It was on the first commercial flight that I ever flew (much less my first Southwest flight) that I first realized that I could enjoy working for an airline. This was ten years and six months ago (February of 1996), and I was flying to San Diego to take a network developer/administrator position. GEG -- once Geiger Field, now Spokane International Airport -- is a small terminal, I think even smaller than LUV's Master Plan... but the employees I met were all friendly and enthusiastic (not to mention efficient and thorough). Once on the plane, we had this wonderful male flight attendant (whose name I unfortunately cannot recall) who delivered the preflight safety lecture in the most humorous way that I can ever recall. "If you'd like to smoke on this flight, just ask one of the attendants, and we'll be glad to escort you out onto the wing." Got a chuckle from everyone, even from a scared Washington boy who was taking a job out-state.
Since then, I've flown 56 000 miles on United, 28 000 on Northwest, 2 000 on Alaska, and 6 000 on Delta. (At least according to the frequent flier records I got...) Yet, every time I fly on those airlines I'm reminded of the fear that everyone feels, the fear that they're going to be furloughed, the fear that their employer is going to shuck them off to try to make their numbers for the quarter so the stock price rises.
I have never, on any of the other airlines, seen any individual with the sheer exuberance that the Southwest crew members have and share -- flying SWA is just plain fun... and whenever I do it's like I'm coming back home. Everyone has always treated me like extended family, and everyone has been unfailingly corteous and they've always had smiles on their faces. I like SWA's fares, don't get me wrong -- but it's SWA's employees who always get me to come back, again and again. (Maybe it's the way the flight crews joke around on the plane, and you can hear laughter from the rear, and you can tell that it's REAL laughter, not just some faked "let's increase passenger morale" thing.)
Thank you, to everyone who I've ever met on the flights or at the gates, and thank you to all the mechanics and operations coordinators and baggage handlers and everyone who works and has fun doing what you do to make every flight a wonderful experience for everyone.
I've not yet been able to realize a career with any airline... but when I do, I'm going to work where I'm happiest as a passenger, where everyone puts their heart into everything they do. I'm going to work with the people who have always inspired me to enjoy what I'm doing. I'm going to work with Southwest.
Thank you -- all of you -- from the bottom of my heart.
(now residing 15 miles from TUS)
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Ah, Southwest, how do I love thee, let me count the ways...
You started nonstop service between the city (in Arizona) I live in to a city close to the left coast of central California... but unfortunately priced it about $15 out of my reach each way.
Your customer service is some of the best I've ever dealt with... but when I have a quick question about something, I don't want to have to pick up the phone and dial a long string of numbers, navigate an automated menu, and then ask a 5 second question and get a 10 second answer. (I'd rather drop an email, quite honestly; if an answer is complex, or is unclear, a reply email could ask the customer to call customer care.)
(No complaint here!) Your gate agents are absolutely wonderful. The new computerized system you have in place sounds interesting (I hear the "boop" of the barcode being read, and then sometimes a "ding" if it needs a paper ticket attached). I've never had a piece of luggage go to Las Vegas when I was going to Phoenix or Tucson.
Your desk agents, too, are superb. My boyfriend has extreme anxiety; when he went to visit some friends in New Jersey (something which was able to happen because I volunteered to be bumped off of a seat in Spokane and got a $200 travel voucher), we went through Tulsa. I went home from there after 2 weeks, he went onward to NJ after one week. Anyway, there was some confusion about the state of the ticket since it was a Southwest ticket on an ATA codeshare route that had been discontinued -- but your desk agents got it all worked out, and made sure that if he had any problems that the SWA agents where he did end up flying to (I can't remember where, but it was either New York or New Jersey) could call her and understand -- and I had enough money left over to make sure he could get where he needed to through the northeastern train system.
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