Last month, Southwest Airlines gave a group of representatives from Pittsburgh’s business and education communities a firsthand look at the state of the travel experience in 2021 and the airline’s efforts to make the journey as healthy and safe as possible.
Officials from the University of Pittsburgh, PPG and more got a VIP tour of what their colleagues can expect “from curb to gate” when they book flights on Southwest, with help from liaisons from Pittsburgh International Airport and the Transportation Security Administration.
Airline officials, along with Vince Gastgeb, Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs at PIT, escorted about a dozen guests during separate morning and afternoon tours on Jan. 26.
“Southwest is one of our largest airline partners, and we really enjoy working with them on events like this,” Gastgeb said. “Not only is it an opportunity for the airline to show its efforts to prioritize the health and safety of travelers, but it gives us a chance to do the same and really emphasize to the business community how much we’ve done over the last year.”
After meeting at Southwest’s ticket counter, the groups were given an overview of the Southwest Promise program—the airline’s new protocols dedicated to “supporting the well-being and comfort of our employees and customers”—and a detailed look at the check-in process.
They were then met by John Keddie, the TSA stakeholder liaison at PIT, at the security checkpoint, where he explained the latest changes to security procedures, particularly those made since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After going through security, the groups convened at a Southwest gate where airline representatives walked them through changes to the boarding process. The morning group even had an opportunity to step aboard a plane to see firsthand how Southwest’s flights have increasingly focused on passenger comfort and safety, particularly for business travelers.
“I found the tour to be educational and definitely worth my time,” said a representative from Viatris, a global healthcare company headquartered in Pittsburgh. “Honestly, I feel that Southwest did a great job with the educational sessions.”
Southwest has made strategic moves to increase its share of the business travel market over the past couple of years, including rebranding Southwest Corporate Travel to Southwest Business and giving corporate travel managers expanded access to booking systems. The tours are another way to embrace those customers.
“These events are great ways to highlight the efforts we are taking to keep travelers safe as their respective corporate travel restrictions begin easing,” said airline spokesman Dan Landson. “We’re hopeful that by bringing our customers to the airport, we can walk them through the airport experience from curb-to-the-gate so that they know what to expect when they begin traveling.”
Other carriers, including Delta, have held similar events at PIT in the past year as airlines look to build confidence in travel.