New Campaign Tells Southwest Airlines To Drop ‘Woke’ Politics, “Shut Up And Fly”

A new billboard along Interstate 35 near Fort Worth highlights website calling on Southwest Airlines to ‘shut up’ about liberal politics and focus on flying.

Here at Southwoke, we’re fully committed to DEI, ESG, LGTBQ+, BLM, and every other woke acronym you can think of…

Attempts to tie Southwest’s operational meltdown over the Christmas holiday to ‘being woke’ (‘bringing California values to Texas’) fall flat. While there are certainly calls by some environmentalists to de-industrialize in order to de-carbonize, Southwest is still an airline. And their underinvestment in technology stems from a culture that is inherently cheap dating back to Herb Kelleher, roots as a low cost carrier, and systems that never fully matured from a time when they were a much smaller carrier.

And contra critics at ‘’ diversity initiatives simply did not trade off with technology investments just as share buy backs didn’t. Southwest had the strongest balance sheet of any airline going into the pandemic, and could have made more technology investments alongside their other spending.

To be sure, in 2017 a Southwest Airlines flight attendant was fired after sending five messages to her union president, critical of her for attending the ‘Women’s March’ in D.C. using union funds and making anti-abortion statements. In Charlene Carter v. Transport Workers Union Local 556 and Southwest Airlines the airline was found liable for $5 million for violating the employee’s right to criticize their union and for religious discrimination. But that was a union issue as much as an airline one.

There’s a tendency to see your own hobby horses as the cause of anything bad that follows, for instance criticisms of Silicon Valley Bank for their own diversity programs – as though there’s a ‘woke’ way to mismatch treasury bond duration with liquidity needs. A Northern California bank seeking to win business is going to reflect back the values of its customers and customer influencers.

After Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX fraud came tumbling down, he admitted to playing “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths and so everyone likes us” and that much of what he funded was for “transactional purposes.”

My point isn’t that everyone is Sam Bankman-Fried, but that most people don’t admit this and I rather assume that much of corporate DEI and milquetoast political efforts don’t reflect core beliefs but are strategic decisions to be accepted and acceptable in polite society. The beef that critics have, then, isn’t really with most companies so much as with a culture that pressures them to adopt politics they oppose.

  • American Airlines went on a P.R. offensive over diversity with then-Chairman Doug Parker having conversations about race while not having a single African American in an airline leadership role at the time (HR doesn’t count).

  • Meanwhile Delta wraps cost cuts in environmental concerns and indigenous amenity kits, announcing the end of plastic in releases that promote plastic cups, and achieving emissions goals not predominantly by reducing emissions (with an old fleet of aircraft) but through carbon credits that amount to greenwashing.

  • While no major airline has adopted the politics of the left more than United, which backed affirmative action in California, promoted use of employee pronouns in internal communications, and pushed vaccine mandates before they were government policy. They’ve heaped tremendous praise on the Biden administration while their environmental agenda has seemed calculated to attract fuel subsidies. The airline’s narrative is crafted by President Obama’s former press secretary.

Calling out Southwest it seems to me is an odd choice among airlines, since they’re not in any way out of the mainstream. And airlines are among the most heavily regulated businesses, with nearly every aspect controlled by government. So even more than most companies they’ve adopted a strategy of “say[ing] all the right shiboleths” so that everyone among regulators and the commentariat “likes” them.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Woke” comes from the idea of being aware of social issues. There was a Muddy Waters song about the Scottsboro case of 1931, in nine Black men were falsely accused of raping a white woman and quickly tried and imprisoned for many years. He sang about how you had to be woke about the police. Even the U.S. Supreme Court said the trial was unfair, which was pretty amazing for the time.
    And you know, I’d much rather be woken up and think for myself rather than go through life as a zombie. There is always somebody ready to tell you what to believe, and buzz words work with those who don’t question them.

  2. I feel really bad for whoever is spending money on those websites and billboards- seems like they have nothing better to do with their time.

    Oh, wait! I don’t feel bad for that person at all, because they’re an idiot.

  3. Most texans especially fort worth area, hate wokeness. This is a PR ploy to get Texans to side with the pilots union when they ask for half a million dollars a year for 20 hours a week to fly a machine that flies itself. Whats worse for southwest than mad pilots? Mad texans, who are probably neighbors, friends, and schoolmates of many of the executives and families at southwest airlines. Not any different than a union claiming “racial discrimination” by united airlines, targeting people in chicago, since united execs live in Chicago- which is a shithole city, but the population is brainwashed so thinks everything is racist and therefore supports DEI.
    Pretty smart move by the union if you ask me.

