirTran in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta on May 22, 2009. The complaint alleged, among other things, that AirTran attempted to monopolize air travel in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, and conspired with Delta in imposing $15-per-bag fees for the first item
of checked luggage in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The initial complaint sought treble damages on behalf of a putative class of persons or entities in the United States who directly paid Delta and/or AirTran such fees on domestic flights beginning December 5, 2008. After the filing of the May 2009 complaint, various other nearly identical complaints also seeking certification as class actions were filed in federal district courts in Atlanta, Georgia; Orlando, Florida; and Las Vegas, Nevada. All of the cases were consolidated before a single federal district court judge in Atlanta. A Consolidated Amended Complaint was filed in the consolidated action on February 1, 2010, which broadened the allegations to add claims that Delta and AirTran conspired to reduce capacity on competitive routes and to raise prices in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In addition to treble damages for the amount of first baggage fees paid to AirTran and to Delta, the Consolidated Amended Complaint seeks injunctive relief against a broad range of alleged anticompetitive activities, as well as attorneys' fees. On August 2, 2010, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims that AirTran and Delta had violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act; the Court let stand the claims of a conspiracy with respect to the imposition of a first bag fee and the airlines' capacity and pricing decisions. On June 30, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a class, which AirTran and Delta have opposed. The parties have submitted briefs on class certification, and AirTran filed a motion to exclude the class certification reports of plaintiffs’ expert. The Court has not yet ruled on the class certification motion or the related motion to exclude plaintiffs’ expert. The parties engaged in extensive discovery, which was extended due to discovery disputes between plaintiffs and Delta, but discovery has now closed. On June 18, 2012, the parties filed a Stipulation and Order that plaintiffs have abandoned their claim that AirTran and Delta conspired to reduce capacity. On August 31, 2012, AirTran and Delta moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs' remaining claims, but discovery disputes between plaintiffs and Delta have delayed further briefing on summary judgment. On November 15, 2013, the Court entered an order referring the case to mediation, and the mediation is scheduled to begin on February 4, 2014. On December 2, 2013, plaintiffs moved for discovery sanctions against Delta, and the Court has suspended further briefing on the motions for class certification, to exclude plaintiffs’ expert on class certification, and for summary judgment until the sanctions motion is resolved. While AirTran has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, including those in the Consolidated Amended Complaint, and intends to defend vigorously any and all such allegations, results of legal proceedings such as this one cannot be predicted with certainty. Regardless of its merit, this litigation and any potential future claims against the Company or AirTran may be both time consuming and disruptive to the Company’s operations and cause significant expense and diversion of management attention. Should AirTran and the Company fail to prevail in this or other matters, the Company may be faced with significant monetary damages or injunctive relief that could materially adversely affect its business and might materially affect its financial condition and operating results.
The application of the acquisition method of accounting resulted in the Company recording a significant amount of goodwill, which could result in significant future impairment charges and negatively affect the Company’s financial results.
In accordance with applicable acquisition accounting rules, the Company recorded goodwill on its Consolidated Balance Sheet to the extent the AirTran acquisition purchase price exceeded the net fair value of AirTran’s tangible and intangible assets and liabilities as of the acquisition date. Goodwill is not amortized, but is tested for impairment at least annually. Future impairment of Goodwill could be recorded in the Company's results of operations as a result of changes in assumptions, estimates, or circumstances, some of which are beyond the Company’s control. Factors which could result in an impairment, holding other assumptions constant, could include, but are not limited to: (i) reduced passenger demand as a result of domestic or global economic conditions; (ii) higher prices for jet fuel; (iii) lower fares or passenger yields as a result of increased competition or lower demand; (iv) a significant increase in future capital expenditure commitments; and (v) significant disruptions to the Company’s operations as a result of both internal and external events such as terrorist activities, actual or threatened war, labor actions by Employees, or further industry regulation. The Company can provide no assurance that a significant impairment charge will not occur in one or more future periods. Any such charges may materially negatively affect the Company’s financial results. See Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
Southwest and AirTran operated a total of 680 Boeing aircraft in-service as of December 31, 2013, of which 160 and four were under operating and capital leases, respectively.
