Travel during the holidays can be daunting. My wife and I have been flying with my daughters since they were both infants. Now that they're eight and six years old, they're veterans of the travel process.
That's not to say they're immune to a few bumps in the road. We've had our share of melt downs, delays and canceled flights.
Yesterday we experienced something different.
Our Southwest Airlines flight was delayed for an hour. Nothing unusual about a delay, but about 5 minutes after boarding the delayed flight, we were told that we needed to deplane for a mechanical reason.
We gathered the girls up and decided to explore the airport. About an hour later we boarded a different plane for our journey back to New York.
Now two hours after our scheduled departure time, the flight crew began chit chatting with everyone on board, including my daughters.
My oldest, Talia (eight years old) informed one of the flight crew that her little sister, Olivia (six years old) had just celebrated a birthday on December 28th.
Another little girl chimed in sharing that she was about to turn eight years old on December 30th. We enjoyed this small talk, which was sweet to hear as people began to get into their seats. Most were smiling as they eaves dropped on the conversation.
That's when things took a small turn for the worse.
The captain came on the intercom and informed us that because of a slight dusting of snow, we needed to have the plane "de-iced." A collective groan came over the cabin. We would have to sit and wait even longer before our takeoff.
People began to get fidgety and were audibly upset about the extra delay. That's until one of the members of the crew dimmed the lights of the cabin and got on the intercom.
She gathered the attention of everyone on the flight. She asked my daughter Olivia to raise her hand so everyone could see her. She then asked the same of Ava (the little girl who would turn eight years old).
That's when Southwest Airlines won my heart and mind.
She led the entire plane in a rousing rendition of "Happy Happy Southwest Birthday" for the girls.
You'll catch the last few seconds of the experience in the video below. That's Olivia my newly minted six year old "blowing out" the seat lights served as "candles" and people turned them off as she's blew them out.
The experience had everyone smiling, and clapping and enjoying our slight and final delay of the evening. It's a moment my family won't soon forget.
I believe it was a lesson in life, and business.
In life, you can always look at the bright side in any situation. In business it's one thing to talk about your vision. It's another thing when your employees live that purpose and vision on a daily basis.
On the Southwest Airlines website it says that their vision is "To become the World's Most Loved, Most Flown, and Most Profitable Airline."
I find it compelling that "Most Loved" is the first part of their vision. I'm sure that knowing this fact helped to inform the flight crew yesterday.
They weren't thinking about making money, there were living out the vision of their employer. Powerful.
The flight crew engaged with their customers. Offering help, communicating and asking how they could make our experience better.
They were in it with us. Not battling us.
They then seized the opportunity to draw the attention of the entire cabin to two little birthday girls. They could have stood by and allowed people to stew on the delay.
Instead they took positive action and shifted the energy of the entire flight. Even more powerful.
Southwest Airlines isn't perfect. There are delays and angry interactions every single day. My families interaction with their staff yesterday was as close to perfect as you can hope for.
Kudos to Southwest Airlines crew on Flight 5946 from Indianapolis to New York's LaGuardia Airport. You made a little girl's sixth birthday celebration magical. Thank you.