Southwest’s PR Nightmare

So anyone who has ever flown Southwest with a particularly gregarious flight attendant knows that the airline is pretty fast and loose with what they allow their staff to say on the PA system – usually in a very good way with humor and spirit injected into the announcements. As someone with a friend who had family working for Southwest, I know some of the amusing antics that are supposed to entertain, but are also used to convey relevant information to the flight. (Example: “This is a non-smoking flight and you may not tamper with the smoke detectors. However, if you must smoke, you may step out onto the wing and become our feature film, Gone with the Wind.)

Little did we know that the Southwest definition of amusing antics included electioneering for animal rights groups trying to shut down hunting and farming.

HumaneWatch has a story of a flight to Ohio on Thursday where a flight attendant welcomed the passengers to the ground by promoting HSUS’s website in favor of a ballot initiative there. As the swarm of condemnation started, Southwest released a statement saying they don’t condone the actions of the flight attendant. Great. But I want to know what policy Southwest had on the books that made the flight attendant believe that electioneering via the PA system was acceptable practice.

It seems to me that Southwest could maintain a fairly open policy about being friendly on the intercom while still saying somethings are off limits. Flight attendants have a captive audience where customers cannot immediately get up and leave if the crew are the ones misbehaving. It shouldn’t be a stretch for airline to tell their staff that they leave their politics at home when flying.

It’s a good thing for Southwest that the Supreme Court opened up the campaign finance laws for corporations recently, otherwise I would be inquiring as to the fair market value of such political ads on a captive audience forced to listen to the crew by federal law. I’d hate to think that Southwest wouldn’t report such a donation.

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