This weekend, Southwest Airlines opens our 70th and 71st cities in Greenville/Spartanburg and Charleston. I think that’s amazing because, for our first seven years, we were prohibited from flying beyond the borders of Texas. We were founded as a Texas intrastate airline to avoid onerous federal regulations on pricing and routes. PSA and Air California enjoyed a similar distinction in California. However, upon passage of the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, we were given the “Freedom to Move about the Country,” as long as it wasn’t from Dallas Love Field. Back on January 25, 1979, we began service from Houston Hobby to New Orleans, which became our 12th (for a short time, at least) city and the first Southwest city outside of Texas. (Beaumont/Port Arthur was our 11th city, but it closed in the fall of 1979.)
Our first step outside of Texas was a tiny one. New Orleans opened with one initial daily flight from Houston Hobby (Flight #85) with a second flight added on February 12. To celebrate the inaugural flight, a New Orleans theme was used—a Dixieland band. The January-March 1979 issue of our Employee magazine, LUVLines identified the band as the Bayou City Dixies led by Tommy Lauer. (Above) They played at the departure gate in Houston from 12:00 noon until the 12:50 pm departure. The Flight Attendants wore special uniforms (on the left) with red striped vests and straw boater hats. (Incidentally, this issue of LUVLines contains the first use of "Flight Attendant" instead of "Hostess" that I have noticed.)
Want some inflight entertainment? How about a Dixieland trio? The band entertained Customers all the way to New Orleans, and here we see Southwest’s President Howard Putnam in the mid-cabin lounge area of the flight listening to the band. The drinks on the Flight Attendant’s tray in the foreground and in Howard’s hand were probably a special cocktail concocted for the inaugural. They were called “Love Hurricanes” and featured passion fruit juice and rum. Up front, Captain Doug Cowan and First Office Chris Plaisance (both New Orleans natives) might have been able to hear part of the concert.
The photo above wasn’t in the article, but because Howard is wearing the exact same suit and tie, I am guessing the photo depicts part of the festivities. Another guess is that this was at Houston because we probably had a typical 10-minute turn scheduled in New Orleans that wouldn't have allowed for Howard to deplane and have a leisurely talk. Looks like barbeque was on the menu. At least with Southwest, food is as much a part of opening a new station as it is a church social. The opening of New Orleans signalled Southwest's expansion beyond the borders of Texas, and by the end of 1982, we had opened an additional eight cities that would take our route map to the shores of the Pacific at Los Angeles and San Diego.