Halloween is such a big deal at Southwest, even founder Herb Kelleher and former president Colleen Barrett got dressed up for the occasion in the lobby. (So to speak.)
For Halloween, Southwest employees compete by department to wow the judges. This year, that was us (along with Grant from Gadling, Brett the Cranky Flier and Holly of Plane Buzz). Our job was to visit each department, be bowled over by the crazy costumes and creative decorations and eventually pick the best skit and the best walk-through from among them. Oh, and we had one more important opinionizer:
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly went around with us all day and was treated like a celebrity wherever we went. What's not to love about a guy who walks around all day with a ridiculous beard just for morale's sake? (He didn't even take it off for lunch.) And everyone wanted to be in a picture with him, even the superheroes.
Some of the shows we saw were obviously Halloween, like Maintenance's bundle o' scares (from mummies to cannibals to rubber spiders!) and Ground Ops' superhero carnival for kids, where we found this super-family.
Most of the productions referenced Southwest in some way, from Executive Operations' reworking of a Cher number tout the benefits of being "First In Line" with a coveted A pass to the People department's use of Gary, Colleen and Herb as characters in their skit "H:08 Undercover." (Herb and Colleen stop by to give Gary some guidance in researching other airlines' perks so he can make Southwest the best.) In Inflight's "Calling All Heroes," Wonder Woman and The Flash competed with real-life Southwest employees in a mock job interview.
The winning skit, Marketing's "SWAmma Mia!" (posted above), compared the search for a good airline to the movie musical's quest for a girl's real dad. After trying out "Takin' Advantage Airlines" and "Almost Virgin," our mythic bride finds happiness to the tune of "Take A Chance On Me" with the only slightly dorky Southwest.
"If you wanna get away, I'll be around/ Southwest is where the low fares abound/ If you wanna fly--we won't nickel and dime/ We don't charge fees/ Take a chance on me."
A few shows, including Technology's revue of famous musical numbers, referenced Kelly's costume last year, in which he memorably went as Edna Turnblad. While we weren't privy to the exact decision process behind this year's costume, Gary said his gender-bender was at least good for playing a practical joke on his dad. (On the other side, an EO employee's Tom Jones outfit was so complete she was able to fool her own grandmother when she came to see the show.)
Of course, part of the fun of celebrating Halloween at Southwest was prowling the halls and checking out corporate paraphernalia. A mural of Herb arm-wrestling with Stevens Aviation CEO Kurt Herwald delighted us, but displays of old flight attendant uniforms alternately fascinated and freaked us out. (The '80s fashions were just plane scary.)
And of course, aviation fanatics can always step out onto the deck and watch the planes take off from Love Field. (That's Brett the Cranky Flier in the Mounties uniform and Grant in orange.) Must look like victory after the airline's whimsical campaign to "Set Love Free" and allow them more freedom to operate there.
Okay, so maybe it's a little misleading to visit a company on what could be the best day to work there all year. But it's a really good time to be Southwest right now: The "No-Fee Zone" ad campaign is clearly striking a chord with fliers losing patience with other airlines' snatching away formerly included items like checked baggage and beverages. So why shouldn't they celebrate?
· A Close Reading Of Gary Kelly's Costume Pick [Jaunted]
· A Sharp Dressed Man [Blog Southwest]
· Trick or Treat [Spirit Magazine]
· Southwest Airlines Throws Halloween Bash [DMN]
· Southwest In High Gear For Its Favorite Holiday [Jaunted]