It is that time of the year again. That time when millions of spectators from all around the world become in tune with the deep blue see to marvel at one of nature’s greatest and most fascinating creatures.
It’s Shark Week! The iconic annual television special and longest-running event in television history produced by Discovery Channel which has become ingrained in the modern pop culture and this year celebrates its 30thanniversary of providing spectators with jaw-dropping stories and insight of the shark species.
This year, and for the third year in a row, Southwest Airlines (WN/SWA) has partnered up with Discovery to promote the extremely popular event, providing passengers with exclusive Shark Week-related on-demand content streamable via the airline’s inflight entertainment portal.
In addition, and like in the previous two years, Southwest has unveiled specially-themed aircraft to promote Shark Week.
Whereas before stickers were placed on a single aircraft (N422WN in 2016 and N944WN in 2017), this year the initiative has expanded on to five different Boeing 737-700s which will fly across the airline’s 4000 daily flights-strong networks through August 31st, 2018, and which will result in increased exposure for the marketing campaign.
The five Shark Week aircraft unveiled this year, each displaying custom artwork of different shark species featured on the special, are Great White Shark (N470WN), Hammerhead Shark (N705SW), Mako Shark (N961WN), Tiger Shark (N553WN) and Bull Shark (N947WN).
Also, as part of the campaign, Southwest and Discovery teamed up with Flight Aware to develop a feature which a allows the five Shark Weekaircraft to be tracked on Flight Aware’s desktop version via custom-created shark icons which replace the standard airplane icon used by the software.
As part of the exclusive inflight content found on Southwest’s entertainment portal this summer, and joining previously-aired episodes such as ”Shark Trek“ and “Nuclear Sharks”, one of the highlights of this year’s Southwest-Discovery Shark Week partnership is the pre-premiere of one of this year’s episodes, “Great White Abyss”, onboard flight WN669 from Los Angeles, International (LAX/KLAX) to Phoenix, Sky Harbor (PHX/KPHX) on July 11th, to which Airways was invited.
At 29,000ft, its passengers becoming the very first viewers to watch it ahead of its mainstream premiere on Discovery on Sunday, July 22nd, the official kick-off date of the 30thShark Week.
Scheduled for departure from Los Angeles at 11:00, the shark fun began at Terminal 1’s Gate 17B where, in true Southwest fashion, ground staff cheerfully wore shark fin-shaped and Discovery’s Shark Week mascot, Chompie Jr, made an appearance at the gate, posing for pictures and lifting up the spirit among the passengers, especially among the younger ones.
Our ‘theater’ for this onboard premiere would be none other than “Tiger Shark”, N553WN (30745, LN 1027) which sat outside the gate waiting for boarding to begin. The aircraft first flew on 11/27/2001 and was originally delivered to Virgin Blue Airlines (Now Virgin Australia) during September 2002 where it flew until joining the Southwest fleet in January 2011.
The aircraft first flew on 11/27/2001 and was originally delivered to Virgin Blue Airlines (Now Virgin Australia) during September 2002 where it flew until joining the Southwest fleet in January 2011.
It was recently repainted updated with the current Southwest brand and livery.
Boarding was announced around 10:30, the time at which the gate staff filled the audience in with the special motif behind our flight.
Goodie bags with special Shark Week items were given to every passenger at the aircraft’s door and, once inside and again in true Southwest fashion, the cabin crew gleefully made shark-related remarks to the boarding passengers.
Delays can happen to anyone, even the best; and despite its reputation as being one of North America’s most reliable airlines, not even Southwest is excluded.
A door issue followed by a small fuel leak, all of which were promptly fixed by the maintenance staff, meant our original 11:00 departure time ended up being moved to 12:12.
This, however, did not ruin the shark spirit and after a long taxi to LAX’s Runway 25R, “Tiger Shark” performed a fin-tastic climb towards Phoenix.
After reaching 10,000ft I took out my laptop and connected to the Southwest Wi-Fi network in order to watch the premiere of “Great White Abyss”.
The episode, filmed at great white shark hotspot Guadalupe Island, Mexico, features a team of experts traveling deep down the Pacific abyss in search for the biggest sharks of its kind with the theory that the deeper the ocean is, the bigger the sharks will be.
The shark fun did not stop there, and as I was about to finish the episode shortly before beginning our descent into Phoenix, we were introduced to marine biologist, shark expert, TV personality, and the special guest onboard this out-of-the-JAWrdinary flight, Luke Tipple.
Tripple addressed the passengers, through the PA system, with shark-related trivia, fun facts, and prizes for those passengers who could guess correctly.
Within minutes, and after a rather short 1h 30m flight, we touched down at sunny Phoenix’s Runway 25L, followed by a quick taxi to gate C1 and bringing an end to a special flight that has me looking forward to what Southwest and Discovery will come up with next year!