Tag Archives: airports

Southwest Airlines – the Airlines with Heart – One Heart I Know Well

2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 390

[Disclaimer: This may seem like an ad for Southwest Airlines. It is not. It is a story of how marketing can actually reflect what is true – at least in my experience of this airline.]

I fly Southwest. Two free bags. Enough said.

Still, let me tell you about customer service like I’ve never received from any other airline. On their website, you can actually engage a screen that tells you which days are cheaper to fly. So much easier than re-typing alternate flight days on the booking page. Even after 20 years of frequent flying, I still stall out at check-in kiosks. The Southwest staff just seem to know right when to intervene and do it with graciousness.

Two free bags.

Open-seating is really a nice option. The check-in process at the gate is consummately fair. Onboard, the pilots and flight attendants act like real people (not like rigid, uniformed Ken and Barbie dolls). [Side-note: These folks in all airlines have very hard jobs and deal with all sorts of unpleasant people and situations. Still.] The Southwest personnel give all the FAA-required emergency information, but they do it in such an upbeat, people-friendly way that I actually listen.  Sometimes, they are even funny. Just such a nice touch to relax weary travelers. On most flights, we are offered a choice of pretzels OR peanuts with our beverage. We get to decide.

Two free bags.

The best side of Southwest Airlines after the getting us safely from Airport A to Airport B is their personalized customer service. There are lots of stories of grateful customers in their onboard magazine and on various websites. I want to tell my story here.

Trips back and forth from Richmond to Atlanta are a regular part of my life because my dad lives outside Atlanta. He has Alzheimer’s. Our visits are still very sweet, and so far, he still knows me. Although he doesn’t remember now how often I come, when I was there last, or what we do, I make those trips as often as possible. As much for me as for him, perhaps.

A few months back, I was sitting in Concourse C of the Atlanta Airport, waiting for my flight back to Richmond. The next time I would come to Georgia, Dad would be in a Memory Care Unit. This was on my mind, as I ate supper out of a box from The Varsity. Then someone spoke to me. That someone was a beautiful young woman named Candice Hewitt. She was a Southwest customer service representative on hospitality duty at my gate.Southwest heart with skin on - Candice Hewitt

We talked a long time, as if I was the only customer there. We talked about my dad. She listened…and listened…and listened. I knew she had other responsibilities and people to visit, so finally I “released” her. She reflected about how all kinds of people go through airports with happy destinations and sad. It’s not always vacation or weddings or successful business. She expressed that she was glad for our talk and that she would try to see me again at a gate visit during my travels.

We exchanged phone numbers. Believe it or not, Candice has been in touch regularly. Mostly we text. She checks in, just to say hello. I give her updates about Dad. We haven’t managed another gate visit, but that doesn’t really matter. When Southwest calls itself “the airline with heart”, Candice is who comes to mind. She is the heart of Southwest Airlines to me – the heart with skin on it.

I’ve flown a lot of airlines and had mostly positive experiences with them. Southwest’s culture intrigues me. I want to close with their purpose and culture statements (see below – from their website). The “Two Free Bags” policy is what drew me away from my previously preferred airlines. Many times, I don’t need to check bags. It’s then that Southwest’s Customer Service holds my loyalty. The elements of that service is communicated below, and the essence of it is pictured here, in Candice.Candice Hewitt

Southwest Purpose: Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.*

Live the Southwest Way**

Warrior Spirit

  • Work Hard
  • Desire to be the best
  • Be courageous
  • Display urgency
  • Persevere
  • Innovate

Servant’s Heart

  • Follow The Golden Rule
  • Adhere to the Principles
  • Treat others with respect
  • Put others first
  • Be egalitarian
  • Demonstrate proactive Customer Service
  • Embrace the SWA Family

Fun-LUVing Attitude

  • Have FUN
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Maintain perspective
  • Celebrate successes
  • Enjoy your work
  • Be a passionate Teamplayer

Work the Southwest Way

  • Safety and Reliability
  • Friendly Customer Service
  • Low Cost

Southwest at sunset

*Southwest Airlines Culture

**Southwest Airlines Values

Southwest Airlines’ Legendary Corporate Culture | An Interview with Dave Ridley – Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University

Customers of Size Policy – so gentle and respectful of all – just an example of the consideration of this airlines to what could be awkward for some of their valued fliers.

Quotes from Between Worlds – Essays on Culture and Belonging – by Marilyn R. Gardner

2014 Phone pics July-December 319

In this bookmarked summer of mine, Between Worlds brought a refreshing wash of memories for me of living cross-culturally. I miss the years we spent as a family in North Africa. Marilyn Gardner writes in colorful strokes of her third culture kid (TCK) experience of growing up in Pakistan. She also described vividly what it was like as an adult raising children (her own TCKs) back overseas. Read Between Worlds and you are transported to the places she lived as a child and again as an adult. She speaks of her family’s years in Cairo, Egypt, and I am also taken back to one of my favorite cities in the whole world. The smells, sights, and sounds are there…you will be enchanted.

Marilyn also shares with clarity and vulnerability that experience of living essentially between worlds. Of living among peoples not your own and yet you feel they are. Of returning to the US and appearing to be like all around you, and yet you are an “invisible alien”…not fully of this world either. Her stories are marked with lessons of deep living cross-culturally. We can all gain from these lessons – whether we’ve lived a third culture life or not.

Her stories I will leave for you to read in your own personal places…but some of her wisdom I share with you through these quotes from Between Worlds.

Home is where our story begins.” For a third culture kid who questions the definition of home, this is both reassuring and sad. If home is where our story begins, what happens when we cannot go back?” (p. 4)

“I read in Psalm 84: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.’ In my journey, this Psalm makes ‘Home is where your suitcase is’ a spiritual reality.” (p. 8)

“I was raised on chai…It was not just the taste; it was the full experience of comfort that nourished body and soul.” (p. 21)

“There can be strength in remembering…Perhaps writing helps keep some of the bricks intact, because memories are precious and if used properly give strength to the present.” (p. 26)

“Turns out identity isn’t about a place you live at – but a Person you live in.” (p. 44)

“Those childhood wounds that brand us, that tell us lies about who we are and what we’ll become, are not strong when they come up against the Image of the God who made us.” (p. 55)

“Pieces of childhood are important foundations to building adults…in the pieces of childhood there is grace and a Father God who delights in putting together the pieces.” (p. 71)

“When I finally stopped grasping at success, at confidence, at belonging, I inexplicably found it.” (p. 87)

“If you don’t start kids on the road or plane when they are young then too soon they, and you, will move into a place and state of mind that sees all the obstacles instead of the benefits.” (p. 102)

“It is amazing how much waiting there is in a life of movement…Above all, we wait for God. We move forward in faith, only to be stopped in transit. So we wait. It’s not time. We sit tight. There are dozens of ways that God moves in and orchestrates our plans, our movements…For waiting is nothing new in the work of God.” (p. 109)

“Behind every third culture kid is a parent – a parent who wishes, hopes, and prays that they are doing the right thing.” (p. 120)

“God chooses ‘place’ to reveal himself to people, to show who He is, to remind them of his love, his care, his sovereignty, to call them to himself.” (p.138)

“Cultural humility gives up the role of expert, instead seeing ourselves as students of our host culture. I puts us on our knees, the best posture possible for learning.” (p. 193)

“May I forever hurt with the goodbyes that I say. May I forever remember the strength of the words ‘God Be With You.'” (p. 202)

Whether you’re a chai or coffee drinker – you will want a cup of one or the other, as you savor this book of life Between Worlds.

To Purchase Between Worlds

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Author Blog – Communicating Across Boundaries