[Updated] Southwest’s LUVless Pride Month – Opinion

by Sam Roecker

Southwest Responds to Pride Story

Southwest’s unedited response: 

For more than 47 years, the Heart of Southwest Airlines has been its People. Southwest is legendary for offering all Employees a Culture based upon The Golden Rule, where all forms of diversity are appreciated and all individuals are welcome as members of an inclusive Southwest Family.

To question Southwest’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness is not an accurate evaluation of the all-year-long support that we proudly offer to the LGBTQ community. Here are some examples:

•    In 2017, Southwest Airlines was recognized for our continued commitment to equality by being named as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for the third consecutive year.

•    Southwest Airlines proudly sponsors LGBTQ-focused nonprofit organizations throughout the country that focus on important issues like LGBTQ equality, entrepreneurship, public leadership, and creating safe and equitable workplace environments, to name a few. Through those long-term investments in the communities where our Employees and Customers live and work, our community partners are able to making lasting, positive impacts that benefit the LGBTQ communities.  You can learn more about some of the organizations we proudly support by visiting:  https://www.southwest.com/html/southwest-difference/community-involvement/glbt/partners.html

•    We also are very proud of our Diversity Council which was organized to serve as a strategic partner dedicated to promoting a work environment that celebrates differences, fosters inclusion, and leverages diversity to enhance organizational performance. The Diversity Council is comprised of Employees across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and work groups.

In the past, we’ve done things like distribute a press release, and sponsor Pride events; this year, we decided to be a bit more creative with showing our support by sharing a well-received love story from two of our Employees via Southwest’s social media channels. This celebratory video is on par with how we have recently celebrated other diversity months (a few examples below). Additionally, many of our Employees represented Southwest in branded t-shirts at Pride parades throughout the country.

2017 Pride: https://www.facebook.com/SouthwestAir/videos/10155565847663949/

Black History Month: https://www.southwestaircommunity.com/t5/Southwest-Stories/Celebrating-Black-History-Month-with-the-Tuskegee-Airmen/ba-p/65687

International Women’s Day: https://www.southwestaircommunity.com/t5/Southwest-Stories/International-Women-s-Day-Don-t-Tell-Me-No-Watch-Me/ba-p/69421

While our communication tactics this year might not resonate with the personal opinion of your writer, no one should question our support of LGBTQ communities and the LUV we extend to our valued LGBTQ Southwest Employees and Customers every day of the year.

– Southwest Public Relations


Although Southwest did not provide any specifics on the company’s Pride parade involvement, one reader confirmed Southwest employees marched in Denver Pride: 

Reader-Submitted Photo of Southwest Employees at Denver Pride


Southwest’s LUVless Pride Month – Opinion

[Original Post]

All but one major U.S. airline went all OUT this June for LGBTQ Pride Month. Delta sponsored ten Pride events, United’s CEO marched with employees, and American reaffirmed its 20+ year commitment to the LGBTQ community. Alaska, Hawaiian, and JetBlue joined the “Big Three” in showing the many ways airlines #FlyWithPride.

Where was Southwest?

LUVable Southwest Had Little to Say…

A LUV story with #Pride was the only visible – and that’s being generous – Pride message from Southwest. Despite the title, the video (below) has little to do with Pride Month or Southwest’s commitment to the LGBTQ community.

Full disclosure, I am a former Southwest intern; I worked in communications one summer and D&I (diversity and inclusion) the next. I can personally speak to the legendary company culture, which in my opinion, absolutely fosters inclusion and acceptance. Southwest’s entire brand ethos centers around LUV and its employees.

That’s exactly why the Southwest’s peanuts-small Pride ‘celebration’ really stings.

Southwest’s Inaction Was Not Unintentional

Southwest is incredibly brand-conscious – if you don’t believe me, read the 180-page style guide (bottom left corner of the page). Southwest leaders speak publicly about fighting every day to stand out from competitors. They certainly do things differently at Southwest, but the airline is very aware of the competitive landscape.

Pride Month is hard to miss (visually speaking), especially when six U.S. airlines share social media posts, march in parades, and publicly speak out in support of equality. Surely, someone at Southwest noticed American and United’s rainbow-logo profile pictures.

“We don’t want to be controversial or polarizing” is was a decent argument for a major corporation ten years ago. Except, we live in 2018 where everything – including doing nothing – makes a statement. Southwest wasn’t afraid to take a stand on keeping families connected. Visible invisibility says a lot in today’s world.

Southwest Gay Travel LGBT Outreach Pride Month

Southwest’s Former Gay Travel Website

What Happened, Southwest?

