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Stories from the System: A Family Far From Home

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We hear it all the time: it’s the People who make Southwest Airlines unique.  Through Customer Service, Charitable Giving, and the everyday tasks of running an airline, the People of Southwest have an infinite number of opportunities to positively impact another person.  But, perhaps one of our most distinguished qualities is not only our passion for serving our Customers, but our dedication to serving one another.  Colleen puts it this way, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”  And while I have only been at this Company a mere ten months, I’ve witnessed countless instances where our Employees have exemplified the infamous Golden Rule- not because we have to, but because we care about one another.  Simply put, we are a Family.  And there’s very little that comes between family members.

The first time I realized there was something very different about Southwest Airlines was during my internship during the summer of 2010.  Sure, everyone I’d met had been friendly, welcoming, and incredibly encouraging.  But, I never imagined a complete stranger would be there for me in a time of need. 

Vegas!

Accompanied by a small group of interns, we decided to take our standby adventures West for the weekend.  After battling a string of very full flights, we finally ended up in Las Vegas late Friday night.  But our adventures in “Sin City” were short-lived.  Upon arriving, we double-checked our return flights for Sunday, and much to our dismay, found a standby list with already more than twenty Employees.  Knowing better than to risk not getting back by 8 o’clock Monday morning, we woke up (or rather, never slept…) early Saturday morning, and headed back to the airport.

San Francisco

After weighing our travel options, we decided to venture to Oakland, and spend the remainder of our day in San Francisco.  Upon landing in OAK, we once again checked our return flights for Sunday.  And once again, we came to the harsh realization that we were not going to be able to make it home from San Francisco either.  Noticing a couple distraught young Employees struggling with the system, a Customer Service Agent on her break graciously offered to help us figure out the most guaranteed route to get us back to Dallas on Sunday.  Confidently, she concluded we needed to get to Los Angeles by the night so we could catch a flight from there to Austin early Sunday morning. 

The City of Angels

Together, we made the decision to take advantage of the day in San Francisco, and catch the last flight to LAX that night.  We hurried to catch the BART, and spent the next few hours enjoying Fisherman’s Wharf, before reluctantly heading to the airport yet again.  As we prepared to board our 5th flight over the last 24 hours, we frantically realized we hadn’t booked a hotel reservation for our impromptu visit to Los Angeles.  Realizing we had no option but to settle the issue when we landed, we casually started chatting with our Crew in order to pass the time.  Before we knew it, we were laughing and joking with our Flight Attendants as though we had been friends for years.  We told them all about our Summer of LUV, and about our recent travels.  They talked about being with the Company for years, and awed at the opportunities that lay ahead of us.

Upon landing, we helped the Crew clean the cabin.  As we departed, they inquired about where we were staying.  Grudgingly, we admitted to not have gotten that far in our travel plans.  And without hesitation, the Flight Attendants offered up their extra room at the Crew hotel.  It turns out that only one of the Flight Attendants needed the pre-reserved rooms at the hotel, and they were willing to turn the extra rooms to a few displaced interns for the evening, free of charge.  Eager, we were quick to accept the offer, and we hurriedly followed our new found friend, Houston-based Flight Attendant, Joe D., to the LAX Crew hotel. 

We spent the night in a hotel much nicer than our summer paychecks could have ever afforded.  Joe told stories of his years with the Company, and we listened intently, wide-eyed at his passion for Southwest Airlines.  In the morning, Joe returned to his base city, and we successfully made it on another three flights (for a total of eight over the course of the weekend) in pursuit of Dallas.

While our time together was brief, none of us were quick to forget the Crew’s generous hospitality to a trio of SWA newbies.  To Joe and the rest of the Crew on the short flight from Oakland to Los Angeles, it didn’t matter that we were complete strangers, or only interns.  What mattered was that we were each an Employee of Southwest Airlines, and that made us family.

Have a story about an Employee who helped you out in a time of need?  We’d LUV to post it on our blog.  Please contact Whitney Bartels at whitney.bartels@wnco.com to share your story.