LIVE FROM DALLAS – 6/4/12
Well, today just proved that even days with the rockiest of starts can turn out to be ONEderful! If any of us had any doubts about the LUV we would feel here, I believe I can safely say those doubts have been laid to rest. I don’t have to tell all of you how anxious we were to get started today. Bright-eyed and expectant, and knowing that you are not to be “a nano-second late to class” we all lined up this morning just before 7 AM in the Dallas humidity and awaited our bus. I still don’t know what caused the delay, but, after being herded back inside by the hotel staff, we waited in the lobby (and, for many of us, finished putting in our bids) until the bus finally arrived at 8. We had no idea that the reception we would receive at headquarters was worth the wait!
From the moment we hit the front door we were greeted with a warm smile. One greeter handed us off to another who led us upstairs and down the long hallway to the inflight training center. We weren’t halfway down the hall when we were greeted by cheers and applause, high-fives and hugs. “We’re so glad you’re here!” “Welcome Aboard!” “So glad to finally meet you all!” Really? Did they mean us? I’m not sure one of us made it to the end of the hall with dry eyes. The reception was amazing, the LUV was obvious, but here’s the best part. When we reached the end of the hall we each had to have our passport checked. And behind the table were mannequins wearing the current Southwest uniforms. And nestled among them were two new ones – wearing AirTran uniforms. We had arrived. We are really part of the family and we were grateful for the boxes of tissues on our tables!
The day began, as it does for all those new to Southwest, with our FLY class (Freedom, LUV and YOU). Our first order of business was a classic ice-breaker – let’s get to know our classmates. Of course, we are not your average, Southwest new hire class. We have known each other for years. But we did what we were told and moved around the room looking to find some new tidbit of information about those we thought we knew so well. And find some we did! There were many surprises, but some of the most memorable had to do with Gilbert Godfrey, Michael Jackson, funeral homes and two TV shows (who knew we had celebrities among us?)
The morning was filled with the usual start-of-any-new-job paperwork (yes, hard to believe, but there is even more paperwork to fill out after you arrive!) followed by a lesson on the history of Southwest Airlines. From 10 minute turns and hot pants to free bottles of liquor and the Wright Amendment, we learned how this company came to be. And we learned of the culture that has been nurtured for 40 years and made this an amazing place to work. Employee relations are number one here – take care of the internal customer first and they will, in turn, take care of the external. They mean it when they say they live by the Golden rule. One memorable quote: “I don’t care if you like each other, but you will respect each other.”
Before breaking for lunch, we broke into 4 groups and, at the hands of an able “LUV guide”, we toured the building – or should I say parts of the building. In the time allotted it would be impossible to see it all. Suffice it to say, it is obvious on all the walls that people here care for and celebrate with each other. And if any of you ladies are unhappy about giving up your uniform dress – wait till you see some of the incarnations of their uniforms over the years – and I’m not talking about the hot pants!
A panel of experts from various departments came to fill our heads with an overwhelming amount of information in the afternoon – Health and Welfare, 401K, Safety and Security, SWA Credit Union, the Pass Bureau. And even in sharing information that should otherwise be rather dull, they were both informative, fun and appreciative of all the questions we asked.
With the departmental information out of the way, we were in for the biggest thrill of the day – our guest speaker – Colleen Barrett. For those who are not familiar with the history of Southwest, Colleen is the President Emeritus of Southwest and is consistently recognized as one of the most powerful American businesswomen for her role in shaping this company. Listening to her speak was so inspiring and from her first words to her last, she just reinforced what we had heard all day. She began with, “We are excited that you are here” and she ended with “Thank you for joining our family.” I could fill in so much more, but this message would go on far too long. As our Culture Committee speaker told us later in the day, “It was Colleen who gave us our heart.”
Our day ended with the weekly deck party. Yes, it was in the sun, and yes, it was hot, but we danced up a storm and it was only the fact that our buses were leaving at exactly 7 PM that had us conga-ing off the floor before the party was officially over.
It was a long day, but we all got back to our rooms tired, hungry and feeling well LUVed. And we can’t wait for tomorrow.