Oh, Kim! I can't reveal everything about my dear friend! What on earth would he blog about? As to your earlier comment about allowing the Culture Chicks into your club/tree house for Blog Boys--you can count me in!! I was never allowed into any boys' clubs growing up, so I consider it a huge honor!
Wanna become an honorary Culture Chick??? Or would that be Culture Capon?? Take your pick!!
... View more
Kim, Marc, and Scott--thanks for your comments on my blog! I checked with Boeing, and according to them, the "fly-away" sticker price on a new 737-700 is around $60M. Whew! And, Scott--my Team makes this annual trek with the winners of the drawings from the Messages to the Field. There was also an entry form in LUV LINES over the summer to win various prizes in celebration of our 35th Anniversary--one of them being a trip to Boeing for 35 Employees and their guests.
Since I don't work in Maintenance, I'm not really sure what happens once the aircraft is delivered to SWA, but I'm hoping one our bloggers out there can answer that question for you. And, yes--most of our new airplanes are delivered to Phoenix, but every now and then we get a new delivery to DAL.
... View more
(click on photos to enlarge)
Love that new car smell? Well, just imagine how a brand-spanking new Boeing 737-700 must smell! Seven lucky Employees and their guests from the 2006 Messages to the Field and three of us from Culture Activities visited the Boeing Company in Seattle in August and had the privlege of bringing home one of our newest aircraft N251WN.
We arrived in Seattle on a Tuesday afternoon, and it was a pleasant 74 degrees. Being from Texas, I am used to 100 degree+ days, so the cool temperature was a wonderful relief. There was nothing scheduled on our first afternoon, so our group enjoyed some free time in the beautiful city of Seattle. Most of us chose to head to Pike Place Market, where there are endless vendors selling fresh seafood, flowers, vegetables, and a plethora of unique souvenirs. Pike Place Market is also the home of Pike Place Fish where fish are tossed between the workers in a playful, interactive display, and also the home of Rachel, the bronze piggy bank.
That evening, Boeing treated us to a dinner cruise around beautiful Lake Washington. The food and scenery were fantastic, but the entertainment was the highlight of the evening! I'm sure you've all taken a stab at karaoke, but out of our entire group, we couldn't find any true talent, so we decided to change the name to "scaraoke."
The next day we were taken by bus to the massive Boeing Factory in Renton for a private tour of the facility. Of course many of the folks on this trip are true "aviation junkies," so this was right up their alleys. There's nothing quite like seeing one of our own airplanes coming down the assembly line! I found it fascinating that the fuselage is actually assembled in Wichita, Kansas, and moved by train to the Renton Factory where the wings, tail, engines, and all interior components are fitted. As we "ooohed and aaahed" our way through the tour, our wonderful guide, Jay, competently explained the steps each Team must take to move the aircraft on to the next level. Although no photos are allowed to be taken in the Factory, we were able to get a shot of the fuselage for you since it was positioned outside in the holding area.
We were then whisked off to the Museum of Flight where we were again taken on a guided tour. This museum houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of aerospace artifacts in the western United States. Their collection holds over 150 full-sized airplanes, helicopters, and spacecraft including the first jet Air Force One which was delivered to President Eisenhower in 1959, and the last British Airways Concorde to ever make a commercial flight!
What's a trip to Seattle without a visit to the Observation Deck of the Space Needle? This icon stands 605 feet tall, and is fastened to its foundation (which runs 30 feet below the ground) by 72 bolts which are each 30 feet in length! Over lunch, our winners enjoyed a breathtaking view of the city from the revolving restaurant.
Finally, the big day arrived to take delivery of N251WN! We arrived at the Renton Factory at 8 a.m. ready to board our lovely Canyon Blue bird. As can happen with any scheduled (or in this case, unscheduled!) flight, we encountered a slight delay. As most of you know, being delayed can be a rough experience if you are stuck at an airport for several hours; however, our friends at Boeing made sure that this delay offered more opportunities to explore the city. They treated us to lunch at Chandler's Crabhouse then coordinated two separate tours for the folks in our group. Most of us headed to the Chateau St. Michelle winery , where we had a guided tour; wine tasting; and extra time in the winery shop to buy a few more souvenirs. The rest of the group headed to another Boeing Factory in Everett where the larger aircraft (767, 777, etc.) are assembled.