  4. Most people mad about woke politics / colleges / businesses / airlines could not define the demon in question if their lives depended on it. Recently a conservative activist who’d just written a whole book about the general terribleness of wokeness was asked to define the term on live TV, and she couldn’t do it. She stammered and locked up. If you “hate wokeness,” what is it you’re really mad about? Empathy? Affirmative action? Gestures of compassion? Sanctions against brutality? Having performative rage stigmatized? I have yet to hear a straight, convincing answer — but I do hear endless scapegoating of “wokeness” for ills from bank failures to sports team losses to airline ops meltdowns, with a crazy lopsided ratio of emotion to sober logic. It is ridiculous to argue that Southwest’s failures were due to diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars from IT upgrades to pronoun usage guides.

  5. @Tom
    Woke is a definition used for pretentious, nihilistic liberals who think they need to make up for their lack of morals and racism by victimizing another race/culture/sexual orientation. See also the definition for “insecure”.

  6. I hear conservatives and pilot union blamed for this. Its probably just a comedian or troll that knows gullible and overly sensitive most liberals are.

  7. The head of CPAC is a happily married man with five kids . . . and is a closet gay guy . . . with multiple claims of sexual harassment against him (not from females). This is NOT an April Fool’s Day comment.

    “Woke” and “awaken” are terms also used by Germany’s Nazi Party in the early 1930s to rekindle the people’s sense of national identity and pride. This is NOT an April Fool’s Day comment.

    Just adding perspective.

  8. If you don’t think Bethany Mandel can define “Woke”, then you’re in a media bubble. She’s explained what happened, in short, she just wrote a whole book about it and had a brain fart in the middle of an interview. Try watching something other than MSNBC or reading The MarySue, you might learn that there are two sides to this argument, something that could come in handy when half the Woke issues suddenly get reversed. After all, when you lose the Communist Party of Great Britain, who thinks your stance is a little bit extreme on the whole trans-identity thing, you know you’ve probably gone too far.

  9. The point is that WN used to be more or less singularly focused on running an airline. They made a choice to jump on the woke train with high-paid “diversity officers”, diversity trainings, and targeting conservative employees with adverse job actions. It was an unforced error. It’s fully possible to operate within the law without going woke. There’s no denying WN sunk a lot of time and effort into getting their woke credentials in line. You can debate whether it’s the direct cause of their performance deficiencies, but it’s hard to say it hasn’t consumed resources that could have been better deployed.

    I think it’s probably fair to say that the woke policies are responsible for the record-low employee morale. Nothing like going to a two hour training teaching you that all X people are per de racist to brighten morale!

  10. FMLAX says “ I feel really bad for whoever is spending money on those websites and billboards- seems like they have nothing better to do with their time.

    Oh, wait! I don’t feel bad for that person at all, because they’re an idiot.”

    FMLAX:So according to your t”statement anyone that has a contrary opinion to your own is an idiot ! wow that’s really intelligent and will lead to great discourse. Not!

  11. I love the word “woke”. Whoever attacks the use of the word immediately signals to me they are a complete moron.

  12. The money on the ridiculous billboard could have been better spent as a donation to address homelessness, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, or a host of other nonpartisan issues rather than puerile attempts at humor. “We won’t do anything about real problems but let’s spend money to annoy people that think differently than us”.

  13. Hey where is your tab for contact us? Or the space to leave comments? Cowards.

  14. @ Gary — as though there’s a ‘woke’ way to mismatch treasury bond duration with liquidity needs.
    Sure is — expecting the right answer in math class is racist or “white”. Woke people believe African Americans can’t learn to count.

  15. Remember when conservatives used to be the small government people?
    In Florida and now Texas all companies must operate under government approved social standards.
    The same clowns crying about “cancel culture” are now trying to enact laws cancelling anyone or anything they disagree with.
    This is the world conservatives want to live in. Control of all aspects of everyone else’s life, coming to a red state near you!!
    ( So much for that freedom thing they like to pretend to love)

  16. Christian, maybe the tax money you hand over to the government should be paying for the things you mentioned.
    I pitty people without a sense of humor, it must be a sad life.

  17. As a former Southwest flight attendant in the ,80″s. I can confidentially say Herb Kellerher wouldn’t recognize the airline that he so loved.
    He would be absolutely horrified and saddened. Y’all need to snap out of it and reflect on where SWA came from based on kindness, customer service and on time performance . Go back to our Texas roots and can do attitude!

  18. Karen Ellis Sadly, there is no “can do” attitude anymore. Whether it’s politics, work ethic or everything that gets incorrectly wrapped up in the term “racism”, the country is in the “we deserve what we want” mode, not the “we deserve what we earn” mode.

  19. I have been a loyal SWA customer since 2005 and have held companion pass status ever since 2007. One year I flew so much with them that they took me and 4 other top customers out to a Suite Night at an NBA Game. But when I discovered that they were placing their politics above passenger safety (i.e. UAL) by giving priority to a pilots based on sex, race, or gender over thier qualifications or experience, I stopped flying them. This will be the first year I won’t retain any status SWA and have canceled my 3 SWA Credit Cards.

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