A Birthday Surprise With Wings

On my afternoon Southwest flight from Nashville to San Diego, we were about 30 minutes from landing.

The Flight Attendant flips on the intercom and speaks in an excited voice, “We have a very special guest on this flight today! Jocelyn is turning 11 and we’re going to help her celebrate.”

She continues, “Here’s how we’ll do this – everyone, if your window is open, please close it. Then, please press the Attendant Notification light above your aisle seat. These will be our candles!”

Surprisingly, everyone on the plane follows her lead. The lights go dim with the closed windows. The dinging of the Attendant Notification light bounces around the plane. Blue lights line the ceiling of the walkway.

Now, let us sing Happy Birthday and once we’re done, we’ll give Jocelyn a few moments to make a wish. When she lets us know what she has made her wish, she will blow out the candles and we’ll all turn off our Attendant Notification lights. On the count of 3…1, 2, 3…”

Every passenger sings happy birthday to Jocelyn, sitting toward the end of the plane. At the end of the song, we pause until she says she’s done with her wish. Then, everyone claps.

I was incredibly impressed with this simple, creative way to wish someone happy birthday on a flight.

They could have easily let this go with just recognition from a Flight Attendant and an extra pack of Oreos. But no, this Southwest Flight Team took it to the next level and gave this little girl a birthday experience she’ll never forget. In fact, I’ll never forget it. It also gave every single passenger a smile on their face right before landing in beautiful San Diego.

The next time you’re feeling out of creative ideas to enhance the customer experience, look around you and work with what you have. A little goes a long, long way.

Jenny Dempsey is currently the the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. She has worked at tech startups since 2005. She's the co-founder and regular contributor over at CustomerServiceLife.com. She's a certified health coach, but not the kind that forces you to only eat cardboard and deprive yourself of ice cream. JennyDempseyWellness.com, the company she started, was designed to bring a new type of wellness into the workplace, one that gives you permission to look deeper into yourself, rather than just on the healthy snacks in the break room. She is the mother to a toothless rescue cat named Chompers. Avocados and veggie tacos are the way to her heart. She's also a Hanson fan for life.

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