Southwest Airlines celebrates 50 years of giving people the freedom to fly by unveiling Freedom One, a high-flying tribute to the nation, military, and the airline’s more than 50,000 Employees

Media Release

Carrier also offers each Employee a gift of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points to celebrate its 50th Anniversary

DALLAS Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) (the "Company") today celebrates the 50th Anniversary of its first flight by thanking Employees by offering a gift of 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards® points. The Nation's largest domestic carrier also unveiled Freedom One, a Boeing 737-800 emblazoned with a stylized flag of the United States of America.

"The word ‘freedom' has significant meaning to the People and history of Southwest Airlines," said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines' Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. "We're eternally grateful to those who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces—including the more than 7,400 veterans and 1,500 military spouses in our Southwest Family. Our Purpose is to connect People to what's important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. We simply couldn't fulfill our Purpose if not for the sacrifices and dedication of our military men and women. We appreciate their service and bravery in providing a blanket of freedom for our country." 

Freedom One was unveiled to Southwest® Employees during a Company celebration at the Southwest Airlines® Technical Operations Hangar at William P. Hobby International Airport in Houston, where attendees included Southwest Military Ambassadors, Military Council, winners of the Company's prestigious President's Award, and others. Military Ambassadors are Southwest Employees who are veterans and military spouses. They serve as a resource for the Company to foster inclusion for veterans and service members.

The specialty planefeatures 50 stars and 13 stripes and becomes a high-flying tribute to 50 years of Southwest Airlines service with a symbol of unwavering pride for our Nation and its heroes. It is the first Boeing 737-800 to join the airline's unique paint schemes. Other special paint schemes on Southwest Boeing 737-700s include: Arizona One, California One, Colorado One, Florida One, Illinois One, Lone Star One (Texas), Louisiana One, Maryland One, Missouri One, Nevada One, New Mexico One, and Tennessee One.

Before unveiling Freedom One, Kelly announced Southwest is offering an Employee gift to recognize and appreciate active Southwest Employees in the milestone moment for Southwest Airlines: 50,000 Rapid Rewards bonus points deposited later this year into the account of each Employee who chooses to accept the gift.

"Southwest revolutionized the travel industry since our very first flight on June 18, 1971—a time when less than 15% of Americans ever had traveled by air," said Kelly at the Employee celebration. "The People of Southwest democratized the skies with friendly, reliable, and affordable air travel, and what better way to honor you, our Employees, on our 50th Anniversary than by offering a gift of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points."

Southwest's first flights operated on what was known as the Texas Triangle, between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Throughout the next fifty years, Southwest grew to become the nation's largest domestic airline, carrying up to 1 in the 4 travelers in the United States. Today, Southwest operates one of the world's largest fleets of Boeing 737s, serves 121 destinations throughout North America, Employs more than 56,000 People, and is consistently ranked among the best airlines and best employers in the world.

Following the Southwest Employee celebration, Freedom One departed Houston, headed for Dallas. Pilots and Flight Attendants onboard are Southwest Employees who served in the military or in the reserves. Additionally, a military veteran dispatched the flight from Southwest's Network Operations Control facility in Dallas.  As the aircraft approached Dallas, it followed the Federal Aviation Administration's HERBZ navigational flight path to the airport, recently named in honor of Southwest Founder Herb Kelleher.

Customers are invited to share their photos of Freedom One using #FreedomOne on social media. Freedom One merchandise will be available for purchase beginning June 21 online at Southwest The Store.

To access Freedom One broadcast qualityfootage and high-res images, as well as photos from the Southwest Employee celebration, visit


In its 50th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by more than 56,000 Employees to a Customer base that topped 130 million Passengers in 2019. Southwest has a robust network of point-to-point service with a strong presence across top leisure and business markets. In peak travel seasons during 2019, Southwest operated more than 4,000 weekday departures among a network of 101 destinations in the United States and 10 additional countries. In 2020, the carrier added service to Hilo, Hawaii; Cozumel, Mexico; Miami; Palm Springs, Calif.; Steamboat Springs; and Montrose (Telluride), Colo. Thus far in 2021, Southwest has initiated service to Chicago (O'Hare) and Sarasota/Bradenton both on Feb. 14; Savannah/Hilton Head and Colorado Springs both on March 11; Houston (Bush) and Santa Barbara, Calif. both on April 12; Fresno, Calif. on April 25; Destin/Fort Walton Beach on May 6; Myrtle Beach, S.C. on May 23; Bozeman, Mont. on May 27; and Jackson, Miss. on June 6; and will begin service to Eugene, Ore. on Aug. 29; Bellingham, Wash. on Nov. 7; and Syracuse on Nov. 14.  

The carrier issued its Southwest® Promise in May 2020 to highlight new and round-the-clock efforts to support its Customers and Employees well-being and comfort. Among the changes are enhanced cleaning efforts at airports and onboard aircraft, along with a federal mandate requiring every person to wear a mask at all times throughout each flight. Additional details about the Southwest Promise are available at     

Southwest coined Transfarency® to describe its purposed philosophy of treating Customers honestly and fairly, and low fares actually staying low. Southwest is the only major U.S. airline to offer bags fly free® to everyone (first and second checked pieces of luggage, size and weight limits apply, some carriers offer free checked bags on select routes or in qualified circumstances). Southwest does not charge change fees, though fare differences might apply.   

Southwest is one of the most honored airlines in the world, known for a triple bottom line approach that contributes to the carrier's performance and productivity, the importance of its People and the communities they serve, and an overall commitment to efficiency and the planet. Learn more about how the carrier gives back to communities across the world by visiting   

Book Southwest Airlines' low fares online at or by phone at 800-I-FLY-SWA®.   

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