If you’ve flown around the system over the past few days, you may have noticed some Customers adorned with festive colorful beads and hats, sharing stories of an experience like no other. Some may have even had such a good time that their recollection of events remains rather fuzzy.
But there is a good chance they just came from our first destination outside of the Lone Star State—New Orleans.
January 25th of this year marked the 35th anniversary of Southwest opening our station at the Moisant (now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International) Airport, officially making our airline an interstate carrier for the first time. The name came from pilot John B. Moisant, who passed away in a 1910 plane crash at the site, and the “SY” completing the airport’s MSY identifier was in recognition of the Stock Yard also in the area. Our 11th destination commenced operations with a small schedule of one daily flight to Houston, but that didn’t mean we weren’t going to make a big deal out of it.
On the first flight, Customers (including then Southwest CEO and President Howard Putnam) were served “LUV Hurricanes” to drink while being serenaded by Tommy Lauer and his Bayou Cities Dixies three-piece jazz band. You might even consider this our very first Live at 35. Flight Attendants and Customer Service Agents on the ground also wore red-striped vests along with Bourbon Street straw hats. To commemorate the occasion, Customers were also presented with their own souvenir hurricane glass and French cognac.
Another opportunity that Employees used to recognize the Big Easy Culture was in 1996 during our 25th anniversary. Ten hours were spent building a seven-by-four foot Mardi Gras float featuring mannequins (on loan from the local Dillard’s department store) wearing original SWA “Fun Wear” uniforms, offering coveted parade beads, and Christmas lights. There was also a tractor to pull the float through the area near Gate 5, featuring none other than our chief party animal himself—Herb—as the driver. In addition to the beads, the mannequins also displayed preserved tri-fold flight schedules from the station’s 1979 opening and several renditions of various peanut packets served on our flights over the years. A skyline complete with clouds and our commemorative silver anniversary logo also added to the scene.
Since the early days of the lone daily flight to Hobby, New Orleans schedule has now grown to include over 50 daily departures to 20 destinations. A proposed new 43-gate terminal was announced by Mayor Mitch Landrieu earlier this year, with the goal of opening in time for the City of New Orleans 300th anniversary in 2018. Who knows, maybe even a Boudreau One will be in the works one day!