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Southwest Hawaii Culture Under Attack | No Christmas LUV

You’ll relate to this post if you’ve had to work over Christmas and Hanukkah. And not, here’s something to be grateful for. We’ve learned that Southwest has required perhaps the most dreaded word at that company, “Mando,” for its employees who work outdoors in frigid temperatures: either show up or be fired. Mando is Southwest’s expression for “mandatory overtime.”

There’s no doubt that Southwest is a unique beast from its boarding system, one-class economy, and everything from snacks to flight attendants and more. But something we’ve long known about personally regarding Southwest Hawaii flights came to light today somewhat far from here. But it brought it home to Southwest Hawaii flights, and we’ll share what we learned and what we know, and it comes down to their culture, their employees, and how they get treated.

Introduction | When Southwest Hawaii flights arrived.

When Southwest first came to Hawaii, Beat of Hawaii editors attended the celebration of their inaugural flight. It was a very festive time, and it was also fascinating for us to watch as outsiders. Southwest has a cult-like feel, and we say that without judgment. It has worked great for them, and they have an incredibly loyal following of customers and of employees who have spent their entire careers working their way up the ladder at Southwest. Even their current CEO, Bob Jordan, a 34-year veteran of the company, came up their ranks from a programmer through fifteen different positions before becoming the CEO. But we also saw what we’d best describe as a culture where you’re either “with us or against us.”

Southwest Hawaii employees’ dreaded word: “Mando.”

We know that their Hawaii employees have sometimes been required to work double the regular hours based on Mando or mandatory overtime. Employees don’t like it. They’re known to avoid seeing or talking with supervisors not to get stuck working up to an extra 40 hours a week (a Southwest employee in Hawaii confirmed this). Staff also won’t answer their phones when they are off work because that way, they can’t get mandated to perform overtime. We were told that this was obligatory overtime and that if you refused it, you could be fired. We didn’t think that much about that threat until today.

Southwest “State of operational emergency.”

One aviation person we follow (among hundreds) is Twitter guy @xJonNYC and he was the one who brought this to our attention. The issue in Denver, largely for weather reasons, is the same one that Southwest has faced since they arrived in Hawaii, albeit for entirely different reasons.

In Denver, @JonNYC shared details of the Mando operation in effect, which started on 12/21 and continues until further notice.

The memo sent to staff said that they were experiencing “an unusually high number of absences.” The airline said it has entered this emergency Mando mode due to its obligation to fellow staff and customers.

Southwest staff who claim to be sick are now required to provide a doctor’s note to return to work, and telemedicine appointments won’t work. You need to have seen a doctor in person. Good luck with that, especially during the holidays.

More importantly, Southwest said that failure to comply would be deemed insubordination, leading to termination. In addition, no personal absence is allowed, and any failure to work scheduled shifts will also get you fired.  Failure to work overtime means you are toast too.

Southwest operations are dismal at the moment, albeit somewhat better in Hawaii.

Yesterday, 32% of Southwest flights overall were canceled, with another 52% delayed. Add those together, and there wasn’t much that was working normally. Southwest Hawaii flights operated slightly more normally, but still, they had the second greatest percentage of delayed flights, which impacted their operations as follows: 47% delayed at Kona, 47% delayed at Honolulu, 47% delayed at Maui, 50% delayed at Kauai, and 50% delayed at Hilo.

It’s how Southwest handles things that beg scrutiny.

To us, and in a culture appropriate for Hawaii, threats aren’t going to work very well. Editor Rob was once a retail manager in Hawaii for a national chain. He can speak from experience of trying to get employees to work their scheduled hours and calling those on their days off to come in. Mando was not, however, something he would or could require.

It also seems that Southwest wants people to come to work sick, which strikes us as odd these days. Lastly, Southwest’s motto is LUV, and we just don’t see it in this memo coming at the holidays to their staff (below). Moreover, it just simply backfired in terms of public relations.


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58 thoughts on “Southwest Hawaii Culture Under Attack | No Christmas LUV”

  1. Making threats of termination rarely works. As I understand it the ramp workers in Denver, were working in sub-freezing temperatures and were working a bit slower than usual due to the weather. They were being pressured to work faster (if you have ever worked in subfreezing temps, working faster is not possible). Apparently it was in the neighborhood of 120 ramp agents in Denver who said, take this job and shove it!

    1. Pressuring ramp workers to work faster is a recipe for disaster. It can lead to an accident. The 737 MAX debacle was a classic example of a great company prioritizing investor profits over operations. It appears SWA may be making a similar mistake.


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