Jan 30, 2023 - News

Austin ad agency figures to aid Southwest Airlines

A ticketing agent at Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines is aiming to bounce back from the December meltdown. Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

An old and trusted Austin partner will likely play a key role in Southwest Airlines' efforts to rehabilitate its reputation after recent operational failures that affected roughly 1 million holiday travelers.

The big picture: GSD&M, the powerhouse Austin ad agency that has told the airline's story for decades, figures to be at the heart of Southwest's long-term reclamation project.

  • The agency conceived Southwest's "You are now free to move about the country" tagline.

Between the lines: GSD&M co-founder and chairman Roy Spence was a long-time friend of the late Southwest co-founder Herb Kelleher — and the airline's success tracked with the ad agency's takeoff.

What they're saying: "We’re continuing our agency partnership with GSD&M and look forward to working with them to support our mission — to connect people to what's important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel," Laura Swift, a spokesperson for the airline, tells Axios.

  • "Southwest has an amazing history of always having people's backs when they fly," Jay Russell, chief creative officer at GSD&M, said in October, as the airline launched its "Go With Heart" campaign, crafted by the Austin agency, which is located on West Sixth Street, across from Whole Foods. (GSD&M did not respond to a request for comment about the particulars of their partnership moving forward.)

Flashback: More than 800 Southwest flights scheduled to arrive or depart from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were canceled between Dec. 22 and 29, per data obtained by Axios.

  • About 25% of all flights into and out of the Austin airport were canceled during that period — but 82% of those cancellations were Southwest flights.

The bottom line: Southwest still ranks among the top three airlines — behind Delta and Alaska, but ahead of United and American — according to The Wall Street Journal's latest airline scorecard.


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