Bizzare: Southwest Airlines Honors A Traveling Pool Noodle

Some people prefer to travel light, and some do not. One United States woman clearly falls into the latter camp. Education student Sydney Fowls checked in a pool noodle on a Southwest flight recently. Southwest knows a good photo opportunity when they see it and decided to make a big deal about a piece of foam.

Southwest Airlines recently flew a pool noodle for free. Photo: Ontario International Airport

Two bags fly free on Southwest – even if one bag is a pool noodle

Gary Leff in View From The Wing picked up on some social media clips doing the rounds and reported on the story. Sydney Fowls, who is in college majoring in education, was flying on Southwest between Columbus and Tampa. Ms Fowls decided to take the noodle with her because, apparently, no holiday is complete without one, and they are expensive to buy.

Plus, and here’s the publicity kicker for Southwest Airlines – two bags fly free on Southwest. Does a pool noodle constitute a bag? It seems it does. And fair enough, unlike surfboards, golf bags, and tennis racquets, pool noodles are light and hard to damage.

You’ll be relieved to know the pool noodle made it to Tampa. But it could have been worse. Sure, checking in the pool noodle was a stunt, but at least Ms Fowls checked the thing in – she could have tried to fly it as carry-on. And say what you like about the decision to check in a pool noodle, Ms Fowl’s TikTok clip displays her excellent taste in music, with a little mid-90s number from OMC setting the tone.

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A welcome distraction for Southwest Airlines

For Southwest Airlines, the story was a fluffy distraction from another Southwest Airlines story doing the rounds. On Friday, Simple Flying ran a story about a Southwest Airlines pilot fronting up to court for sentencing after exposing himself to a female first officer in the cockpit and watching porn on his laptop.

The pilot, Michael Haak, was fined US$5,000 and sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation. The incident occurred on a flight from Philadephia to Orlando on August 10, 2020. Mr Haak retired from Southwest at the end of August. However, the retirement was unrelated to the inflight incident.

Southwest Airlines only found out about the incident after Mr Haak left. There wasn’t much the airline could do other than co-operate with the investigation and cancel Mr Haak’s separation benefits – which they did.

The pool noodle yarn is a welcome good news story for Southwest. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Flight attendant loses two teeth

The pool noodle story is also a nice distraction from another nasty incident on a Southwest Airlines flight in May when a passenger assaulted a Southwest flight attendant. As a result, the female flight attendant suffered facial injuries and lost two teeth.

That assault caused a major behind-the-scenes ruckus, with flight attendant unions getting involved and Southwest Airlines senior management having to respond. As a result, Southwest Airlines has extended its ban on alcohol service across its flights.

You can’t blame Southwest Airlines for trying to focus on good news pool noodle stories when there is so much murk lurking in the background. They aren’t the only airline that does that. Big airlines like Southwest have sophisticated communications teams. Their role is to push the good news rather than the bad.

Sydney Fowls reportedly won $20 from her mates for successfully checking the pool noodle through. Being a college student, it would have been entirely in character for her to spend that money on a couple of inflight Southwest Summer Shandys. Thanks to the bad behavior of a previous Southwest passenger, she couldn’t do that.