Southwest reaches out to journalists during NY flight

NEW YORK: Southwest Airlines' recent flying press conference in New York gave national consumer reporters a taste of what they're missing.

NEW YORK: Southwest Airlines' recent flying press conference in New York gave national consumer reporters a taste of what they're missing.

The largest low-fare airline doesn't normally fly into New York City (its nearest airport is on Long Island). That means editors and reporters for the nation's top consumer magazines are more likely to fly Southwest's younger competitor, JetBlue.

"The fact is that a lot of consumer titles that we're starting to really deal with have had no personal involvement with Southwest," said senior PR manager Beth Harbin. "Until you've had that personal perspective, it is really hard to understand where we're coming from."

Southwest used the receipt of its 400th plane and celebration of its 33rd birthday as occasions to host the event.

The airline first took the new Boeing 737 for an inaugural flight to get b-roll and still photos of its fuel-saving blended winglets, Harbin said. "We've really been talking about these gizmos for quite a while. We needed fresh art."

After further outfitting the plane in Dallas, high-ranking company executives, PR staff, and several local reporters boarded the flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport. The hand-picked flight crew included a husband-wife pilot team, one of Southwest's original flight attendants, and a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. A 15-year-old frequent flier, employees featured on A&E's Airline television show, and A&E executives also made the jaunt.

In New York, CEO Jim Parker and CFO Gary Kelly, who'd been in town for an analyst conference, joined the party along with 17 reporters and analysts for a two-hour, get-to-know-you flight above the city.

Although the airline targeted consumer reporters, Harbin said, including Dallas media and airline analysts allowed journalists less familiar with the company to informally rub elbows with those who've covered Southwest for years.

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