Like many of you, Southwest is proud to fly the colors of our great nation, and Flag Day on June 14 is a way for all Americans to reflect on the importance of this symbol of our national values. Each and every day, all 455 of our aircraft take to the sky proudly wearing Old Glory on their fins, but oddly enough, our aircraft didn't always wear the national flag.
No, this isn't a case of a newfound sense of patriotism on our part. Southwest has always been a domestic airline, and unlike airlines that fly internationally (and in spite of the fact that we have always been proud of our country), there was no requirement for us to display the flag on our aircraft. (If you have ever heard the phrase, "flag carrier," this refers to airlines operating foreign routes.) However, after the horrible events of 9/11, many of our Employees asked if we could start carrying the flag on our aircraft, and even though there was no statutory requirement for us to do this, we certainly felt the emotional need to show that we are a Company of Proud Americans. Our Maintenance and Engineering Department investigated how we could add the flag to our aircraft, and they quickly found a way to make this happen.
Many of our Employees and our Customers have asked us why the flag is "backwards on the right side of the aircraft." Whenever a flag is displayed on a stationary flat surface, the flag should be in displayed with the star portion in the upper left. However, on the right side of our airplanes, the star portion is in the upper right, and some have felt that this runs against proper flag etiquette.
Colin Gebhart, who works in our Purchasing Department, provided me with the reason. If the flag was placed on the right side of the aircraft with the stars in the upper left, it would appear as if the flag were flying backward or in retreat because of the direction the aircraft travels. If it were possible to fly a real flag on our aircraft from a flag pole like ships do, an individual looking at the right side of the plane would see the star portion unfurled in the wind with the stars at the upper right. As a result, we follow the recommendations of both the National Flag Foundation
and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the flags on our aircraft "wave" proudly in the same manner as would an actual flag.