Southwest Airlines GSD&M Pride LGBT Gay Travel

Southwest Ad by GSD&M

Southwest used to be among the more visible LGBTQ-friendly brands. The airline created a dedicated ‘Gay Travel’ site southwest.com/gaytravel and marketed directly to LGBTQ consumers, like this 2009 GSD&M ad campaign (right). The gay travel site now redirects to a more general page about the company’s LGBT Outreach.

Southwest’s direct support of LGBTQ-focused nonprofits is certainly praiseworthy, as is the company’s rating of 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI). Southwest began offering same-sex partner benefits in 2001, long before it was “cool.”

Why so quiet, then?

Southwest Has an Important Voice

LUV ’em or not, Southwest is one of the most powerful and respected consumer brands. The company demonstrated its incredible communication prowess with the handling of flight 1380; the company does not blunder its PR or marketing.

Pride is about visibility – showing your true colors – and celebrating progress loud and proud. Yes, inclusive policies and donated dollars are important, but so is supporting LGBTQ and ally employees who want to share their Southwest Pride publicly.

Clearly Southwest is not anti-gay. But it does feel like Southwest is intentionally hiding its support.

I’m not feeling the LUV, Southwest. Are you?

 


American, Delta, and United Celebrate LGBTQ Pride

American Airlines – 20+ Years of LGBTQ Inclusion

American was ‘first out of the gate’ in its vocal support of the LGBTQ community over 20 years ago. American was the first airline to offer domestic partner benefits, first to include transgender employees in the company’s anti-discrimination policy, and first to include LGBT-certified businesses in its supplier diversity program.

American CEO Doug Parker was vocal in the company’s support of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality:

Today’s decision reaffirms the commitment of companies like American that recognize equality is good for business and society as a whole.

Delta Air Lines – Official Sponsor of Nine U.S. Pride Events

Delta showed its Pride in Flight this June as the official airline sponsor of nine Pride events across the U.S. Delta also teamed up with JV (joint venture) partner Virgin Atlantic to co-sponsor events in Boston, New York, and Seattle. The carriers will also sponsor London Pride on July 7 and Atlanta Pride on October 14.

Delta LGBT Pride Month June

Delta LGBTQ Pride Month | Photo: Delta

Delta LGBT June Pride Month

Delta LGBTQ Pride Parade | Photo: Delta

United Airlines – Pride Flies With Us

United got personal this Pride month, sharing stories from employees about what Pride means to them. United marched in six U.S. cities, Mexico City, and London (July 7). Chief Executive Oscar Munoz even joined in on the fun!

United’s Pride Flies With Us campaign also includes these awesome t-shirts and other United-branded Pride swag. Talk about visible!

United LGBT Pride T-Shirt

United Pride T-Shirt | United Shop

United CEO Oscar Munoz marched with employees


Alaska, Hawaiian, and JetBlue Also #FlyWithPride

500 of us made our first pride possible today. 🌈 I am so proud of this company. #nonstopPRIDE

JetBlue New York City Pride| Photo: JetBlue

Pride_TW

Happy #PrideMonth 🌈 from Hawaiian Airlines. Here’s a #TBT to the Honolulu Pride Parade last year! #LoveIsLove pic.twitter.com/jnTIFWSNiJ

Again, where was Southwest?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

34 comments
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34 comments

A July 5, 2018 - 8:38 pm

SW has no voice, nor LUV. There is a reason I refuse to fly them unless no other option exists.

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Sam Roecker July 5, 2018 - 8:56 pm

I’m curious to hear more, can you elaborate?

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Doug July 5, 2018 - 8:43 pm

I couldn’t care less if an airline supports LGBTQ rights in such a visible manner, any more than I expect them to push (for example) free speech rights. If they were discriminating against LGBTQ employees or customers, that would be a different matter.

Just deliver a superior product to the consumer. That’s what I look for when choosing which company to patronize, rather than how socially aware they are.

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Sam Roecker July 5, 2018 - 8:55 pm

Fair enough. Southwest certainly delivers on product consistency. Thanks for reading!

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Frank July 5, 2018 - 8:45 pm

Who cares? I’ll fly them just because they didn’t celebrate this nonsense!

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Taylor July 5, 2018 - 9:40 pm

Wow. Spot on. I really love Southwest and respect their culture and product, but their voice has been noticing missing.

Amazing brand with employees that seem to genuinely feel celebrated. Pretty disheartening to dilute that publicly. Really expected more from them. I got an email this week from United showcasing their LGBT inclusion efforts and growth over the ost six years. Really impressive and definitely motivates me to give them more business.

