If you pay attention to the travel hacking world, you may have read the other day that, in partnership with Guitar World, Southwest Airlines gave every passenger on their September 16th flight from Long Beach, CA to Honolulu a free ukulele.
Not only did everyone get that free gift, but they were also treated to a free ukulele lesson the flight, as well as a performance by Aryyzona, a Los Angeles-based musician and social media influencer.
This isn’t the first time Southwest has offered “entertainment” on their flights. Long before Covid, they were well known for hosting surprise concerts on select flights. As we wrote in 2019:
Imagine flying somewhere and getting settled in your assigned seat. You’re all ready to do some stuff for work, or maybe read a book, or watch a movie, or maybe you just plan on sleeping. And once you hit 35,000 feet, all of a sudden, surprise!, a concert starts on the plane.
Thanks to a deal with Warner Music Nashville, Southwest’s “pop-up concerts,” which have been happening on and off since 2011, are an official thing with a name: “Live at 35.” Initially launched in 2017, as per Southwest, “We take our love for Artists on the Rise to new heights in our ongoing series featuring one-of-a-kind performances onboard flights at 35,000 feet.”
I’m sure some people thought the pop-up concerts were great, but, not surprisingly, not everyone was a fan. So when they stopped them in 2020 due to the pandemic, not everyone was crying about it.
Fast forward to 2022. Covid is not nearly the threat it once was, and I guess Southwest figured it would be safe to start adding these “pop up” events again. But they’re not doing Live 35 concerts with famous performers like Straight No Chaser, Barenaked Ladies, Filmore, etc. I guess they downgraded, got a sponsor who gave out free ukuleles and a free lesson, and a performance by a much less popular performer and social influencer who probably charged a whole lot less than, say, Straight No Chaser.
As always, the response was mixed. However I did see more cajoling about this event than I did the Live 35 ones. Gems like these:
If the flight I’m on ever turns into a surprise group music lesson I am going to sue the airline for $50 billion in emotional damages https://t.co/YQUwfvD3Zq
— 🎹 sharon su 🎹 (@doodlyroses) September 21, 2022
I would be asking for parashute and letting me out mid flight. Some people have sensory issues.
— Zuza💙💛 (@7uu7aa) September 21, 2022
Me, heading out the emergency exit: pic.twitter.com/WH5c7C9ZrN
— Sarah Daniels (@SarahDaniels) September 21, 2022
My biggest nightmare!
— Karl Marlinghaus (@53buckeye) September 21, 2022
When you pay for travel, but you're trapped in a plane full of ukuleles. Cool publicity stunt — not.
— Roberta Laurie (@Roberta_Laurie) September 21, 2022
no one on any plane I’ve been on wants more excess noise than there already is, this has that “youth group sings on flight” energy-
don’t hold your customers hostage to advertising you can’t opt out of
— ian (@MyNameIsIan) September 21, 2022
Nice to see a Bronco fan in the picture!
This gal has good intentions, but I don't want to listen to people play the ukulele from Denver to Honolulu.
I hate flying and I want to avoid having a major anxiety attack.
I’d have to put on my headphones and listen to music.
— Trish Lane 🌻 (@iTrishLane) September 21, 2022
(To be fair, the lesson was reportedly only about 20 minutes)
Anyway, so as you can see, between the “Wow, what a good idea!” tweets they got, there was also a whole lot of shade thrown at them.
But the absolute BEST response came from, of all places, Amtrak, who appears to have taken a lesson in “Wendy’s level” snark:
btw we have a quiet car 🤐 https://t.co/6MA7LS8N5L
— Amtrak (@Amtrak) September 21, 2022
You GO, Amtrak! As I double check to make sure that my noise canceling headphones are packed for my next flight on Southwest, I’m right there with ya! 😉
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I would not be happy in first class had they done that. Of wait SWA doesn’t have first class. LOL