The following table details information on the 680 active aircraft in the Company’s combined fleet as of December 31, 2013:
In total, at January 22, 2014, Southwest and AirTran firm orders, options, and purchase rights for the purchase of Boeing 737-700, 737-800, and 737 MAX aircraft were as follows:
737 FUTURE DELIVERY SCHEDULE
(1) The Company has flexibility to substitute 737-800s in lieu of 737-700 firm orders.
(2) The Company has flexibility to substitute MAX 7 in lieu of MAX 8 firm orders beginning in 2019.
Ground Facilities and Services
Each of Southwest and AirTran either leases or pays a usage fee for terminal passenger service facilities at each of the airports it serves, to which various leasehold improvements have been made. Southwest leases the land and structures on a longterm basis for its aircraft maintenance centers (located at Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby, Phoenix Sky Harbor, and Chicago Midway), its flight training center at Dallas Love Field (which houses nine 737 simulators), and its main corporate headquarters building, also located at Dallas Love Field. AirTran leases the land and structures on a longterm basis for its aircraft maintenance centers located at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Orlando International Airport. AirTran also leases a warehouse and engine repair facility in Atlanta. During 2013 the Company completed construction of a new, owned, energy-efficient, modern building designed to house certain operational and training functions, including its 24-hour operations. This additional headquarters building is located across the street from the Company’s current headquarters building on land owned by the Company. Construction was completed in late 2013.
As part of the Company's expected future international service, the Company has agreed with the City of Houston (“City”) to expand the existing Houston Hobby airport facility. Pursuant to the agreement, the Company and the City have entered into an Airport Use and Lease Agreement to control the execution of this expansion and the financial terms thereof. This project provides for a new five-gate international terminal with international passenger processing facilities, expansion of the existing security checkpoint, and upgrades to the Southwest ticketing counter area. Construction began during third quarter 2013 and is estimated to be completed during the second half of 2015. Additional information regarding this project is provided below under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
In December 2013, the Company entered into an agreement with Broward County, Florida, which owns and operates Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to oversee and manage the design and construction of the airport’s Terminal 1 Modernization Project. In addition to significant improvements to the existing Terminal 1, the
project includes the design and construction of a new five-gate Concourse A with an international processing facility. Construction is expected to begin in 2014. Additional information regarding this project is provided below under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
During 2008, the City of Dallas approved the Love Field Modernization Program (“LFMP”), a project to reconstruct Dallas Love Field with modern, convenient air travel facilities. Pursuant to a Program Development Agreement with the City of Dallas and the Love Field Airport Modernization Corporation a Texas non-profit “local government corporation” established by the City of Dallas to act on the City of Dallas’ behalf to facilitate the development of the LFMP), the Company is managing this project. Major construction commenced during 2010. New ticketing and checkin areas opened during fourth quarter 2012, and 11 new gates and new concessions opened in April 2013. Another new gate opened in July 2013, and full completion of the project is scheduled for second half 2014. The project consists of the complete replacement of gate facilities with a new 20-gate facility, including infrastructure, systems and equipment, aircraft parking apron, fueling system, roadways and terminal curbside, baggage handling systems, passenger loading bridges and support systems, and other supporting infrastructure. The LFMP is discussed in more detail below under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
As of December 31, 2013, the Company operated seven Customer Support and Services call centers. The centers located in Atlanta, San Antonio, Chicago, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City occupy leased space. The Company owns its Houston and Phoenix centers. The Company opened its new expanded Customer Support and Services center in San Antonio in June 2012, replacing an older facility and creating more than 300 local jobs. In 2013 the Company consolidated its former Atlanta, Savannah, and Carrollton, Georgia call centers into a new Atlanta call center, located in leased space.
