As a Representative on the Social Care Team here at Southwest Airlines, my amazing Team and I have the opportunity to connect with our Customers through our social media channels via Twitter and Facebook. As you can imagine, we come across many unique stories and experiences on a day to day basis, and will do everything we can to make our Customers’ travel experience as friendly and efficient as possible.
On March 7, 2016, I saw a post on Facebook from Ashley Sines asking if we could arrange for her son Zach to take a picture with the Pilots when he boards his flight to Orlando for his Make-A-Wish trip to Disney. While communicating with her, I learned that Zach is battling the effects of Moebius syndrome, along with Van Maldergem syndrome type 2, overall affecting his Epilepsy. It’s safe to say that Zach and his family embody the Warrior Spirit that we all strive for here at Southwest.
On Zach’s outbound trip, Ronnie Todd, who is Southwest's Station Leader in Raleigh, made sure Zach’s request was not only met, but well exceeded. Ashley kept us in the loop via Facebook during his whole journey.
I was awarded the special opportunity to travel to Orlando to meet Zach and his family before his return flight back to North Carolina. “Coming home was even more amazing,” Ashley said. “We got to meet Kayla, who arranged for Zach to meet the Pilots both ways, and Mr. John who greeted us off the plane the day we flew down, and made going home awesome.”
During the time that I got to know Ashley and Zach, I knew that I could expect to meet a truly kind and caring family. We at Southwest Airlines strive to Live the Southwest Way by showing our Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and having a Fun-LUVing Attitude. Ashley, Zach and Linda were the true epitome of these characteristics, and I’m still inspired by their kindness to this day. I can’t tell you how full my heart was when I saw Zach holding the plush airplane I had sent him back in March. I was quickly reminded of the extraordinary power each of us have to make an impact and everlasting friendship with all of our Passengers, and I will continue to hold my friendship with Zach and his family close to my heart.
Once we got through security, Zach was welcomed as part of the family and greeted with all of his favorites. Southwest's Station Service Coordinator Lauren Berry made vanilla cupcakes (Zach’s favorite) with chocolate airplanes that were a huge hit with this little Warrior. Customer Service Manager Boom Elg and Customer Service Agent John Roberts greeted Zach with a gift bag full of his favorite things that kept him busy in the gate area, and their hands full on their trip home.
“They had lots of gifts for him, one being his favorite candy which had writing on it and his pictures also on them, and a Southwest back pack stuffed with lots of goldfish. Kayla brought him a poster with all of her teams signatures on it and some goodies from her hometown.
He also got a book, coloring book, stickers, and a Southwest airplane pin." After we got Zach and his family settled in on the aircraft, I was quickly handed a bright green vest and some colorful letters. I was then escorted on the tarmac to send the family off with a warm message and waving hands.
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Love is in the air this winter and our Southwest Heart couldn’t be beating harder. Rewind to Flight #1945 on January 2, 2013, where Lauren Zsigray and Derek Gollnitz are waiting to board their early morning flight back to New York City after visiting family in Chicago for the holidays. Lauren remembers seeing Derek at the gate thinking he was handsome. Boarding B22, Lauren snagged an aisle seat leaving the middle seat open. Then a few minutes later, she heard someone say “Excuse me, is that seat taken?” Sure enough it was the cute guy from the gate. Lauren recalls “We still debate who started talking to whom first. I say that he asked if I wanted the air on and he says that I asked him if he was coming or going. Regardless, we spent the whole flight talking and eventually realized we were going to the same part of Manhattan after landing, so we decided to share a cab into the city. He got my number when he dropped me off at my apartment, we went on our first date two days later, and we’ve been together ever since.”
Exactly three years later, on the same flight and route from Chicago to New York City, Derek was ready to pop the question. “To me, it was only fitting that we take the next step in our relationship the same way we met--not to mention that I had to improvise the proposal a bit and that I (and my and her parents) successfully kept the plan secret for weeks” recalls Derek. About 20 minutes before landing, Lauren got up from her seat. When she got back to their row, Derek got down on one knee with the ring that had been in his pocket all day and asked Lauren to marry him. Lauren remembers “We were at the back of the plane, the lights were off, and most people were sleeping or distracted, so it was a very quiet and personal moment for us. Once we sat back down, the flight attendant came and asked our names and offered us a celebratory drink. Both he and the pilot made sweet announcements wishing us congratulations, and the whole plane cheered for us!”
Derek looks back on their story and remembers “I love telling people the story of how we met, not just because of its novelty, but in the way it reflects several of the many things we have in common and part of the reason we’re so happy together.” Lauren adds “We’re excited to be getting married next October and can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives (and many more flights) side by side.”
We want to wish Lauren and Derek all the love and happiness the world can offer. We’re so happy to have them as a part of our Southwest family, and look forward to sharing the skies with them for years to come.
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