By the time our plane was ready to leave, we had acquired even more luggage to bring home to our respective cities. A new airplane delivery is a completely different experience than your "typical" flight. Because it was an unscheduled flight, we were able to fly nonstop from Seattle to Dallas which is a special treat for anyone who is a foe of the detested Wright Amendment. The festivities onboard truly gave our lucky winners a flight to remember!
We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Dara, Victor, Brett, Shinko, Monte, Jay, and Jim from Boeing, and to Bill, who works for Southwest Airlines in Everett, WA! You certainly outdid yourselves by making this trip one we will never forget! Special thanks to DAL Chief Pilot Mark Montgomery and DAL Captain Randy Smith for getting us home safely!
If you are a Southwest Employee, and this action-packed agenda sounds FUN to you, be sure to put your name in the hat at the 2007 Messages to the Field--who knows--you may find yourself "Sleepless in Seattle" with us next year!
... View more
On this one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I think back with pride and LUV on the unbelievable Warrior Spirit our Employees displayed when they saw that their Fellow Employees were in need. Catastrophic events such as Katrina truly bring out the best in People, as I witnessed firsthand. Luckily, our Employee Catastrophic Assistance Charity was created for events such as these.
I remember watching CNN for hours wondering what effect Katrina would have on our Employees and on our operation, and I was not alone. I knew the Catastrophic Assistance Charity's help was desperately needed, so I, along with the other Members of the Board, decided we needed to mobilize our Team and set a plan in action.
We decided to set up in the Headquarter Emergency Command Center so we would be near the Ground Operations Team and have access to the Inflight Team as they desperately tried to contact our Employees to make sure they were safe. We had five phone lines manned for 12 hours a day, thanks to our Board Members and volunteers from various departments here at Headquarters. But due to the lack of phone service in the 504 area code, we could not make contact and had to wait until Employees called the hotline that had been set up for them by the Company. As the calls came in, the Ground Operations Team and other Departments would transfer them to us, and we could determine their needs and get money out to them as soon as possible.
We could feel the fear and uncertanity in the voices of those with whom we spoke, and we knew we had to act fast. Luckily, our account is set up at the Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union, so we were able to wire money to the folks who still had access to their banks or who are Credit Union Members. My thanks goes out to the Credit Union for all of their help in getting the tranfers set up for us--their help was invaluable. Since so many of our folks had retreated to other locations, we were able to FedEx Visa gift cards and checks to them.
In typical Southwest fashion, our Employees reacted to this incident with a Servant's Heart by generously donating to our Fund. Through private donations from Employees and through fundraisers held around the system, we received $302,443 in donations for this catastrophic event alone. And, to date, we have given $543,300 to 281 Employees who were affected by Katrina.
The Catastrophic Assistance Charity Board would like to thank the many Employees who devoted long hours to this cause--we simply could not have been successful without your help. I would personally like to thank our Charity Administrator, Chris Shumate, for the many hours she spent away from her home and her two little boys to ensure that our Employees in need were taken care of. She has a heart of gold and truly Lives the Southwest Way in everything she does.
This is just another reason why I love this Company and our LUVing family so much!
... View more
We recently held the 33 rd Southwest Airlines Chili Cookoff (and my 20th consecutive cookoff to attend). This annual event is one that I (along with my roll of Tums antacid) look forward to all year long. The setting is Shadow Creek Ranch located near Ferris, Texas, which is set up to look like a Dude Ranch. Chili Cookers begin arriving as early as 7:00 a.m. to set up their booths and get the chili going on the fire. The rules for cooking are quite simple–all chili must be prepared onsite; no canned chili may be used for a starter; and no beans are allowed! (The latter rule is imposed by our Judges for obvious reasons.) As I began my trek from booth-to-booth to taste the chili prepared by the competition, I double-checked my pocket to make sure those Tums were still in my possession. Luckily for me, they were right there with me to get me through the day!
There is much more to a Chili Cookoff than the physical act of cooking chili. The Teams spend weeks plotting and planning their "theme" for their booth in an effort to take home the coveted Showmanship Award. This year's entries included "Cheney's Shotgun Chili," "Windi's 'We all had a hand in it' Chili;" Hillbilly Chili;" Pirates of the FAREabbean Chili"–just to name a few. As you can see, Southwest Employees are a FUN, creative bunch of folks! Many also perform skits for the Judges, but since this is a family blog, I won't go into any details...
