By Mark Hopper
Recently my wife and I were traveling to Texas to meet some friends in San Antonio. Our flight on Southwest airlines took us to Dallas first and then we waited at Love Field for our short flight to San Antonio. After we found our departure gate we noticed a familiar looking person in the waiting area. I had just seen his picture in the Southwest Airline magazine on our last flight. It was Gary Kelly – the president of Southwest. He was going on the same flight we were to San Antonio.
I wasn’t sure it was him until I introduced myself and my wife and asked if he really was Gary Kelly. He greeted us warmly and assured us he was the guy in the magazine and he was glad to take a picture with us. I told him we loved Southwest Airlines and we had been flying Southwest since the time it began in Dallas when I was a graduate student in Dallas in 1971. I enjoyed our brief conversation and told him how much we appreciated the way Southwest has personally helped us on several occasions. I told him we had recently flown on one of the new Southwest flights to Hawaii a few months ago.
He was very gracious and gave the credit to the airlines’ helpful employees. As we prepared to board our flight I noticed Gary and his wife were in line with all the other passengers. He did not request or expect special or preferential treatment. I suspect most of the passengers on our flight had no idea that the president of the airline was flying with us. I have enjoyed reading many of Gary’s articles in the Southwest magazine. Many times he has stressed Southwest’s philosophy of customer service. I am confident he models being a servant leader and putting the needs of others ahead of his own. There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Jesus did not come to be served but to serve others and give his life for us” (Mark 10:45). Let me encourage you to watch for opportunities to serve people around you – in your company, your community and on your school campus. They will be glad you did and you will too.