When I came to work at Southwest Airlines more than 20 years ago, I thought it was “cute” that the airline had the stock ticker symbol, LUV. As a former newspaper reporter, I knew from my dealings with executives and Employees that Southwest was irreverent and a bit different. But, use the word LUV or LOVE? Really?
Now, more than two decades in, I’m a proud Kool-Aid drinker. I get it. This place is like nowhere else I have ever worked. You get what you give, and I love this Company. In my capacity, I’m fortunate to see the ways in which Southwest Employees share their love with one another AND with our Customers. My favorites are still the love connections that happen in airports and on our planes. Case in point: Jason Gonzalez (pictured above).
His email to me last weekend laid out his own love story, and it began on a Southwest jet. He had me at “I’ve been a loyal Rapid Rewards member for years,” but he went on to say how he wanted to take a few minutes to explain how a Southwest flight changed his life. Waiting in line to board a flight in March 2009, Jason was determined to meet the young woman he spied in the airport and introduce himself.
He says, “After a tough day of work, my mind was wandering, and I was gazing about the terminal, when she walked by. A young, beautiful and professional looking woman. Unfortunately, she continued to walk past me and away from my gate. I glanced back a couple times to see if by chance she was headed back in my direction. No luck, so I boarded the flight. As I settle into my usual aisle seat, I look up and see her walk right past me and sit down one row back across the aisle! Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to notice me. So as the plane continued to fill up and eventually take off (right on time, as usual, I might add) I began to devise a plan to change that. Directly across the aisle from me sat a very nice older women who just so happened to be reading a book from one of my favorite authors. Ah hah! So I struck up a conversation with her about it, hoping “others” in the immediate area would overhear and 1) finally notice me, 2) get to know me indirectly and 3) be receptive when I implemented the rest of my plan to speak to her at baggage claim (since she only carried on a briefcase).
Sadly, step three did not work out as planned. Deplaning first, I waited by baggage claim. And waited and waited. She was only a row behind me. Maybe she slipped by and I missed her, I thought to myself. As I looked toward the airport exit once again, there she was! We looked right at each other from about 40 feet away, and our eyes locked for a brief moment. And then she continued walking straight past baggage claim toward the shuttle bus stop – no checked bag. $%#! I quickly devised Plan B: grab my bag and head in her direction. I knew I would only have a couple of minutes at best to reach her before the shuttle arrived. One problem--I was still waiting for my bag. It was the Southwest ground crew versus the shuttle bus driver! Who would be quicker?? I liked my odds. The winner of this battle would change my life forever! Like a whole other type of “Rapid Reward,” my suitcase suddenly shot out on the baggage belt. I grabbed it and quickly headed in her direction. I could see her across the way sitting at the stop as a shuttle bus drove by. Please don't let that be hers! It drove on past her to the next stop, and I eased my pace knowing I would have time to reach her.
A special thank you to the Southwest Burbank ground crew! And, thanks to that dear woman sitting next to me for so graciously taking the time to chat with me. As later confirmed, steps 1 and 2 of my plan were successful, and without them, Plan B may not have worked.
After talking for a bit, Stephanie and I swapped business cards there at the shuttle stop and soon went out on a first date. As it turned out, we lived in the same neighborhood, play tennis, hike, and love good food and wine. And it’s history from there. We got engaged last May and will be married on May 4, 2013. As an interesting side note, Stephanie is an attorney specializing in the aviation industry (you couldn’t write a more perfect script, right?). So it all started on a Southwest flight.”
Jason said he and his fiancée, Stephanie, are looking forward to sharing some Southwest peanuts and pretzels with their wedding attendees during their nuptials in May. We’re proud we could help love take flight. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, actually, is all around us.