Southwest Airlines does a creative little extra for a passenger


Share on LinkedIn

Southwest AirlinesMy good friend Keith Green of Synergy sent me a creative example this week. He was flying Southwest Airlines from Liberty in Newark to Midway in Chicago.

Here’s what happened in Keith’s words,

Southwest birthday cake“The flight attendant came on near the end of flight, called out passenger out by name asked him to ring his call bell. He did and the flight attendant explained that they knew it was his birthday. She then asked everyone to turn on their call buttons, lighting them up as candles and asked we all sing happy birthday. After we did we all turned off our call buttons to “blow out” the candles. They then delivered a bottle of champagne to the guy. Nice touch.”


According to VP of Airport Affairs, Bob Montgomery, “Southwest’s employees have fun on the job.” He believes that is among the reasons for the airline’s financial success.

“Because of our great people and the culture that we have here, they just simply work harder and more effectively. It’s impossible to put a number on the benefit that that gives us.”

Bringing Your Personality to Work

Southwest encourages employees to bring their personality to work. They also empower them to make decisions that put the customer first. Here are a handful of examples of how they’ve stepped up in the past:

southwest-love1. Holding a plane for a passenger going to see their dying grandson.

2. Recognizing the artistic efforts of a young passenger.

3. Stepping up to help a customer with a special need with JOY.

4. Party with a purpose.

5. A flight attendant rapping pre-flight instructions.

According to Dr. Fathi El-NadiSouthwest‘s relaxed culture can be traced back to unconventional CEO Herb Kelleher. Kelleher encouraged informality and wanted staff to have fun at their jobs. Employees were valued, with Kelleher acknowledging births, marriages and deaths by notes and cards. Staff were encouraged to pitch in and help out, especially at check-in, giving Southwest turnaround times less than half the industry average.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Southwest is a Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer. They’ve also shown up as an example of a customer-centric organization in this slideshare:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


  1. Very nice! Give the Unexpected
    A key to landing customers and keeping them coming back for more is to give the unexpected. What can your company do to surprise your customers? That is for you to decide.

  2. Thanks Kattia. I totally agree. The acronym is use is GLUE. It stands for giving little unexpected extras. Signature things that win customers and influence word of mouth.

  3. Good to know that they are still able to do these small gestures. It is through these small gestures that you create loyal fans for your brands.

    Btw, I loved your Purple GoldFish book. Thanks for sharing these success stories..


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here