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Southwest Airlines Community

Flashback Fridays: Off to the Desert

Aviator C

Thirty years ago, Southwest Airlines followed Horace Greely’s advice of “Go west, young man,” when we opened San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas on January 31, 1982.  I had hoped to include some early photos from San Diego this week, but the ones I thought I had found were for Phoenix.  I will keep looking, but in the meantime, we have some interesting photos from our early days in the desert.


Let’s start in Vegas Baby!  The station opened with 29 Employees and 29 flights serving nine cities.  The photo above shows the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our first flight.  On the left is Ticket Agent Donna Grear, then Thomas Hoff, who was our Vice President Facilities and Properties.  Next to him is Manuel Cortez, Chairman of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, then Director of Aviation John Solomon, Commissioner Hank Pettiti, and Station Manager Bruce Bennett.  The LUVLines caption didn’t identify the other people.  Today of course, Las Vegas is one of our largest operations.


And, so is Phoenix.  We began at the original terminal (above and at top).  By the time we began in Phoenix, Terminal Two and Terminal Three had opened, so the original terminal was called Terminal One.  Noted Phoenix aviation photographer Bob Shane shot these photos for us over a Thanksgiving Holiday in the late 1980s.  He rented a helicopter and had all the out-of-service aircraft for the holiday parked in between the aircraft on the gates.  In both pictures, you can see the original building and the concourse with jetbridges that Southwest had built.  There are a total of 15 Southwest aircraft at the gates.  To put that in perspective, at yearend 1987, we had only 74 aircraft and 85 at the end of 1988.


Southwest was also busy on the inside of Terminal One.  These negatives had been filed under San Diego, but thanks to some detective work by our folks in San Diego and Ontario, we were able to narrow it down to Phoenix, where longtime Phoenix Station Administrator Bert Morris fills in the details.  The ticket counter was moved and enlarged in 1987 or 1988, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the new space.  Jim Wimberly who was at the time our Vice President of Ground Operations acts as the emcee.


Our Customer Service Agents were ready for their close-ups.  Bert identifies these Employees as (from left to right) Marville Garcia, Ellen MacMillan, Isabel Dukes, and Kay Carpenter.


Above is a wider view of the counter, and you will notice that we are still using cash registers to dispense tickets.  Our “Point of Sale” (POS) ticketing system would send the cash registers to the showers, but they didn’t come online for all of our stations until 1990.


The celebration wasn’t complete without a band, and the guy on keyboards looks a little bit like Paul McCartney.  Our facilities in Phoenix have come a long way since these photos were made, but you will still see smiling faces.

Explorer C
Fantastic. Thank you!
Explorer C
Thanks for the memories! You've always been my favorite airlines, and I loved you guys even more when you donated for many years to a golf tournament fundraiser I did for The Western Michigan Ronald McDonald House. Everyone bid high for the 2 roundtrip airline tickets you donated for our auction. Over 16 years our tournament raised over $162,000 for the Western MI Ronald McDonald House, and even though I always sent you a thank you after the tournaments, I am thanking you again! Sincerely, Sue
Explorer C
WOW!! Las Vegas opened with 29 flights and 29 employees, so those people must have been busy, to say the least.
Explorer C
WOW! What great memories! Remembering T1 in PHX and getting to grow with the facility and operation was a truly remarkable experience. Seeing these photos of former co-workers made my day...week...month! Thanks so much Bryan!