Have you ever wanted to take a ukulele lesson on an airplane?
Somehow, that’s the question dividing the internet this week.
(Side note: Read to the end to learn how you can potentially get two free Southwest Airlines tickets.)
On September 16, every passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Long Beach, California to Honolulu received a free ukulele and an onboard lesson. They were also treated – or perhaps subjected – to a short appearance by Aryyzona, a Los Angeles-based musician and social media influencer.
The airline posted about the flight on its social media platforms on Tuesday and the response was immediate and polarized.
The messages generated an unusually high response rate, according to Alyssa Foster, a Southwest spokesperson involved in coordinating the promotion. But, she said, the tone of those responses varied widely by platform. Twitter users were generally less enthusiastic about the idea, but the airline’s fans on Instagram reacted a lot more positively, she said.
Before the pandemic, Southwest was known for these “surprise and delight” programs on board, but during the travel decline, they paused. After a few years without them, Foster said, many social media viewers may be learning about Southwest’s unique corporate culture for the first time.
“That’s awareness for you, and it’s something we used to promote that service from Hawaii to Long Beach,” she said. “If you’re not on board or haven’t experienced it, it’s extraordinary, and that’s kind of the point… It’s something special and unique in the Southwest.”
What’s involved in planning an onboard ukulele giveaway?
Foster told USA TODAY that any promotion like this takes a lot of preparation, not just securing hundreds of instruments and cases. The airline and its partners focus on what they want to promote — in this case, a relatively new flight from Long Beach to Honolulu for Southwest, and the availability of lessons at Guitar Center.
Planners also consider which flights make the most sense for an experience that, if Twitter is to be believed, not everyone would be excited to participate.
“We don’t want to do anything on a 6am flight,” Foster said. “We really think about what kind of customer is on board.”
Are people trapped?
Foster admitted that the ukulele program used the plane’s PA system, but she was quick to note that the whole thing took about 20 minutes on a roughly six-hour flight, and customers were encouraged to put their instruments down when it ended.
“There was still time for people to sit back and relax,” she said. “We planned to make sure it was a fun experience from the start.”
The three instructors on board were from Guitar Center’s Pearl City store, and Foster said Southwest has strived to educate both its employees and customers about Hawaiian culture since they began serving the islands.
She also said the airline’s advanced planning meant there were no issues with hand luggage not having enough space due to the extra instruments on board.
“Everyone had a great time. They were already on their way to Hawaii,” Foster said.
Guitar Center also offered to return the ukuleles to passengers’ homes for free.
Can I get a free ukulele?
Could be! Southwest is expanding the promotion with a raffle. The winner will receive two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the airline’s network, and two ukuleles to boot.
All you need to do is enter your details here.
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