SWA Speaks Out About SeaWorld

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines responds to protests over SeaWorld partnership

Southwest Airlines responds to protests over SeaWorld partnership

Southwest Airlines SeaWorld penguin plane
Southwest Airlines' "co-branded" plane painted with images of SeaWorld animals will be returned to the airline's stable.  Photo courtesy of SeaWorld
Southwest Airlines SeaWorld penguin plane
As part of a fanfare surrounding a penguin-painted jet, Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld flew two penguins around the country in 2013. Photo by SeaWorld
Southwest Airlines SeaWorld penguin plane
Southwest Airlines SeaWorld penguin plane

On the same day that a protest took place outside its headquarters, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines reaffirmed its commitment to SeaWorld via a post on the company's blog, yet described itself as being in a "listening mode."

"Over the past few weeks, we’ve observed a number of customers and community members reach out to Southwest Airlines regarding our partnership with SeaWorld," it began. "We want our customers to know that we’ve heard your concerns and we do not take them lightly. I felt it was necessary to share our position on the partnership and hopefully address any concerns."

Southwest has become the latest player in the controversy surrounding SeaWorld, the marine park whose treatment of animals has been called into question since the release of the documentary Blackfish. In the film, four ex-employees raise concerns about SeaWorld's treatment of its animals and the safety of its staff.

The park has been besieged by negative publicity, including a concert scheduled for its Orlando park in March 2014 in which most of the performers, including Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson, canceled in response to allegations in the film.

Southwest has had a longtime relationship with SeaWorld dating back to 1988, when SeaWorld opened its theme park in San Antonio. But the spillover on Southwest has increased, with coverage by daily newspapers such as the San Antonio Express News; CNN did an item about the protest on Wednesday morning.

Southwest's blog post offers a reminder of its longstanding relationship with SeaWorld but goes on to address the airline's consideration of the protests and questions surrounding SeaWorld's treatment of its animals.

"We are engaged with SeaWorld related to the recent concerns being raised," the post reads. "We are in a listening and education mode with the goal of upholding our commitments as a good corporate citizen."