My experience flying with airlines is that it’s not fun and flight attendants don’t seem happy. However, a recent trip from Rochester to Orlando on Southwest Airlines was refreshingly different.
As my son James and I climbed aboard the plane, Flight Attendant Todd welcomed us with a southern accent and asked James, “Where’d you get your hair?” “Can I get some?” Todd is bald. James shook his head, no. Todd took one look at the hat on top of James’ curly mop and teased, “Boo! Take that Oakland Raider hat off.”
James refused, but said to me later that he thought Todd was hilarious. Just as I began to wonder if Todd performed stand up comedy as a side gig, Todd announced that he was a former elementary school teacher who really enjoyed kids. It’s a good thing because there were plenty of kids on the flight who were missing school over the long Columbus Day weekend. Todd was from Texas and a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan (poor guy)!
During our flight, Todd gave us puzzle sheets to solve, passed out candy and prizes, tossed more packets of peanuts and Ritz cheese bits to kids than they could possibly consume in one trip, and generally made our flight experience fun. Just before we landed, Todd sang a parody of the Flintstones theme song with words he made up about flying Southwest.
Todd had obviously rubbed off on James because the next day, James sang the same tune, but he replaced the words with a rather vivid description of me tripping along the sidewalk towards the hotel.(I was tired after walking nine miles around Universal Studios in flip flops. But I’m also a klutz.)
I think Todd genuinely loves what he does so he could create a fun experience for passengers like us. I’ve never been on a flight where everyone on the airplane applauded a flight attendant for making air travel fun. It was the ultimate complement and I think all flights should be more like the one we experienced.
Interestingly, when I picked up the October issue of Southwest’s Spirit magazine, Southwest Airlines Chairman, president and CEO Gary Kelly wrote in his column that he asks three things of his employees everyday: Work hard, have fun, and treat everyone with respect. He referenced how employees make a difference in the lives of their customers and live their culture “the Southwest Way.” It seems that Southwest wants us to have a good time and encourages their employees to have fun. It can definitely make a difference to a customer like me who would gladly book another flight with Southwest.
Unfortunately, Todd was not on our return flight to Rochester. Nor were there any singing flight attendants, which made our flight rather dull. I guess Gary still has work to do in converting all his employees to “the Southwest Way.” Orson Welles once said “There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” There’s one more emotion: happiness. You can bet that James and I will always remember our first Southwest experience because of Todd.
Here are a few lessons we learned that could go a long way in creating a fun experience for any “customer” and keep them coming back.
Lesson #1: Be happy. Lesson #2: Be engaging. Lesson #3: Be yourself.
What do you think? Have you had any similar flight experiences?
(also published to the Democrat and Chronicle’s Moms blog)