Southwest Airlines needs to change the narrative.
After decades of being an airline that had more goodwill than most of its rivals, it has had a rough year or so. The company’s fortunes publicly changed during its holiday meltdown.
That, however, wasn’t really where they began as Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Free Report has been dealing with unprecedented public-facing problems with its workforce. Both its pilots and its flight attendants are currently in negotiations for a new contract and those efforts have been much more contentious than they traditionally have been.
The company’s flight attendants staged a public protest against the company in February during an annual event that has traditionally been a celebration. Southwest’s pilots have also been very vocal about their displeasure with how the company is being run.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), the union representing the pilots, has asked to pull out of federal mediation with the airline. That’s a big step toward a strike which would be devastating for the company.
SWAPA was very clear about what the union thinks the problem is in a letter it shared publicly earlier this year.
“How did we get here? How did we go from the most stable and profitable airline in history to the greatest meltdown in airline history? As with most organizations, the answer can be distilled down to one word: Leadership. Actually, in our case, it’s three words: Lack of leadership,” the union shared.
Now, while the company continues to deal with labor issues, it has also been working to correct the problems that led to its December meltdown that stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers. Those efforts include spending $1.3 billion in new technology, personnel, and equipment.
Early results — the company had a near-perfect 4th of July holiday — have been good, but one successful holiday does not correct the damage caused by the Christmas season events. Southwest has a few potential ticking time bombs that could lead to a customer sentiment setback, but it’s also working to fix its problems.
Now, amidst the labor unrest and uncertainty, the airline has opted to do something fun. Southwest has brought back its annual “Shark Week” promotion in conjunction with Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – Get Free Report.
Southwest Brings ‘Shark Week’ to the Airport
While “Shark Week” feels like an odd fit for an airline, it actually makes more sense than celebrating the deadly fish on any craft that travels over water. Cruise lines probably don’t want to celebrate sharks as they bring people to places for them to go to the beach, so there’s actually some logic in Southwest and Warner Bros. Discovery working together, which they have done for a full decade.
“Shark Week” is a week-long event where Discovery, a cable channel in the Warner Bros. Discovery family, airs a lot of special programming about sharks. This year’s festivities will be hosted by Aquaman himself, actor Jason Momoa.
Southwest has opted to get in on the action both in select airports and on its planes. The company kicked off “Shark Week” on July 20 with an appearance by marine biologist and “Shark Week” presenter, Dr. Craig O’Connell, also known as the “The Shark Doctor.” O’Connell hosted a trivia game in the gate area at LaGuardia Airport, where customers could win prizes for answering questions.
In addition, Southwest passengers on a flight to Dallas, the company’s home airport, received a Shark Week fin hat as they boarded. Customers on another recent flight from Atlanta also got “Shark Week” fin hats as they boarded and a chance to play a trivia game at the gate.
Southwest Takes ‘Shark Week’ to the Air
While not every Southwest customer gets a free hat or chance to meet a celebrity, everyone on its planes has been getting access to special “Shark Week” content.
“Since July 1, Southwest Airlines Customers have had exclusive inflight access to sink their teeth into Discovery Channel’s 2023 Shark Week programming,” the airline shared in a press release.
“The Haunting of Shark Tower,” is currently available to Southwest passengers to watch ahead of its network premiere on July 28.
“This episode, as well as three other fan-favorite Shark Week episodes, have been available for customers to enjoy nearly three weeks prior to Shark Week 2023,” the airlines added.
And, since Southwest offers free live TV on its flights, passengers will be able to watch all of “Shark Week” from its July 23 kickoff to its final shows on July 29.