Cookoff is sort of like other companies' annual picnics and Shadow Creek Ranch has much to offer for the whole family. While the parents cook away over a hot stove while sipping on a cold brewsky, the young 'uns can enjoy a hay ride; hang out at the petting zoo ; or visit the face-painters. There are other ways to stay entertained as well. The always-popular BINGO game is held from 10:00 a.m. until noon, and for a $5.00 donation, (with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House) participants get to play for fabulous passes on Southwest and other airlines. Personally, I tried my hand at this game for 19 years in a row without calling out a single, "BINGO!," so instead I chewed through the first ten tablets of my trusted roll of Tums and felt relieved that I don't gamble for a living. Another thing I don't do for a living is sing. Yep–I'm one of those zero talent; can't carry a tune; have no rhythm-type People. The only time I can sing or dance is after consuming a six-pack of beer or when home alone in the shower. But, there is no shortage of talent at Southwest, as those who attended our annual Talent Show will attest. This year's talent included a singing Skycap and Flight Attendant; a strumming Ramp Agent; and several other talented folks from our General Offices. Officers from our Company made up our esteemed panel of judges - awarding first place to our singing Skycap from Dallas.
After the Talent Show, the Chili Judges came on stage to announce the winners as the crowd gathered under the pavillion. Out of 17 entries, first place went to our Marketing Department; second to our Fuel Management Team; and third place went to our Executive Office entry. As the crowd settled down, the music resumed and our Employees and guests danced the afternoon away. As for me, I chewed the last two tabs from my roll of Tums and called it a day.
... View more
I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary with SWA. (Back then they actually hired 12-year olds!) Thinking back to my first day on the job, I remember how excited I was when I walked through the front door of the General Offices. I was about to embark on a new career with a Company with a strong reputation for encouraging its Employees to have FUN on the job, and I'm all about FUN! What I remember most, though is how well I was treated by my peers and how they all wanted to make sure I was comfortable in my new work environment and had the tools and recources to do my job to the best of my ability. I was taken on a tour of the building and was introduced to everyone--even the Officers of the Company. I was also given a list of upcoming events that would initiate me into the unique SPIRIT and Culture of SWA. (Little did I know 20 years ago that I would one day be in charge of organizing and executing most of those events!!) That first day really made an impression on me, and as I drove home through the dense Dallas traffic that evening, I knew I had found a home.
In 2005, we hired 2,766 Employees, bringing our total number of Employees to almost 32,000 in 32 states! I wonder how many of those Employees felt that same excitement that I did on my first day? I wonder how many of them actually attended Company events in their first year of employment? I wonder how many Employees actually took a New Hire by the hand and walked them through their work location and introduced them to their Coworkers? Of course we were a much smaller Company back in 1986--we only had 5,819 Employees by year's end, but the attention paid to me by my new Coworkers was what got me engaged and helped me realize that I actually had a career--not just a job. I wanted to stay; I wanted to attend every Company event; and I looked forward to coming to work each day!
Realizing how those small gestures of kindness can make or break a New Hire's impression of our Company, the Onboarding Department was formed this year. This group's goal is to instantly engage new Employees and to let them know how important they are to our Company. This group recently held "LUV at First Bite" lunches where New Hires could sit down and have lunch with our Officer group. They arrange these lunches around a Company event in hopes that the New Hires will stick around for the event. These were very successful during our Messages to the Field held in February. They also give each New Hire a lanyard to hold their Company i.d. that reads, "The Flight of your Life." To offset the cost of these lanyards, Employees may "sponsor" a New Hire by purchasing a lanyard and writing a message to him or her on a special card. When an Employee is hired, he or she receives the lanyard and the message welcoming him or her to the Company.
At SWA, we feel the investment is certainly worth it! When you think about the costs that go into hiring and training a new Employee, this new endeavor is a win-win for everyone! There are many more initiatives underway to ensure the newest members of our Family feel welcome and appreciated--especially on that very first day!
... View more
About 11 years ago, I started reporting directly to our President, Colleen Barrett. She told me at the time that my job would require me to do some pretty "off the wall" things from time to time. I was so excited about my new position that I eagerly nodded in agreement without giving it another thought. About three weeks after that conversation, I reported to work on a typical morning to find a note taped to my office door. It read, "somehow during the night a small kitten made its way through my doggy door and is loose somewhere in the house. Please go over to my house and see if you can find it. If you do, please go house to house and see if you can find out who it belongs to. Thanks. Colleen." That's when our prior conversation came back to mind--talk about one of those "a-ha" moments! All worked out well--I found the kitten, and found it a home. This was going to be an interesting job, indeed!
