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A heart-wrenching story by Southwest Airlines

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Southwest Airlines went that extra mile, constituting an example that showcases that the incorporation of experiential marketing stories in organizations is a key determinant in delivering corporate benefits.

A grandfather’s wife made a desperate call to Southwest Airlines to organize a last-minute flight ticket, describing a crisis circumstance:

A grandfather urgently needed to fly from a corporate trip in Los Angeles to his daughter’s home in Denver to live the very last moments with a person he loved: his three-year-old grandson who was in a come after having been beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend. The little boy would be taken off life support at 9 p.m. that night, donating his organs to save over 25 lives. A big delay on road and airport made the man almost miss the flight scheduled at 11: 50. At 12:02, 12 minutes after the supposed departure flight time, the pilot, having held the plane, welcomed the grandfather to the waiting plane: “Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson.” Mark, walking down the jetway with the pilot, told him: “I can’t thank you enough for this” to receive once more his generous response: “They can’t go anywhere without me, and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

Despite not deriving from the exact hospitality industry, but from its cognate airlines business, this heart-wrenching story is evincible of how companies opt for going above and beyond to personally respond to a valued customer with an experience that marks his life. The pilot of the story deviated from the rigorously strict airline guidelines that no flight should be held for any reason and designed an experiential memory that would emotionally engage the client in an inherently personal way forever. In this way, the pilot and Southwest airlines created uniquely positive feelings that harmonize the customer perception and contemporaneously steer the brand reputation.

Blogger Christopher Elliott communicated and shared this story that Nancy, Mark’s wife sent him, to Southwest Airlines and published it on his site with the awesomely articulated comment: “I’m speechless. Twelve minutes may not sound like a lot to you or me, but every second counts when you’re an airline. Southwest can turn an entire plane around in about 20 minutes, so 12 minutes is half an eternity.”

Learning outcome
Southwest Airlines went that extra mile, constituting an example that showcases that the incorporation of experiential marketing stories in organizations is a key determinant in delivering corporate benefits. The cited story evaluates the scope, leading to the learning outcome that extraordinary personally scripted stories based on the experiential marketing methodology establish a link between the brands and their consumers, scale sustainably the goodwill of the organizations and, consequently, irreversibly instill positive emotions in the minds of customers in a way that transform them to brand ambassadors and lifelong users.

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