There's a lot of sadness in the world. A lot of spite. And then, there's Southwest Airlines

I don't mean to call out Southwest Airlines as the shangri-la of the skies. But survey after survey shows passengers rating Southwest higher than its competitors. And time after time it seems to come down to feelings. 

Southwest and its employees just seem to be better at making passengers feel good about them.

Case in point: the Southwest Airlines pilot quickly who got permission to fly a series of 180 degree turns during the Great American Eclipse in 2017, so that a passenger could get a better photo.

And now, we hear another Southwest Airlines employee story that might rival it.

This is the tale of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, whose gesture literally helped a passenger achieve a lifelong dream. The passenger: Tracy Sharp, a Sacramento woman who has Down syndrome. The flight attendant: Vicki Heath.

The two met on a flight Sharp was taking home after visiting family in Houston a few months ago, and they had a conversation in which Sharp shared with Heath that it was her lifelong dream to be a flight attendant herself.

I will bet that 9,999 out of 10,000 people in Heath's position would perhaps have replied with something nice but not meaningful, or even made a self-deprecating comment about their job. 

Heath did something different, and exceptional. According to news reports, she started making phone calls within Southwest to get permission to bring Sharp on another Southwest flight, and have her work alongside Heath as a sort of assistant flight attendant.

It wasn't complicated per se, but it also wasn't anything you'd call a simple gesture given the coordination and permission it required. But on Friday, Sharp flew with Heath on a flight from Sacramento to Seattle, wearing a red uniform, helping to greet passengers and do a few other things that Sharp thought would be really cool, and even getting flight attendant wings for her service. 

Just check out this very short video showing Sharp's excitement when she walks down the jetway to meet Heath.

"You're going to make me cry!" Heath replied when a reporter asked how she felt about bringing the whole thing together. "I feel like I'm living my purpose-driven life. And that's huge."

There's no revenue involved here for Southwest Airlines. There's nothing that will make investors swoon. There's no way that doing something like this for a passenger is in Heath's job description. 

But at the same time, after hearing this story, how can you not feel a little bit better about Southwest Airlines? Even if you've never flown them? Or even if you've had a bad experience yourself on the airline sometime.

We hear this debate in the airline industry constantly: Whether people are going to fly no matter what, so you might as well squeeze whatever revenue you can out of them. 

Or, whether brand really does matter--and you might ultimately wind up with a better business model by treating people decently (or even better).

And once again we see: Southwest Airlines seems to get it. Why don't some of its rivals?

Published on: Sep 3, 2018
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