No way around it, Southwest Airlines had a rough go of it after the challenges we faced in December. Since then, we’ve made phenomenal progress in responding internally and externally to recover our operation, and I believe we have turned the proverbial corner. What we want to do more of, now, is shed light on the good. And let me tell you, there has been So. Much. Good.
We want to share this special edition of LUV Mail with our CCBI friends and family to highlight just a few of the many Employees who stepped up and answered the call to help restore our operation. And what better occasion to do so than Valentine’s Day! These heartwarming stories offer a glimpse of the resilience, kindness, and love shown by our People during one of the most difficult times in our history. I hope these stories not only inspire you, as they did me, but also reaffirm that organizational culture thrives by choice and intention. It cannot be manufactured and certainly not mandated. It comes entirely from the Heart.
Senior Vice President Culture & Communications
Pizza Makes Everything Better
Having adequate meal options proved challenging for Customers and Employees during the operational disruption, but our People stepped up to help wherever and whenever they could. This note of appreciation is but one of many “above and beyond” moments that happened across our system.
“Everybody needs to eat. On December 26, one of our Flight Attendants, Danny, met that need in a very real way. Following a tumultuous three days of work, Danny was able to get on a flight from LaGuardia to Houston on December 26. Before going home, he decided to stop by and check on his Cohearts. He learned that 150+ Flight Attendants were stranded in the lounge and had been for quite some time. Rather than just feeling badly for them and going about his evening, he put his Southwest Heart into action.
Danny promptly drove to Academy Sports and bought a wagon. He then continued to Little Caesar’s pizza—ordering 50 pizzas to go. Once Danny was able to make it back to the HOU Base, he ensured everyone in the lounge was fed. But he didn’t stop there. With the pizza he had left over, Danny walked through the HOU airport with his new wagon offering pizza to anybody he came across.
Thank you, Danny, for sharing your huge Heart with all of us!”
Our Hospitality Operations Support Team (HOST), which is responsible for supporting our field Employees with Customer Service initiatives, spearheaded an effort to spread a little internal Hospitality to those who volunteered their service during our recovery. With the help of dozens of Employees, our HOST Team coordinated a banner filled with notes of encouragement for our Customer Support & Services Employees, who received phone calls and worked through “in the moment” issues with our Customers. Our HOST folks further collected handwritten thank you cards for our Cohearts in Network Operations Control (NOC) who worked around the clock to make our Customers whole and help restore our network. Over 750 handwritten cards were organized and attached to a goody bag filled with treats for our Employees. Awesome examples of Cohearts taking care of Cohearts.
LUV Across All Borders
Our disruptions were not limited to the domestic United States. Our friends and Cohearts in our international cities stepped up as well, and our People were grateful.
“Would love to give a special thank you to the Cancun station for their Hospitality today. There were five of us Flight Attendants stuck in the terminal for almost ten hours today, no hotels available, no phone signal. The Cancun station let us hang out in their office and store our bags safely to be a little more comfortable. They shared their wonderful Sunday brunch with us, including some tamales. We even got to help them try out their brand new coffee maker with some Houston coffee that we brought. … Some of the most hard-working and friendly Agents in the system, they even took time to explain to us how the operations software works when receiving or sending flights to/from the United States. Thank you, Cancun, for your Hospitality!”
Bags, Bags, and Bonding
One of the most significant impacts of our operational disruption was the displacement of literally thousands of bags across our system and the monumental task of reuniting them with their owners. It quickly became clear that we needed extraordinary support to get the job done. We issued a call to action for volunteers to cover shifts in over nine different “mega” stations (our largest cities). Our People answered in grand fashion! In addition to the 317 Employees who signed up to volunteer their personal time scanning and sorting thousands of bags, there were countless Cohearts who simply showed up at our airports wanting to help! They jumped in to log, sort, and reunite bags with our Customers. Many of our People, at least 114, signed up for multiple shifts. In our stations, as well, Employees were asked to do cross-over work to help cover our baggage needs. For one of our Ramp Supervisors, it was an eye-opening experience.
“To my BSO [Baggage Service Office] folks everywhere, but especially Phoenix, THANK YOU. … I was told to report to the BSO after five hours already on the clock, and I punched out five hours later. My first real experience was a 10-hour shift in the middle of a complete meltdown. That being said, you all are a group of bad a**es! From the crash course on how not to screw up, to always treating every Passenger like they were an old friend, to letting me know how awesome it was every time I got a Passenger matched with their bag, which I did about 100 times—THANK YOU! Thank you for immediately taking this sweaty Ramp Supervisor as one of your own. And thank you for letting me know where your stash of cookies is—I won’t tell. Y’all are awesome!”
A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way
Although we gave our Customers plenty to be upset about, we have been overwhelmed by the number of positive posts, calls, emails, and letters from folks who recognized the sincerity and hard work of our People. This is but one example of our Customer Support & Services Team going above and beyond:
“We would like to give a shout out to Gina. We’re sure she had taken a ton of calls prior to my daughter, and we are sure many of those calls were from angry Customers that probably did not treat her kindly. However, Gina answered that call with a kind and happy attitude. She said she was terribly sorry that our daughter’s flight had been cancelled. During the next 15 minutes, this rock star Customer Service Representative was able to find our daughter a flight on the 31st. Then she took her Customer Service to the next level… Our daughter has friends that were also stranded during the cancellations. Our daughter asked Gina if she could patch her friend into the call to also get some help. She said absolutely! Then proceeded to help our daughter’s friend. We’re grateful for Gina’s amazing Customer Service!”
Another Nourishing Moment
There are endless incredible examples of how our People took care of one another and our Customers. These sweet notes of gratitude for one of our Pilots are like food for the soul!