Just yesterday I found myself lying facedown on a mannequin in the hallway. I was struggling to pull the go-go boots off of her very stiff and rigid feet. After all, she's been wearing them for at least 15 years now. Next I was meant to remove the 1970's hot pants uniform--this proved to be even more of a challenge! I had to remove both arms and a leg just to get the outfit off. (Oh, I guess you should know why I was doing this! Because our uniforms over the years have been so different from those of other airlines, we have them all displayed on mannequins on the 3rd Floor of our Headquarters Building, and we needed them for our upcoming 35th Anniversary Annual Awards Banquet.) Talk about a mess--I was up to my neck mannequin in body parts and embarrassed to boot when a male Coworker came around the corner!! The look on his face said it all!
As I mentioned in paragraph one--I just never know what crazy assignment is around the corner! I once had the good fortune to help our PR Department mail out thousands of inflatable airplanes to elementary schools around the country. Since I am a FIAM (frequent inflatable airplane mailer), I happened to notice that the boxes this particular shipment came in was larger than normal, so I decided to open one of the boxes. Now, I've been told on occasion that "I must be living right," but that never rang more true than on this day! The boxes were full of life-sized dolls!!! (And I'm not talking about collectable Madame Alexanders either . . .) Need I say more?
I think one of my favorite assignments of all time would have to be when I traveled with Herb to beautiful Burbank California for his "walk on" role on the TV show, Wings (the comedy about a New England commuter airline--not the Howard Hughes movie). I don't know how many of you have ever been on a live TV set, but it's pretty exciting--especially if you like to sit around for hours just waiting for something to happen--anything. Because Herb was an "extra," we were treated to the same food and beverage as the rest of the cast, but we had to wait our "turn" to enjoy it. When we were finally able to approach the catering table, my mouth watered as I took the last crumb of tuna? or was it chicken salad? To this day I have no idea, but I continued to search for anything that appeared to be edible--what about the garnishes that someone had taken off the catering tray and placed on top of the rubbish bin? It would have to do. I guess my point here is that being on that set was about as exciting as watching paint dry--but I had a secret weapon--I had Herb! Even though Wings was written as a comedy, the script didn't even come close to the natural comedic charm of our dear Herbie! He had not only me, but the cast and crew in stitches!! About six hours later, it was finally showtime! As I sat in the live audience awaiting Herb's "walk on role," I thought to myself, "geez, I'm hungry..."
The whole point of this particular post isn't to brag about my heroic efforts with the kitten or the inflatable, uh, err, toys, but to point out what a diverse position I hold. Only at Southwest Airlines would I have the Freedom to have FUN while doing a job that I love! Of course, I have 20-years worth of whacky stories, so stay tuned!!
... View more
I recently spent a couple of hours during a photo shoot with the 16 remaining "Original Employees" of Southwest Airlines. We refer to them as "Originals" because they were hired during our first year of service. This group consists of eight Flight Attendants; two Maintenance Employees; one Operations Agent; One Disptacher; one Flight Operations Manager; one Marketing Officer; our President; and our Chairman. Being around this group is like meeting up with best friends from high school who were separated when they went off to college! They greet each other with huge hugs and smiles as big as Texas. Without missing a beat, they will ask each other about their spouses, children, and in some cases, their grandchildren, calling each by name.
This very special group of Southwest Employees have made it possible for the other 32,000 of us to have job security, profitsharing, and a 401(k) plan with Company match. It wasn't always easy for this group--Southwest was a struggling airline when they chose to join our cause. We didn't have money to spend on advertising, so our Flight Attendants would stand on street corners in their hotpants and hand out flight schedules. This actually ended up being a brilliant marketing ploy. The future of Southwest was so uncertain that first year that we actually ended up selling one of four airplanes just to survive. That was the beginning of the famous quick turns of our planes. This group has helped our airline grow from flying the Texas triangle (between Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston) to 3,128 daily departures today. As we celebrate our 35th Anniversary this year, our Original Employees will be featured on our website, southwest.com, in June. Make sure and check them out--especially the Flight Attendants--who are as gorgeous today as they were 35 years ago.
... View more