Hope Southwest addresses it (and wants to) like I know they’re capable of!

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Sam Roecker July 5, 2018 - 10:03 pm

Thanks for your comment, Taylor. Happy flying!

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V Garcia July 9, 2018 - 10:10 pm

Do you work for Southwest? Do you know how and when they actually celebrated pride in every community? Why should they have to send you an email? Southwest is everywhere with a huge voice. If you think they’re missing, you are just not looking.

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TM July 10, 2018 - 8:34 am

We live in a world of have to haves, and nice to haves. I never said Southwest should HAVE to send me anything, nor do I request them to do so. I was simply referring to an email United sent me, as a customer of theirs, that I enjoyed reading and LIKED receiving. They are one of many brands I follow. In my opinion, if I HAVE to look for something as simple as a presence in a signature event like a Pride parade, particularly from a brand like Southwest that I do respect, yes I take notice to that.

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DaninMCI July 6, 2018 - 4:37 am

It’s mid-July. Time to move on. To worry about a corporation not supporting a cause based on it’s marketing strategy is foolish I think. Even worse when you have worked there and understand the culture. It’s about you do when nobody is watching.

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Erick July 6, 2018 - 7:57 am

I appreciate this article. It is surprising that Southwest didn’t do more. It’s only 6 days into July–not MID JULY as the previous comment would suggest–so it’s a timely recap of previous month’s events. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Sam Roecker July 6, 2018 - 9:00 am

Thank you, Erick – appreciate your feedback. Happy flying!

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Chuck July 6, 2018 - 8:54 am

It’s amazing that groups, who ever they may be, want to be treated the same as everyone else but also want special treatment and/or recognition… I think that is contradictory in nature. They are being treated the same as everyone else and that’s the way it should be. I don’t expect to be treated special just because of my race, religion, creed or any other reason. Companies can support what ever cause they like to and I have the option to use those companies or support other companies.

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Sam Roecker July 6, 2018 - 9:14 am

Thank you for your comment, Chuck. To your point, I think two things can be true: we can have inclusive policies (equality) and a special shout-out on a month that’s deeply important to my community.

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N July 6, 2018 - 8:57 am

This is the strangest “this porridge is too cold” goldilocks opinion over a non-issue. Wish I can have those 5 minutes reading back.

Perhaps, Southwest’s move was to be more inclusive, including to those who may not support Pride month. Or perhaps, given the context of the engine blade accident just a month before, branding wasn’t on-board with pushing any messaging that might be considered divisive and divert revenue elsewhere.

Idk. But would you have preferred they turned southwest.com into a rainbow orgy of unicorns and scantily clad, parade goers? Lol. I don’t see how that would help their business.

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nsx at FlyerTalk July 6, 2018 - 3:58 pm

Maybe Southwest feels that it has nothing left to prove about its loyalty to its gay employees and customers. Did you see A&E’s show Airline, which starred some adorable and hard-working gay Southwest employees?

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Sam Roecker July 6, 2018 - 4:54 pm

Yes, great show! So much LUV for Yolanda – she was one of the many reasons I wanted to work there. That’s an interesting take, I can definitely see your point. I guess what strikes me most is how hard I had to “dig” (not really, but you get the gist) to find what little information exists. For example, I can’t find any mention of the LGBT Employee Resource Group that used to exist; any statements from senior leaders; or anything significant this last year. There’s a noticeable lack of information for a company that’s VERY brand savvy. Stay tuned…

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John Orman July 8, 2018 - 12:57 pm

Southwest invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in GLAAD annually. Delta employees sued the company before it participated.

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Sam Roecker July 8, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Thanks for your comment, John. Stayed tuned – there’s more to the story coming.

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Kaden July 8, 2018 - 4:29 pm

Did you intentionally leave out all the pride parades SWA employees marched in this year?

Southwest doesn’t need to change a profile picture to a rainbow or tweet a flag to show support. They support their lgbtq employees and honestly that’s all that matters.

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Sam Roecker July 8, 2018 - 6:04 pm

Hi Kaden, thank you for your comment. I was unable to find any examples of Southwest-sponsored Pride parades in 2018. I would be more than happy to update the story – please email me parades/dates/examples at sam@pointmetotheplane.com (pics would be great too!)

My point was not that Southwest does not support LGBTQ employees – they do in terms of policies – but rather my opinion that the company is hiding its efforts and intentionally remaining quiet in an era when every other airline is not. Southwest used to publicly sponsor and support Pride events (last example I can find is 2007 D.C. Pride…) and now they do not. Other major US airlines sent out statements listing their Pride events, dates, employee commitment, etc. Southwest did not.

