Behind the scenes at Southwest Airlines (pictures)
One of the world's most profitable airlines, Southwest centralized its training operations in Dallas, and added a giant new network operations center. CNET Road Trip 2014 buckled up and checked it out.
DALLAS -- If you've ever flown, you've doubtless sat through the list of emergency procedures at the beginning of the flight. But did you listen?
Southwest Airlines flight attendants don't have the luxury of tuning out when they're training for their jobs, especially not when learning how to handle an onboard emergency like a fire.
At its Dallas headquarters, Southwest runs this cabin trainer, known as the Poolie, which lets the flight crew practice what to do in a crisis.
As part of Road Trip 2014, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman stopped in on the airline's headquarters and, among other things, got treated to the emergency-training experience.
Part of the emergency exercise for those training in the Poolie is to guide "passengers" down the slide that inflates in the case of a crisis. Here, we see the trainer with the slide extended after a demonstration. The exit door had been open during the demo.
Southwest maintains nine flight simulators at its Dallas headquarters. All first officers and captains must train in them once a year. The giant simulators are meant to pitch and roll just as a plane would, depending on the scenario. The nine simulators are almost always all in use.
While most of the flight simulators use hydraulics to move, the airline's two newest are all-electric. All nine of the trainers simulate Boeing 737s, although two of them (not pictured here) represent the oldest 737s in the airline's fleet.
A look out the "window" of the flight simulator cockpit at the virtual runway. The simulator can test any number of scenarios, including taking off with a burning engine, landing in low visibility, approaching big airports, or just about anything else.
One of Southwest's big new initiatives is this giant center, the NOC, or network operations center. Here, representatives from most of the airline's departments work in small teams to dispatch and monitor each and every one of its daily flights. Here, we see supervisors monitoring flights on the "bridge," the raised area in the middle of the center where senior members of the teams sit and work.
A dispatcher's computer screen shows that the intended route for a Baltimore to Salt Lake City flight would take it through a giant set of thunderstorms. His challenge is to find an efficient route around the 55,000-foot-tall thunderheads.
Southwest recently opened a giant new facility across the street from its main headquarters. Known as TOPS, or Training and Operations, the building is home to the airline's entire training program, which used to be distributed around the country. This large scale-model Boeing 737 hangs in the TOPS lobby.
Recently, Southwest opened what it calls its "Listening Center." Designed to help its communications department monitor social-media channels throughout the day, the idea is that it can react to many types of customer complaints or questions, or to unfolding events much faster than using traditional methods.
One way it does so is by looking to see what the most common phrases being used in conjunction with the airline's name are at any time. The result is this word cloud.