The Company performs substantially all line maintenance on its aircraft and provides ground support services at most of the airports it serves. However, the Company has arrangements with certain aircraft maintenance firms for major component inspections and repairs for its airframes and engines, which comprise the majority of the Company’s annual aircraft maintenance costs.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
A complaint alleging violations of federal antitrust laws and seeking certification as a class action was filed against Delta Air Lines, Inc. and AirTran in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta on May 22, 2009. The complaint alleged, among other things, that AirTran attempted to monopolize air travel in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, and conspired with Delta in imposing $15-per-bag fees for the first item of checked luggage in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The initial complaint sought treble damages on behalf of a putative class of persons or entities in the United States who directly paid Delta and/or AirTran such fees on domestic flights beginning December 5, 2008. After the filing of the May 2009 complaint, various other nearly identical complaints also seeking certification as class actions were filed in federal district courts in Atlanta, Georgia; Orlando, Florida; and Las Vegas, Nevada. All of the cases were consolidated before a single federal district court judge in Atlanta. A Consolidated Amended Complaint was filed in the consolidated action on February 1, 2010, which broadened the allegations to add claims that Delta and AirTran conspired to reduce capacity on competitive routes and to raise prices in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In addition to treble damages for the amount of first baggage fees paid to AirTran and to Delta, the Consolidated Amended Complaint seeks injunctive relief against a broad range of alleged anticompetitive activities, as well as attorneys' fees. On August 2, 2010, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims that AirTran and Delta had violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act; the Court let stand the claims of a conspiracy with respect to the imposition of a first bag fee and the airlines' capacity and pricing decisions. On June 30, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a class, which AirTran and Delta have opposed. The parties have submitted briefs on class certification, and AirTran filed a motion to exclude the class certification reports of plaintiffs’ expert. The Court has not yet ruled on the class certification motion or the related motion to exclude plaintiffs’ expert. The parties engaged in extensive discovery, which was extended due to discovery disputes between plaintiffs and Delta, but discovery has now closed. On June 18, 2012, the parties filed a Stipulation and Order that plaintiffs have abandoned their claim that AirTran and Delta conspired to reduce capacity. On August 31, 2012, AirTran and Delta moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs' remaining claims, but discovery disputes between plaintiffs and Delta have
delayed further briefing on summary judgment. On November 15, 2013, the Court entered an order referring the case to mediation, and the mediation is scheduled to begin on February 4, 2014. On December 2, 2013, plaintiffs moved for discovery sanctions against Delta, and the Court has suspended further briefing on the motions for class certification, to exclude plaintiffs’ expert on class certification, and for summary judgment until the sanctions motion is resolved. AirTran denies all allegations of wrongdoing, including those in the Consolidated Amended Complaint, and intends to defend vigorously any and all such allegations.
The Company is from time to time subject to various legal proceedings and claims arising in the ordinary course of business, including, but not limited to, examinations by the Internal Revenue Service.
The Company’s management does not expect that the outcome in any of its currently ongoing legal proceedings or the outcome of any proposed adjustments presented to date by the Internal Revenue Service, individually or collectively, will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, or cash flow.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF THE REGISTRANT
The following information regarding the Company’s executive officers is as of February 1, 2014.
Set forth below is a description of the background of each of the Company’s executive officers.
Gary C. Kelly has served as the Company’s Chairman of the Board since May 2008, as its President since July 2008, and as its Chief Executive Officer since July 2004. Mr. Kelly also served as Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer from June 2001 to July 2004 and Vice President Finance & Chief Financial Officer from 1989 to 2001. Mr. Kelly joined the Company in 1986 as its Controller.
Robert E. Jordan has served as the Company’s Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer since September 2011 and as President of AirTran Airways, Inc. since May 2011. Mr. Jordan also served as Executive Vice President Strategy & Planning from May 2008 to September 2011, Executive Vice President Strategy & Technology from September 2006 to May 2008, Senior Vice President Enterprise Spend Management from August 2004 to September 2006, Vice President Technology from 2002 to 2004, Vice President Purchasing from 2001 to 2002, Controller from 1997 to 2001, Director Revenue Accounting from 1994 to 1997, and Manager Sales Accounting from 1990 to 1994. Mr. Jordan joined the Company in 1988 as a programmer.
