Well, the LUV officially came to town on a chilly Sunday morning at 7 am in Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP). That’s right, the first flight out of our 65th destination city left on Sunday for Chicago’s Midway Airport. How did the Southwest Employee volunteers get there in the first place? We had the chance to jump aboard one of the airplanes being flown into MSP from Dallas Love Field to begin our service here. I just learned that a ferry flight is a special term for a flight that has a very specific purpose. Our purpose was to deliver the LUV aircraft to its newest home: beautiful and snowy Minneapolis/St. Paul, and to bring along more than 2,300 pounds of canned goods to donate to a Minneapolis food bank.
It was my first time on a ferry flight, and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. What made the flight so special? First of all, there was a father-son team flying together for the first time–well, the first time on a Southwest flight, that is. Jim Johnson, the father, had just celebrated his 25th anniversary with Southwest a few days earlier, and his son, Craig, is not only the youngest, but the newest pilot to join the Southwest family. Jim is a native Minnesotan, and a love of all things aviation runs in the family. In fact, even Mom (Mrs. Johnson) came along too–it was truly a family affair. We were also lucky enough to be on one of our WiFi-equipped flights, which allowed us to blog, tweet, and IM to our little techie heart’s content!
The 65 Employee volunteers onboard were greeted with cheers, high fives, and local media upon arrival. One of our MSP Employees had already written us a rousing cheer, and we belted it out with glee to the amusement of our (future) Customers and passing spectators. To watch news coverage of the event, check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/chs7xz
Sunday afternoon, ten teams headed out to Cub Food Stores to participate in a canned food drive in connection with the Second Harvest Heartland. Here was yet another new Employee tradition: dressing up as Spirit Junior! Yes, I was one of the blessed three trusted to don our infamous baby airplane costumes. Although hanging out in a grocery store for three hours might not sound insanely exciting, I actually had a blast meeting and greeting Minnesotans shopping for their Sunday night supper. Although, when you’re dapperly dressed as a baby airplane, people are just naturally drawn to you. Everyone we met was more than willing to donate money and food packages to the food drive, and for their kindness they were entered into our drawing for two roundtrip Southwest tickets! It was heartwarming to hear people tell us they had not only heard of Southwest, but were looking forward to flying us. This was my first time visiting MSP (I’m not counting my I-35 road trip ten years ago) and I have to say, the rumors are true: the phenomenon known as "Minnesota nice" is alive and well here.
Oh, and if you need one more reason to visit Minneapolis/St. Paul, come for the buttermilk pancakes at Mickey’s Diner (check it out at www.mickeysdiningcar.com/.) Or the cheeseburgers. Or the "pre-war recipe" baked pinto beans. Also be sure to holler at my new best friends: Keith the cook, Dee the self-proclaimed "beverage girl," and Bill the milkshake-maker. Actually, my Mickey’s experience is a blog post unto itself. Stay tuned.
Monday morning will bring a bevy of dignitaries, among them being the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the governor of Minnesota, and our own CEO Gary Kelly. Look for a fleet of Spirit Juniors–I’ll be the one doing loop-de-loops in the back.