Southwest Airlines does a creative little extra for a passenger

Southwest AirlinesMy good friend Keith Green of Synergy sent me a creative example this week. He was flying Southwest Airlines from Liberty in Newark to Midway in Chicago.

Here’s what happened in Keith’s words,

Southwest birthday cake“The flight attendant came on near the end of flight, called out passenger out by name asked him to ring his call bell. He did and the flight attendant explained that they knew it was his birthday. She then asked everyone to turn on their call buttons, lighting them up as candles and asked we all sing happy birthday. After we did we all turned off our call buttons to “blow out” the candles. They then delivered a bottle of champagne to the guy. Nice touch.”


According to VP of Airport Affairs, Bob Montgomery, “Southwest’s employees have fun on the job.” He believes that is among the reasons for the airline’s financial success.

“Because of our great people and the culture that we have here, they just simply work harder and more effectively. It’s impossible to put a number on the benefit that that gives us.”

Bringing Your Personality to Work

Southwest encourages employees to bring their personality to work. They also empower them to make decisions that put the customer first. Here are a handful of examples of how they’ve stepped up in the past:

southwest-love1. Holding a plane for a passenger going to see their dying grandson.

2. Recognizing the artistic efforts of a young passenger.

3. Stepping up to help a customer with a special need with JOY.

4. Party with a purpose.

5. A flight attendant rapping pre-flight instructions.

According to Dr. Fathi El-NadiSouthwest‘s relaxed culture can be traced back to unconventional CEO Herb Kelleher. Kelleher encouraged informality and wanted staff to have fun at their jobs. Employees were valued, with Kelleher acknowledging births, marriages and deaths by notes and cards. Staff were encouraged to pitch in and help out, especially at check-in, giving Southwest turnaround times less than half the industry average.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Southwest is a Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer. They’ve also shown up as an example of a customer-centric organization in this slideshare:

2 replies
  1. Jon M
    Jon M says:

    Another Southwest example happened on our recent flight to Vegas. They turned on all the lights and asked everyone to take out a dollar and mark it with their seat number. They brought a bag to collect the dollars from all the participants and then drew the winner, giving them the bag of cash. There were a few other celebrations after that but it does just show how their culture shines through their team members. Something every company should learn from and do.

    • Stan Phelps
      Stan Phelps says:

      Thanks John. I love that example.

      Perhaps my favorite of all time is the great peanut race. The flight attendant sets down two packs of peanuts, one on each side of the aisle before take off. Once the plane takes off the race is on. Each side of the plane cheers for their respective side. Prizes and bragging rights to the winner.

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