Those of us old enough to remember the good old days of flying can't believe that today's new leader in customer service and experience is (drumroll) Southwest Airlines!

If you read my recent post about Southwest, you may have seen the comments from others who had similar positive experiences with SWA. Isn't it interesting that an airline mostly known for cheap fares is now known for customer service?

Flying is no longer luxurious. Flight attendants are all too often surly. Flights are all too often delayed and cancelled. If you miss a connection, you will likely have great difficulty getting another any time soon.

Being in an airline's Frequent Prisoner program doesn't help much anymore, either. I've now got over FIVE million miles on American Airlines. I recently purchased an "Instant Upgrade" ticket, which costs a LOT more than their lowest fare. When I missed my connection in Chicago, the supposed "Elite Desk" agent said I would get a middle coach seat on the next available flight. She went on to tell me I couldn't even be put on the upgrade standby list, despite my ticket, my inconvenience, and my status. When pressed for an explanation, all she could do was repeat, "Well, you didn't REALLY buy a higher level ticket," over and over.

Yesterday's success couldn't matter less. The big airlines used the own the skies and heavy travelers, like me, appreciated the perks and bonuses. Something like 20 years ago, American flew a group of us to the British Isles for a week of golf. First class all the way. All I had to buy was my beer. Now American charges for pillows. Southwest Airlines rules the skies now and I remember when Herb Kelleher said their main competition was Greyhound Bus. I've GOT to believe Greyhound is better than most airlines now.

This is an important lesson for all of us. First, if you're #1, don't get cocky. Be paranoid. Keep fighting as if tomorrow depends on it. (It does.)

If you're not #1, be like Southwest. Take care of your customers. Do the right thing. Keep innovating. And when #1 stumbles, as they so often do, you'll be there to take their place.

And don't charge me for a pillow.