As mentioned in previous Flashback Fridays, Southwest utilized a lot of different promotional tie-ins in our earliest days. We were desperate to get publicity but had a very limited budget, so we were always looking for promotional partners to “get the word out.” Sometimes, as we saw last week, it involved local television stations, but more often it involved local businesses in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and later, in other Texas cities.
The Bonanza restaurant chain had stores in all three of our original cities. (Like all the ex-Stuckeys lining the Interstates, you can always tell an ex-Bonanza restaurant by its unique shape.) To celebrate our Millionth Passenger in 1973, we presented each roundtrip Customer with a “Passport to Paradise” that was a $5.00 discount certificate for food, drink, or lodging at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas. Ticket Agent Debbie Denman gives Bonanza's Julian Dodd his Passport.
The photo above may be one of our earliest joint promotions. Judging by the uniforms, the original titling on the tail, and because the ladies are wearing jackets, I am guessing this is late 1971 at Houston Hobby. Besides their jackets, the Flight Attendants (Hostesses back then) are wearing lobster bibs from Angelo’s Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant located on South Main in Houston.
My fellow avgeeks will find the airplane in the background to be a tastier “dish” than a lobster dinner. Although it is small, if you look behind the wing between the main landing gear and the engine, you can see the triple tails of a Lockheed Constellation.
At about the same date of the previous photo, the Mr. Bean lookalike above was promoting a new service we were offering on our 11:30 a.m. departures between Dallas and Houston. These “cheese and wine” flights offered complimentary wine and cheese to our lunchtime Customers. Flight Attendants Judy Simpkins and Jackie York serve our happy businessman. Note the open overhead shelf and the large passenger service units. It’s interesting to note this early instance of serving something other than peanuts and other prepackaged items.
In 1975, our promotions got a little more substantial as we teamed up with RC Cola to give Dallas Customers the chance to win a new 1975 AMC Pacer that was” air conditioned, and ready to go.” The six second place winners won a weekend for two at the Country Club Inns in the “beautiful” Rio Grande Valley, including travel to Harlingen on Southwest, the use of an AMC car for the stay, and $100.00 of “fun money.” Third prize was one “kid-sized” Pacer go-kart.
The Formula Atlantic car above is considerably faster than either a Pacer or Pacer go-kart. Southwest Ramp Agent Sandy Shepard shows off his Lola racecar in the parking lot behind our old Headquarters building on Regal Row in late 1975 or early 1976. Sandy was an experienced and well-known driver on various “formula car” circuits. He is joined by Flight Attendants Teddi Melton (left) and Tina Sicard. Note the vintage cars all around the parking lot and that besides the Southwest name, his car appears to wear Southwest colors.
And finally, we close with this collection of 1977 SWA Swag. These items leave no doubt about the identity of the “Love Airline.” In the pouch of the Love Bag are a July 18, 1977 flight schedule and a brochure on Love Field. The “Love Lites” are Southwest-branded match books, and I’m not sure what is in the container on the lower left. The coffee cup utilized our original titling, and the swizzle sticks will look familiar to any current Customer.
I think these photos give a good glimpse at Southwest making more out of less. As we would grow and prosper, many more companies would look for the opportunity to link their brands with ours. Still, there is a lot of charm in a fledgling (and struggling) airline teaming up with a local lobster restaurant.