《经济学人》:微笑服务和免费花生
日期:2011-06-29 10:53

(单词翻译:单击)

Southwest Airlines
美国西南航空公司

Smiles and free peanuts
微笑服务和免费花生

Jun 2nd 2011 | DALLAS | from the print edition

The secret of Southwest’s success
西南航空的制胜秘诀

ADVERTS from the early years of Southwest Airlines evoke a lost era. “Remember what it was like before Southwest Airlines?” asks a hostess in a 1972 television spot, wobbling across the tarmac in orange micro-shorts and white go-go boots. “You didn’t have hostesses in hot pants. Remember?” The airline had started up a year earlier, with three planes shuttling between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. It later acquired a ticker on the New York Stock Exchange—“LUV”—that fitted its perky image. On early flights, hostesses plied passengers with free cocktails.

西南航空早年的广告让我们回想起一个逝去的时代。在1972年的一期电视广告中,一位身穿橘色迷你短裤和白色齐膝长筒靴的空姐,扭动身姿走在铺有柏油碎石的飞机跑道上,说道“还记得西南航空出现前是个什么样子吗?那时是没有穿着热裤的空姐的,不是吗?”这家航空公司于1971年开始运营,当时拥有三架往返于达拉斯、休斯顿和圣安东尼奥之间的飞机。西南航空随后在纽约证券交易所上市,股票代号LUV,这也恰恰符合其富有朝气的形象。在该公司的早班飞机上,空姐们会殷勤的为乘客们提供免费鸡尾酒。

Forty years later, Southwest has become America’s largest low-cost carrier. That is a striking change. Southwest was for a long time the underdog of American aviation. During the 1980s it was downright frumpy, flying middle managers to Kansas City on bargain fares. But it has now developed a mix of low fares and friendly service that appeals to America’s vast herd of cattle-class commuters. RyanAir and EasyJet, two of Europe’s leading budget airlines, learned many of their tricks from Southwest.

四十年后,西南航空成为美国航空业巨头中票价最低的一家。它的蜕变是显著的。西南航空很长一段时间内都在美国航空业中处于劣势。20世纪80年代西南航空还相当落后,只是经营着一些通过廉价机票吸引中层经理们飞往堪萨斯城的业务,而现在该公司已经推出一系列价廉质优的服务,以吸引美国大批需经常乘坐经济舱往返的乘客。瑞安航空和易捷航空这两家欧洲领先的廉价航空公司也借鉴了西南航空不少的技巧。

Last month it announced first-quarter revenues of $3.1 billion, up 18% from the first quarter of 2010. Profits were a negligible $5m for the quarter, but this was still better than American, Delta or the merged United Continental, all of which lost money. Southwest has increased its capacity, too. In 2009 it began its first services to New York City and Boston and in 2010 it launched a nonstop “nerd bird” between the high-tech hubs of Austin and San Jose. On May 2nd it completed a $1.4 billion acquisition of Atlanta-based AirTran. The move brings Southwest about 700 new flights, putting the total to just above 4,000. Now the airline has access to the bustling hub at Atlanta for the first time, and some short-haul international flights.

上个月西南航空宣布其第一个季度的收益达31亿美元,比起2010年得第一个季度增长了18%。该季度500万美元的利润虽然是微乎其微,但相对于都在亏损的美国、三角洲或是合并组成的联合大陆航空公司来说,情况就好多了。西南航空也增强了它的运载能力。2009年它开始提供飞往纽约和波士顿的航班服务,2010年又开通了往返于奥斯丁和圣何塞高新科技中心的“呆鸟”(往返于高新科技城市的航班,因其大部分旅客都是搞研究的呆子,所以把这类航班称作“呆鸟”)直达航班。在今年5月2号,它进而出资14亿美元完成了对亚特兰大穿越航空公司的收购。这一举措为西南航空新引进了大约700架飞机,使得其飞机总数刚好突破4000架。西南航空现在还首次开通了通往亚特兰大繁华中心地带的航班,和一些短程国际航班。

The soaring cost of jet fuel will probably force all carriers to raise fares. That could hurt Southwest more than most, since low fares arecentral to its strategy. Already, Southwest’s fares are sometimes no better than those of its supposedly more upmarket rivals, particularly when a passenger books a seat at short notice.

不断飞涨的飞机燃油价格可能会迫使所有的航空公司提高票价。西南航空公司可能首当其冲,因为低价位是该公司策略的核心所在。西南航空的票价有时都已不比那些一般认为是针对高端消费群体的对手们便宜,特别是当乘客需要临时买票的时候。

Southwest has never signed up with websites that allow passengers to compare prices from different airlines, such as Orbitz or Kayak. And many of its passengers opt for extra services that cost money, such as early check-in, suggesting that they are willing to pay more for an easier journey.

