I’m the Safety Intern in the Flight Operations Department at Southwest Airlines. Recently, I experienced firsthand what “Southwest Family” means. I was invited to work on a Crew appreciation event in Sacramento, California. The mission of the event was to appreciate our Crews and recognize their diligence. With my suitcase packed and ticket in hand, I was headed on my very first business trip.
As the clock struck 4:30 p.m., I was setting up the table with name tags, sign-in sheets, and party favors in anticipation of our guests. Dinner and drinks were provided, as well as an opportunity to meet with the Chief Pilots and the Senior Leadership within Flight Operations. As with any Southwest event, everyone came with energy and smiles.
I was pleasantly surprised that the title “Intern” on my name tag attracted people to strike up conversations with me. One conversation I had was with Louis Freeman, the first African American Chief Pilot of any major airline. By his humble and gracious spirit, you would assume he was the loving uncle that everyone has always wanted. Before I knew his name, I would have never guessed he was a celebrity aviator and pioneer in the industry.
The family spirit of the Southwest Culture lives not only in Headquarters but in all its Employees. As if we were gathered around the Thanksgiving table, I swapped stories with Pilots and Flight Attendants. Before we knew it, it was 1 a.m. and it was time to pack everything up. With the night coming to a close, I knew what a home away from home felt like—it’s people who welcome you with open arms, treat you like family, and want to see you succeed. And those are the kinds of people I want to surround myself with for eight hours a day, five days a week. Although I’ve been here for only a few months, I’ve made relationships similar to those of close cousins. Just like a family, you have to put work in, but the resulting love and affection are wonderfully heartwarming.