Southwest Customer Amber Coleman-Mortley shares how work travel can be hassle-free with the right attitude and the right airline.
A working mom’s life can easily become a blur of familial obligations and work deadlines. I found myself caught in this redundant and turbulent whirlwind as the date for the biggest conference of the work year quickly crept up on my calendar. Mentally frazzled, but very excited, I packed my belongings for a trip to New Orleans excited for the things I loved most about my job. I can’t say I remember what I packed, when I packed, or even how I got to the airport, but I do remember how wonderful my experience was with Southwest Airlines. It was the calm after the storm that helped me mentally prepare to rock my work trip.
In an era when the TSA, long lines, flight delays, and cancellations make travelling unappealing to most, somehow Southwest Airlines put the journey before the destination. As Customers, not much thought is invested in our flight as an “experience” unless we are thinking retrospectively about something bad. Many people, me included, often just want to grab their bags and find the fastest mode of transportation away from the airport. It puts you in a rushed and sour mood and is not a pleasant experience. However, this time was different for me, and here is why:
I arrived at Reagan National Airport (DCA) early in the morning expecting some problem or disaster, but from the moment I walked up to the Southwest Airlines Self-Service Kiosk, I felt a Zen-like feeling rush over me. Checking-in and printing my boarding pass was easy, and the Southwest Employees were polite and friendly as they helped Customers next to me. Pleasantries have a lasting effect, especially in the morning.
The Boarding Process
As I waited to board the plane, I felt like I was in a cafe because the Southwest terminal at DCA is beautiful. In the past, I have lined up for flights with other airlines, and it is usually an experience filled with anxiety, but this wasn’t the case with Southwest. Southwest doesn’t have assigned seating, but instead, each Customer is provided a boarding group (A, B, or C) and position (1-60). The process leaves the queuing up to the benevolent side of humanity. Passengers were nice to each other in line, allowing people ahead of them to board the plane.
Once onboard, my coworker and I found seats together and prepared ourselves for take off. Everything was going well until I remembered that I forgot to pack activities for the flight. No music, no books, no games. It was emotionally jarring at first, and I watched my coworker listening to her music with a bit of jealousy. “Okay, okay, I can’t stare at her the whole flight. Oh wow, they have WiFi. Look out the window, these clouds are amazing! Look there are magazines!” I flipped through the beautiful inflight magazine, and even attempted the dollar bow tie exercise, but with much failure.
The conference was a blur of successes for our company and each night my bed and shower were a welcomed reward for a job well done. Work trips are quite infrequent for me, but I try to use each trip as an opportunity to think about what I'm thankful for: my family, children, health, and job. I returned home to the confirmation that I was not dreaming about the peace and tranquility that Southwest brought to me during my trip to New Orleans. Walking up to my doorstep was an awesome surprise from Southwest: the best blanket EVER!
Most of us think about our flight as the vehicle to get us to our important meetings or somewhere really cool. When traveling for work, I encourage you to position yourself to miss your kids. Fly on an airline that relaxes you. Sleep in a hotel that invites you, and reserve the in between moments for reflective quiet. That way, when you return home, you’re refreshed and ready to hear about the millions of things you missed while you were away. You’ll thoroughly enjoy those stories with a rejuvenated and benevolent spirit.