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A Change in the Weather

Adventurer B

Video: Culture Volunteers Pass Out Goodies and Clean Planes Between Flights

On Tuesday, March 18th, our Corporate Culture Committee had an event in Houston. It was a Hokey Day, which means groups of us met arriving planes, gave the Crews a few snacks and lots of appreciation, and cleaned the planes for them so the Flight Attendants could get just a little rest. Well ... that's the way the day started, at least.

If you remember, that Tuesday was also the day we had more than six inches of rain accompanied by severe thunderstorms here in Dallas. Love Field was soon closed, and with Houston Hobby's flights to DAL about every thirty minutes during most of the day, it didn't take long for the HOU terminal to be filled with temporarily stranded Customers who were frustrated and in need of information about their options.

At one point, there were literally hundreds of Customers waiting at Gate 40, which had been designated as the ”Information Center” for all delayed and canceled flights. Our Gate Agents had information to give, but the PA system just wasn't loud enough with hundreds of people milling around in and between the gates. That's when our first hero emerged, and he wasn't even a Southwest Employee.

An entertaining young man with a really loud voice (who just happened to be an HPD Officer) stood up on the gate counter and began to shout the information about how we planned to unravel the backup of people and planes when the weather in Dallas cleared. It was a good plan, but it was going to take hours. Southwest was up front with people about that, and told everyone who could to go home and reschedule their flights for the next day. Many did.

I wish I had pictures or video to show you, but the last thing our Customers needed at that point was an old bald guy running around sticking a camera in their faces!

Gradually, most people understood that Southwest was going to do its best to get them to their destinations, but there were still many people with special problems, and Camille Keith, one of our Culture Volunteers and one of Southwest's Original Employees waded in. She worked with people one-on-one, but others, who maybe had similar questions and concerns, gathered 'round. I am never prouder of being part of Southwest than when I see how our People respond under pressure.

One of the specific problems was a Customer who had put vital medicine in her checked bag. I guess she hadn't watched our Travel Tips Video, which tells people to always keeps their medicines in their carryon bags, but no matter. Another of our Culture Volunteers, Flight Attendant Jan Fine, went down to the baggage area and dug through the bags 'til she found it.

The rest of us began working up and down the terminal giving words of encouragement and goodie bags to our Gate Agents.

Several hours later, things were beginning to wind down. Flights were getting out, and the crowds were beginning to thin. All the folks at HOU and back in Dispatch worked miracles.

I got on a flight by signing up to sit in the Fourth Jump Seat (an unused Flight Attendant seat). That was when I realized how far Southwest was going, literally, to get Customers to their destinations. Our flight from HOU to DAL, which usually takes about 40 minutes in the air, took almost two and a half hours. Our routing took us up over Texarkana, then near Oklahoma City, and finally southeast down to Dallas to avoid the continuing storms.

What other airline would expend three times the time and fuel to ”do the right thing” these days? But that's what we did!