西南航空从来没有与Orbitz或者Kayak这类网站签约,以便于旅客们通过这些网站对比各家航空公司的票价。西南航空的许多旅客选择需要付费的额外服务,如早一点办理登机手续,这意味着很多人为了有一个更为舒适的旅行,愿意多花点儿钱。

Southwest’s main advantage is that its rivals often treat passengers like cargo. Not only do they squeeze them into seats that make dentists’ chairs seem comfortable, but they do so with an air of ill-concealed resentment. Southwest’s staff, in contrast, affect a madcap jollity reminiscent of British holiday camps in the 1970s. They may no longer wear hot pants, but they sometimes break into song. The scramble for seats is arduous—Southwest typically does not let you reserve a specific one—but at least the stewards smile.

西南航空所占据的主要优势是其竞争对手将旅客们经常视为货物一样。竞争公司们不仅把旅客们塞到看上去都没有牙医的椅子舒服的座位上,而且流露出难掩的反感情绪。相反,西南航空的员工们总是做出一副兴高采烈的样子,使人们不由想起20世纪70年代英国假日野营地的场景。他们可能已不再穿火辣的短裙,但有时会高歌一曲。要想抢个座位是很困难的,要想抢个座位是很困难的,因为通常西南航空是不提供特定的座位预定服务的,但至少乘务员们都是面带微笑为您服务。

Southwest messes up occasionally. Last month it earned angry headlines after asking two heavy passengers to wait for the next plane. (It also asked them to buy an extra seat each.) And in April it cancelled 700 flights after one of its ageing Boeing 737s suffered an ominous crack in its roof. But still, Americans seem to like Southwest more than most. In the current issue of Consumer Reports it was rated America’s favourite airline.

有时西南航空也是会出错的。上个月因为要求两位体态肥胖的旅客推迟到下一趟航班,愤怒的旅客将西南航空投诉上了报纸的大字标题。(西南航空而且要求两位旅客各自另外买票。)今年四月份,由于其中一架运行老龄化的波音737号飞机机顶出现了不祥的一个裂缝,迫使西南航空取消了700次航班。即使如此,西南航空仍然是美国人的最爱。现刊“消费者报告”上显示,西南航空在美国是最受欢迎的航空公司。

It is the small things that make the difference. Southwest still gives out free peanuts, an oddly emotive subject among travellers. It lets passengers switch their flights often, for no extra charge. Most importantly, perhaps, it does not charge for checked-in luggage. Bob Jordan, Southwest’s vice president for strategy, reckons that charging for bags would have given the airline an additional $300m a year. But bag fees are so irritating that Southwest decided to go without.

小不同则有大差距。西南航空仍旧提供免费的花生米,这也是使旅客情绪上产生奇妙变化的东西。西南航空时常允许乘客们调换航班,并提供无偿服务。可能最重要的,西南航空不为托运 行李收费。其战略副总裁鲍勃.乔丹认为,行李收费每年公司会额外盈利3亿美元,但因为行李费用是另旅客们相当困扰的问题,西南航空决定不为其收费。

Executives crow that this has allowed Southwest to poach customers from rivals, which has made up for the forgone fees. Meanwhile, Southwest has no qualms about charging for extras that irk passengers less, such as those early check-ins, and this generates a happy whack of cash.

主管们高调的声称,这个举措使得西南航空从其竞争对手那里吸引了不少旅客资源,这也就弥补了托运行李上所花费的费用。同时,对于额外服务收取额外费用,例如提早登机手续办理,旅客们不怎么在意,西南航空也没什么顾虑,高高兴兴地又为公司赢得了大笔的钞票。

Other airlines could imitate Southwest’s original approach to smiles and peanuts. “Anybody can copy anybody, right?” Mr Jordan concedes. But he argues that the others have grown so addicted to the extra revenue from bag fees that if they change, the hurt will linger like a jumbo grounded by a snowstorm.

其他的航空公司当然是可以模仿西南航空公司最初为乘客们提供微笑服务和免费花生的举措。 乔丹先生也承认:“任何人都可以模仿任何一个人,是吧。”但他同时也表明因为其他的航空公司太过投入于从行李收费中获取额外收益,使得其很难有所改变。如果改变,所受的创伤犹如暴风雪刮后造成飞机停飞的后果一样严重持久。

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重点单词
  • switchn. 开关,转换,鞭子 v. 转换,改变,交换,鞭打
  • luggagen. 行李
  • vastadj. 巨大的,广阔的 n. 浩瀚的太空
  • affectvt. 影响,作用,感动
  • arduousadj. 费力的,辛勤的,险峻的
  • ominousadj. 预兆的,不祥的
  • acquisitionn. 获得,所获之物
  • irkvt. 使厌倦,使苦恼 n. 厌倦,苦恼
  • imitatevt. 仿制,仿造,模仿,仿效
  • bustlingadj. 忙乱的;熙熙攘攘的