Those seven words, kindly provided by the flight attendant, can either make or break a flight. Are we about to experience copious amounts of turbulence? Is someone famous on board? Is the lavatory door jammed? Will we be receiving an unlimited supply of delicious honey roasted peanuts?
Then came the follow-up, "We have Pete the penguin from SeaWorld on board this Southwest flight, and we would like to take him out so he can stretch his legs and walk down the aisle."
The following 15 minutes of Southwest Airlines Flight 583 from San Francisco to San Diego confirmed my love for Southwest Airlines, SeaWorld, and random acts of animals walking on airplanes. As Pete waddled toward the rear of the aircraft, passing giddy children and business people alike, a SeaWorld representative provided facts and information regarding penguins over the flight PA system. Pete confidently strutted his way down the aisle while periodically poking his head under seats.
“That's not something you see everyday!" understated the passenger next to me.
"Haha, I thought penguins couldn't fly?!” I heard from the back of the aircraft.
As Pete made his first pass, I decided to begin recording him by placing my laptop on the ground, where I could record a "bird's eye view," with the hopes of later sharing this experience with my friends and family. After the curious penguin made his two trips up and down the aisle, he was placed back into his carrier, leaving passengers in a state of "shock and awwwwe." Pete's tuxedo tour left a lingering buzz the remainder of the flight--it truly was our lucky day.
I later decided to upload the video onto YouTube. Little did I know, “Penguins on a Plane” had a one-way ticket to viral-town. Within two weeks, Pete became the most popular penguin in the press, waddling his way onto major television networks and acquiring over half a million YouTube views.
Thanks, Southwest and SeaWorld, for letting Pete the Penguin march his way into everyone’s hearts!