I can't believe it's been a year since the amazing Southwest tour that was set up for Jack Henry for his 4th birthday. Well, this past week, he turned five and when I asked him what he wanted the theme of his birthday party to be, without hesitation he enthusiastically chimed, "Southwest Airlines!" His SWA-themed birthday party was the Sunday before last, and if the pictures are any indication, Jack Henry's LUV for Southwest continues! The invitations were homemade Southwest boarding passes, and Southwest Employee John Bogle at LAX once again came through (he was our tour guide last year) with real ticket sleeves for the invites. The party was at The Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, and I customized our party area with fun computer-created Southwest signs. We had a Southwest Food and Beverage sign at the food station, and for snacks we had Captain's Chips (potato chips), and small bags of Pilot Peanuts and Rising Raisins, with a customized sticker that read "Nuts About Southwest." For the main course we served SWA Pilot Pizza (Jack's favorite food). We washed it down with bottles of SWA Jet Fuel (just water!). Finally, the piece de resistance was the birthday cake fashioned as a Southwest LUV jet! As guests arrived, Captain Jack Henry and his best Flight Attendant (none other than moi, merely dressed the part, of course) welcomed them onboard. The entertainment included flying a "flight path," three at a time, in cardboard box Southwest planes that I made, followed by a ride in the museum's jet simulator. At the end of it all, the birthday-goers graduated flight school and received their Southwest captain hats. A cute sidenote about the box planes: after assembling the first one, but before it was painted, I was so excited to show Jack. When he looked at it, he simply said, "Mom, Southwest doesn't have any propeller planes." Feeling a bit taken aback by this comment because I was expecting an enthusiastic, "Wow this is cool, Mom!", I said, "Well Jack, I'm sure on some small commuter flights they fly propeller planes." Jack responded, "No mom, Southwest doesn't have any prop planes, they just use 737 jets." Feeling challenged, I went to Google image a Southwest propeller plane to show Jack that they did, in fact, exist. Turns out, as you may well know, my soon-to-be-five-year-old was right! In the end, I told him the box planes were trainer planes for Southwest Pilots, which he agreed to and happily joined me in painting them. Before everyone left, they went to a makeshift Baggage Claim and found their cardboard suitcase (I wish I had the talent to make those, but they were purchased on Etsy), complete with Southwest Crew luggage tags. Inside were all sorts of goodies, but above all, it was the memories of another successful Southwest birthday party that will stick with me most. Jack still says he's going to be a Southwest Pilot when he grows up, largely due to the wonderful tour that was arranged for his birthday last year. Editor's Note: From all of us here at Southwest: Happy 5th Birthday, Jack Henry!
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Jack Henry has been ‘geek chic’ for Southwest Airlines since his first SWA flight 2 1/2 years ago. Like most little boys, we considered his penchant for planes to be fairly typical, but Jack’s love of planes was specific to SWA. He talked so much about Southwest that the following year, when we made our summer vacation plans, we specifically decided to fly Southwest as we knew it would thoroughly delight Jack. This flight only fueled his fire for all things SWA, which we found useful in negotiating that tricky period in the morning of trying to get breakfast made with two hungry toddler boys. While I prepared breakfast, I would let Jack watch a YouTube video of SWA on the condition that he had to type out “Southwest Airlines” into the computer. So at the age of 3 1/2, although he couldn’t spell his first name, he could most definitely spell Southwest Airlines! I thought, of course he would want to watch videos with planes taking off, but he quickly learned how to navigate YouTube and his favorite videos included information about SWA and general air travel. Jack’s favorite videos are, ‘A Day in the Life of Reservations’, ‘A Day in the Life of Cargo’ and his number one favorite, ‘A Day in the Life of the 25 Minute Turn’. And, oh yes you can bet he’s a bit sweet on Miss Christi McNeill. With all of Jack’s SWA enthusiasm, we wanted to do something special for his 4th birthday. We thought it would be great if we could get him a tour of SWA at our local airport in Los Angeles. As you can imagine, this is not as easy as you would think. However, SWA’s customer-friendly team (led by the amazing Ashley Pettit) went out of their way to make it happen! Our young pilot’s day began at 5:30 a.m. in preparation for our 7 a.m. tour at LAX. There we were greeted by SWA’s John B., who gave Jack a gift of an official toddler-sized SWA pilot hat and a SWA toy set. Talk about knowing how to get straight to Jack’s heart! Jack dressed in his pilot uniform, capped with his official SWA pilot hat, relished in the attention and proceeded to tell everyone he was a pilot for SWA and that his little brother James was his Copilot. John gave Jack a VIP tour, spending over an hour and a half with us, taking us to baggage, to maintenance, and to the flight tracker room, (you'd think boring, but oh no, Jack was eating all of it up). Afterward, John took us onto the tarmac where Jack checked out air stairs, a provisioning truck (or as Jack calls it, ‘the food truck’), aviation pushbacks, the wheels of a plane, and the baggage compartment. One of the ground crew guys came over to say hi and gave Jack a lift up into the baggage compartment. Then he did the ultimate and gave Jack a pair of light sticks! (Since then he’s been waving in planes from our front balcony!). You may be wondering if this tour could get any better…well, it did. Captain Scott Kirk and First Officer Drew W. graciously agreed to arrive early to greet our birthday boy. Captain Kirk was so delightful with Jack in the giving of his time and enthusiasm. Not knowing John had already given Jack the SWA toy set, he also purchased one for Jack, which really touched us. I feel that my words do not convey the generosity of Captain Kirk, the crew and John B. shared with Jack Henry and all of us that day, but I hope you can start to get a glimmer of it. And so, it is with heartfelt gratitude, we thank the magnificent team at Southwest Airlines: Ashley Petit, John B., Captain Scott Kirk, First Officer Drew W., the Flight Crew, and all the other SWA team members who contributed to a most wonderful ‘Day in the Life of Jack Henry’ that will likely become a cherished lifetime memory.
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