Jeff Lamb has served as the Company’s Executive Vice President & Chief People & Administrative Officer since September 2011. Mr. Lamb also served as Senior Vice President Administration & Chief People Officer from October 2007 to September 2011, Vice President People & Leadership Development from February 2006 to October 2007, and as Senior Director People Development from December 2004 until February 2006.
Ron Ricks has served as the Company’s Executive Vice President & Chief Legal & Regulatory Officer since September 2011. Mr. Ricks also served as Corporate Secretary from May 2008 to January 2013, Executive Vice President Corporate Services from May 2008 to September 2011, Executive Vice President Law, Airports, & Public
Affairs from September 2006 to May 2008, and Senior Vice President Law, Airports, & Public Affairs from August 2004 until September 2006. Mr. Ricks joined the Company in 1986 as its Vice President Governmental Affairs.
Michael G. Van de Ven has served as the Company’s Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer since May 2008. Mr. Van de Ven also served as Chief of Operations from September 2006 to May 2008, Executive Vice President Aircraft Operations from November 2005 through August 2006, Senior Vice President Planning from August 2004 to November 2005, Vice President Financial Planning & Analysis from 2001 to 2004, Senior Director Financial Planning & Analysis from 2000 to 2001, and Director Financial Planning & Analysis from 1997 to 2000. Mr. Van de Ven joined the Company in 1993 as its Director Internal Audit.
Tammy Romo has served as the Company’s Senior Vice President Finance & Chief Financial Officer since September 2012. Ms. Romo also served as Senior Vice President of Planning from February 2010 to September 2012, Vice President of Financial Planning from September 2008 to February 2010, Vice President Controller from February 2006 to August 2008, Vice President Treasurer from September 2004 to February 2006, Senior Director of Investor Relations from March 2002 to September 2004, Director of Investor Relations from December 1994 to March 2002, Manager of Investor Relations from September 1994 to December 1994, and Manager of Financial Reporting from September 1991 to September 1994.
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters, and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
The Company’s common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE") and is traded under the symbol “LUV.” The following table shows the high and low prices per share of the Company’s common stock, as reported on the NYSE Composite Tape, and the cash dividends per share declared on the Company’s common stock.
The Company currently intends to continue declaring dividends on a quarterly basis for the foreseeable future; however, the Company’s Board of Directors may elect to alter the timing, amount, and payment of dividends on the basis of operational results, financial condition, cash requirements, future prospects, and other factors deemed relevant by the Board. As of January 30, 2014, there were approximately 13,850 holders of record of the Company’s common stock.
Stock Performance Graph
The following Performance Graph and related information shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or “filed” with the Securities and Exchange Commission, nor shall such information be incorporated by reference into any future filing under the Securities Act of 1933 or Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
The following graph compares the cumulative total shareholder return on the Company’s common stock over the five-year period ended December 31, 2013, with the cumulative total return during such period of the Standard and Poor’s 500 Stock Index and the NYSE ARCA Airline Index. The comparison assumes $100 was invested on December 31, 2008, in the Company’s common stock and in each of the foregoing indices and assumes reinvestment of dividends. The stock performance shown on the graph below represents historical stock performance and is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
COMPARISON OF FIVE YEAR CUMULATIVE TOTAL RETURN AMONG SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO., S&P 500 INDEX, AND NYSE ARCA AIRLINE INDEX
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
The following financial information, for the five years ended December 31, 2013, has been derived from the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements. This information should be viewed in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes thereto included elsewhere herein. This financial information includes the operations of AirTran since the May 2, 2011, acquisition date. Any financial information presented prior to that date includes only the operations of Southwest unless otherwise indicated. The Company provides the operating data below because these statistics are commonly used in the airline industry and, therefore, allow readers to compare the Company’s performance against its results for prior periods, as well as against the performance of the Company’s peers.
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Reconciliation of Reported Amounts to non-GAAP Financial Measures (unaudited) (in millions, except per share and per ASM amounts)
* As a result of prior hedge ineffectiveness and/or contracts marked to market through earnings.
(a) Amounts net of tax.