My career as an accordionist in the 21st Century is certainly a unique one, and an expedition that has many strange challenges the non-musician, or even the non-accordionist musician, cannot understand. I have performed at the White House on many occasions, Won 3 World Championships, performed on 6 continents, given a TED Talk, and travel 75,000 miles a year or more in my quest to revolutionize the much maligned instrument. But one needs to hop on a bird of some kind to get to all these endeavors, and I can indubitably say that Southwest is my choice of bird. I don’t even want to call them a choice, or a company, as I feel like they’re my friend more than anything. Heck if they flew around the world, I would fly them exclusively (get on it guys!).
I remember the first time I flew Southwest as a sophomore in High School on a school band trip. The lead attendant told us in no legalese fashion that he didn’t want to labor through the safety speech, but by law had to. With one huge breath, he went at it like those end of infomercial speakers. Halfway through, took another huge breath, and finished the rest completely panting at the finish line. I truly will never forget it, as the whole plane was in a state of delirium. Every other airline might give you a smile or 2, maybe even a modest chuckle, but every word is still covered in a serious business tone frosting with a side of 3rd grade teacher you were afraid of voice. From this hilarious moment on, that I was obsessed with Southwest’s humility, generosity, and as they say, LUV. And that’s before I understood what 2 bags free meant!
That love of their LUV went to a whole new level as I began to fly quite frequently for my career. I quickly realized that most US airlines did not care to see that my instrument was worth more everyone’s carry-on’s combined, and that it must under No circumstances, be put in the belly of the plane. I feel as if I lost a year of my life in the stress created for every time I had to have an argument with some attendant, first just explaining what an accordion Was. But Southwest, very uniquely, only uses Boeing 737’s no matter how long or short the flight. This meant 2 things; I know I can get my accordion above my head with room to spare every time I fly, and more importantly, that if any Southwest employee asks about my bag being too big, a simple “Oh I fly Southwest all the time” has them immediately know, I’m 100% sure it fits.
What other airline can I say I’ve played on….Multiple times! And not even because I or a passenger asked, but because of the engaging flight attendants who see my odd shaped bag, ask what it is, and instead of going “Ummmm ok, don’t know if that will fit.”, or the slightly better “Oh, interesting.”, they say “Are you going to play for us then!?”. Additionally, if I meet a famous or important person on the plane, I know I can explain what I do, and then say “Well actually, I’ll just play for you now.”, as there’s a 99% chance the staff will have no issue with it, and other musicians might pop their instruments out as well. What airline pokes fun at itself to put LUV as their ticker symbol instead of a more business safe cooperate choice of SWA? What airline allows you to cancel your flight Just before it takes off, with a $0 penalty when you rebook it, no questions asked, and no need to get your doctor friend to write up a fake injury so you don’t have to pay $150, after which you hopefully bought the $24 or so insurance? What other airline has people sing on the plane, or better yet, have their employees Compose and Improvise their Own songs during the flight to be sang for you when you land? I have had both of these scenarios occur countless times, and never had either occur once on any other carrier’s flight. What airline lets you sit where you want, giving you a chance to sit next to someone famous you see, or a pretty girl you didn’t think you had a chance with, and now do?
I’m always the weird seat chooser on the plane, as with a completely empty flight, I still go to the very last row, picking the side I feel will have the better views depending on the flight and flight path. But I feel comfortable being the accordionist, the weird seat chooser, and the guy with the oddly shaped bag on Southwest, because there is no stuffy atmosphere with the airline or the passengers who generally fly them. Yeah they don’t have first class, and who needs it? First class to me is defined by how wonderful of friends you made on the flight, not by how many margarita’s you had before the flight took off and how much sleep you got in your big comfy seat. Being stuck with 2 new people on the plane could absolutely be a life changer. And considering how generous Southwest is with giving out their drink coupons, you’ll be fine with your margarita’s anyway and have an extra for your new friend to make their day. Again, I truly feel that Southwest is my travel buddy, and not a company I book flights with. I have never had an issue with even 1 employee, or 1 logistics problem that couldn’t be fixed. Well outside of the time I got stuck in Vegas for a night….. but “Accordioning” to me, I don’t consider that a problem.
Safe Travels you fun passengers.
Check out my TED Talk on Revolutionizing the Accordion here, and listen to one of my performances here!