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Kaden July 8, 2018 - 8:01 pm

The best thing about southwest is the celebration of diversity year round. See they don’t just celebrate it one weekend a year. There are fundraisers and events all year round. They don’t need a profile picture change or a rainbow made with Dixie Cups. I guess you missed the actions they took after the Pulse attack.

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Sam Roecker July 8, 2018 - 8:23 pm

Kaden, I understand your point, but Southwest continues to sponsor other diverse community events like the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade, Hispanic Heritage Month, etc. I am aware of Southwest’s actions after Pulse, but that’s not related to Pride. In past years, Southwest has sponsored Pride events, sent out press releases about its June celebrations, and publicly voiced its support.

My question remains the same – what changed? And Why?

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V Garcia July 9, 2018 - 10:15 pm

Did you actually check with Southwest to find out what they did to celebrate?

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Sam Roecker July 9, 2018 - 10:36 pm

Yes, and again, Southwest chose not to respond.

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Johnny Smalls July 8, 2018 - 6:23 pm

Lol. Former intern, maybe there is a reason they didn’t hire you to FT. Get a grip and move on.

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V Garcia July 9, 2018 - 10:19 pm

Well put. You interned and that is no where the same as being an employee. Could you maybe be feeling a little bitter? Why slam Southwest because you don’t see media coverage? And the department you were talking about, they restructured and changed the name. What’s your point? And lastly, PULSE is definitely about gay pride.

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Mike July 8, 2018 - 7:38 pm

Ryan Green is the CMO. I’m not sure he knows how to relate to the LGBTQ community. No offense to him, but he hasn’t tried to reach out and try to understand the diverse communities the company serves.

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V Garcia July 9, 2018 - 10:21 pm

And what is your point? And how do you really know all this? If you are an employee, you need to stop posting such content. If not, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

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Pua July 8, 2018 - 11:13 pm

Why is it so important that you need people or companies to accept the lgbt community. That is a personal issue with yourself. Accept who you are and stop expecting people to give you a red carpet.

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Diana July 9, 2018 - 6:02 am

I like that Southwest’s actions year-round speak louder than a rainbow colored logo for one month. You also mention Flight 1380, but only mention it as a way Southwest handled it from a PR standpoint. Let’s revisit that, because you missed the gravity of that completely. Southwest was still recovering from their first Passenger death ever, continuing to be mindful of the pain Jennifer’s family was dealing with. The care and compassion that has followed that accident is much more important that shouting other good natured, inclusive things Southwest has done for many years.

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Sam Roecker July 9, 2018 - 9:09 am

Thank you for your comment, Diana. I don’t disagree that the response to Flight 1380 should be a top priority – and apologies if my PR comment came across as insensitive.

I hear your point (and others who have mentioned 1380), but my post is not about 2018, it’s about a years-long decline in public/vocal support for LGBT employees and the community. Given Southwest’s long history of support (previous sponsorships as early as 2007, Pride press releases, southwest.com/gaytravel, etc.) I can’t help but ask the question: what happened?

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Vicki Garcia July 9, 2018 - 9:50 pm

What really prompted you to write this article and make sure other airlines were aware of what you think might have happened? Southwest has over 55,000 employees. Did you check with every department, in every city on every level? I don’t think so. I’m aware of many pride celebrations within smaller SWA communities this year. But if you are still an employee, are you????,you should know better that diversity and inclusion are practiced daily in a wide variety of ways. I have one more question, before you published this, did you reach out to the SWA culture/diversity department for fact findings?

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Sam Roecker July 9, 2018 - 10:22 pm

Thank you for your comment, Vicki. Yes, I did reach out to Southwest for a response before this post was published – no response. The Company has been given numerous opportunities to respond, and did, in fact, promise a response that we have yet to receive. I’d be happy to update the story with the Pride events/celebrations you mentioned (please email me – sam@pointmetotheplane.com)

My point in the article was not that Southwest doesn’t celebrate diversity, but rather that the Company is publicly silent about its efforts during Pride month. It’s not an either/or scenario – meaning, you can celebrate diversity year-round AND celebrate Pride month.

Southwest a) publicly sponsored Pride parades as early as 2007 b) used to send out press releases for Pride (last one was 2016) and c) used to feature LGBT/Pride-related events on its southwest.com/gaytravel website. If you go to that page today, it redirects to an almost-blank ‘LGBT Outreach’ page.

I hear your point (and other Employees) who argue Pride is celebrated every day, but my question is still very simple – why did the Company stop publicly acknowledging its support?

Reply

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