Here’s What Happened When I Took Southwest Airlines’ First Flight to Cincinnati

Given my years of involvement in social media, I like to think that I have developed a little cache with social media since I can lay down a quick witty twitter here and there, or somehow shoot an embarrassing or funny video and get it up on YouTube quickly or that I have a clever twitter handle.  I am not sure what it is, but, whatever IT is has gotten me a part in a lot of events over the years.

Last weekend was another one of those events.  Southwest Airlines launched service into the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.   The launch began with service from two major SWA hubs, Chicago Midway and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. As a guy from Illinois/Chicagoland I was invited to come along on that first flight. The deal was this if I came along I would get to be part of the event. It included a day trip to Cincinnati, with a visit to several local landmark eateries and breweries. (Who is going to turn this down?) While on the trip though I would be asked to share – socially, i.e. tweet, post to IG and some Facebook content.  Well if you know me at all that is right up my alley. So, I am all in.

A little more background here, the fellow that invited me, didn’t tell me this was inaugural service for the whole airline.  Prior to this Southwest did not service CVG.  This is a big deal(see the action at the gate in the picture to the left). Upon landing, we got the water salute from the fire trucks, a banner at the gate, handing out all kinds of swag at Chicago and on the way to Cincinnati.  When we de-planed the entire gate, area was filled with news crews, local politicians, the airport direct, dozens of Southwest executives.  This was cool, and old DaveTheHRCzar had managed to insert himself into a cool noteworthy event. My wife came along as well and ended up in live shot from one local television station, not a big deal but it was a hoot when she was Facebooked by our nephew’s wife who said to herself, that looks like Aunt Sheila; backed up the television and said yep that is her.  (Maybe we should have called or texted.)

We finally got going and hit a bunch of local landmarks. We ate, drank, tweeted, I.G.ed and Facebooked. And that part of the trip was a success.  And we made a buzz on social media – just like this post; we were saying HEY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES is serving CVG.

The School kids getting a free breakfast from SWA.

But there was another story too, and this one did hit the social media channels.  In addition to the so-call influencers, Southwest Airlines also invited (free or charge) 17 students and their advisers to come along from Chicago to Cincinnati.  They went to see the Cincinnati Reds play the Atlanta Braves at the Great American Ball Park.  The kids flew down in the morning. Then they were bused to the game and back to the airport.  Southwest provided meals all day long for the students.

The students are part of an after-school program, By the Hand Club For Kids. I chatted with the Director of Operations and she told me that the kids in the program  have an underprivileged background, and are doing poorly in school.  She continued telling me that this was the first time many of these kids had been out of town, let alone on an airplane, and to hear her tell it the kids were stoked. She went on to say they have never had an opportunity like this to travel and do it in one day. And she was most appreciative of this opportunity for her students,

So, I enjoyed my trip to Cincy, and I did my part, by providing some content and SWA took good care of DaveTheHRCzar that was kind of the deal we negotiated.  But for those children on the flight who went to the ballgame they got to see some Corporate Goodness.  Southwest Airlines did not have to do that, they chose to reach out to those kids and for that they should be commended. There are not enough stories like this that get told. So, Kudos to the promotions and public relations offices at Southwest, you did good!

I thought about this after the flight. As those students grow up and move into the adult world many of them will have occasion to use air travel.  What airline do you think will come to mind?  Nice work SWA!

And as a bonus, for the next two days only, you can find a super deal on Southwest follow this link.