“Andrew, I did not work with you however I did bump into you first in the LAS gates as you handed out food you had purchased for our passengers from your cancelled flight. I snapped a quick picture because that true act of kindness on a rough Christmas Eve for so many warmed my heart. Thank you for feeding not only our passengers but your crew AND my crew! If I hadn’t eaten that sandwich I wouldn’t have eaten until toward the end of the day. You were my Champion that day!! Thank you for everything you do!”
“I have to say, we have some of THE MOST AMAZING Cohearts! This Pilot purchased Wendy’s breakfast sandwiches for his entire cancelled flight to Chicago out of Las Vegas. He bought some extras, as well, and handed out more to folks he passed who were stuck in the airport, including my Crew. He greeted passengers face-to-face, listened and apologized. It was so incredibly thoughtful and over and above, and I know that for my Crew, by the end of the day, we had no idea just how much we would appreciate having eaten that sandwich earlier! Props to this First Officer! THANK YOU!”
Family Restoring Family
From late December through January, over 1,700 Headquarters Employees volunteered to work alongside our Customer Experience and Engagement Team to help process restoration cases for our Customers. After undergoing specific procedural and software training, these Employees stepped away from their regular jobs, for multiple shifts, to provide around the clock “all hands on deck” support. Collectively, this army of volunteers logged 36,000 hours processing cases over a five-week span. One of our volunteers shared this about the experience.
“In the face of challenge, I witnessed People come together at every level, regardless of title, to support one another. One Team, All Heart, working hard even with smiles and laughter, to rise above.”
One Of Our Shining Stars
Among the countless displays of perseverance and sheer Heart by our People is this kind compliment from one Coheart to another.
“In the midst of our operations collapse on 12/25, Anthony was a shining star. I was listed for the jumpseat on his flight from Dallas to Columbus. The departure time kept getting pushed back and back and back. Lines were hours long for our Customer Service Agents, we had no clue where we could get a full Crew, but Anthony did everything in his power to get our flight going. He stood on hold with Scheduling, answered endless questions from Passengers, and gave announcements to keep everyone updated. He attempted multiple times to secure Crew, but the system wouldn’t allow for the necessary changes. The flight ended up getting cancelled, as did many others, but Anthony was at his podium for nearly seven hours doing everything imaginable to fix it. On top of this, it was Christmas AND his birthday! He said to me that he would rather give all the Customers a Christmas miracle of getting home rather than celebrate his birthday at home. In a span of multiple days where our operation was ‘doom and gloom,’ Anthony is a bright shining star and should be an example of what a Southwest Employee should be through and through.”
We’re In This Together
Critical to the recovery of our operation was the work required to reposition out-of-place Crew Members. For days on end, our Crew Schedulers worked around the clock to meet unprecedented incidents of Crew displacement (think “domino effect,” only there’s no end to the dominoes). To confront this challenge, over 350 Employees (many former Crew Schedulers) volunteered for several days to assist in restoring order and process flow for the positioning of our Crews systemwide. Since that time, we have accelerated plans that were already in place for critical improvements to Crew Scheduling tools that will provide us quicker and faster solutions going forward. Of the many encouraging words from one Coheart to another, this one captured the moment very well.
“Marlo voluntarily came in on her day off to assist her old teammates in Crew Scheduling. I think this is one of the most touching and inspiring acts of Servant’s Heart I have ever seen in my career. Marlo’s selfless dedication to serving her Cohearts, past & present, as well as her relentless Warrior Spirit in times of need make her a Star.”
Random Acts and Offers of Kindness (my personal favorite)
The moment our People realized the magnitude of this event, they took to social media to raise their hands to be in service to others. This is just a sample of the Heart of Southwest Airlines.
“HOU—I am coming through baggage claim in about 20 minutes with some snacks and water for whoever needs it. These are from me and my friends in my neighborhood. See you soon!”
“I have a spare room in Tampa if anyone wants to come to my home. I have two dogs and live 10 minutes from the airport. Call or text me—I’ll pick you up!”
“Any Cohearts needing a ride from Indianapolis to Atlanta, I’m leaving at 8:30pm ET”
“Can someone from Orlando Baggage Service Office let me know if People can come help sort stuff? I’m on reserve today and wouldn’t mind doing whatever until I get called to fly. Let me know!”
“In Austin, don’t have much room but have a pullout couch and food if anyone needs a place to stay!”
“If anyone needs a place to stay in Denver, let me know. We have an extra bedroom and are welcoming anyone who needs food or a shower. Safe travels!”
“Any Flight Attendants stuck in Baltimore, I’m a Provisioning Agent and live 15 minutes from the airport and I have a spare room and a couch that pulls out into a queen bed. I have a washer and a dryer and a spare full bathroom. If you need some place to stay or a shower or to do some laundry, please reach out to me.”
“If we have Crew stuck in Houston, I’ll come pick you up (my car is still at the airport), and you are more than welcome to enjoy a home-cooked meal and some Hospitality my house. Stay the night if you need to…”
“I’ll be leaving first thing in the morning from Omaha driving south the Centerville, Texas at 4am. If you are stuck in Omaha and need to get south, let me know! Will hit Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Dallas on my way!”
“If there is anyone stuck in San Antonio with no place to stay, we have a guest room you can stay in, or we can help with a home-cooked meal, laundry, anything we can do to help! … We are ten minutes from the airport and can pick up or drop off.”
“If there’s any Crew stuck in Washington, DC, let me know. I live in the district and can bring y’all pizzas! I have a small studio apartment but working heat, and all are welcome!”
“I have two rooms in Tampa…30 minutes from the airport, hot shower, prime rib dinner, and drinks. Home gym too!”