Southwest Inflight supervisor Maggie Teeples (right) presents Mark Murphy (left) with an APEX Silver Heart certificate.

At EXPO in Portland this year, APEX CEO Joe Leader proudly presented a brand new awards program from APEX that shines a light on the industry’s unsung PaxEx heroes. The APEX Heart Awards honors airline employees from around the globe who go above and beyond for passengers and elevate the air travel experience. Just in time for the holidays, we wanted to share with you one of the many heartwarming stories we came across this year.

Above and Beyond at 30,000 Feet

It all started on a flight from Seattle to Phoenix when Southwest Airlines flight attendant Mark Murphy went above and beyond to brighten the flight experience of a two-year-old passenger named Leo and his mother. Upon learning he was deaf, Mark began communicating with Leo using American Sign Language (ASL). “He just kind of brightened up and so I said hello to him a couple of times because he responded to it every time I signed to him,” Mark tells APEX Media.

Later, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly would personally thank Mark. When we caught wind of Gary’s tweet, we immediately recognized Mark’s act of kindness and awarded him with a Silver Heart via Twitter and reached out to the Southwest team to present Mark with an APEX Heart Award certificate.

“We love that the Airline Passenger Experience Heart Awards celebrate what Southwest Airlines has always put at the forefront – the hearts of our employees,” says Teresa Laraba, Southwest’s senior vice-president of Customers and Culture. “We have 48,000 Southwest Employees who go above and beyond on a daily basis for our more than 110 million customers who make Southwest their airline every year.”

“One of the things that I really like about working [for Southwest] is that we are given the opportunity to showcase our own personality to take care of our passengers.” – Mark Murphy, Southwest flight attendant.

“One of the things that I really like about working [for Southwest] is that we are given the opportunity to showcase our own personality to take care of our passengers,” says Mark, who’s now been with Southwest for 15 years, 10 of them as a flight attendant.

A Sweet Surprise

To celebrate, Mark was honored with a Silver Heart Award yesterday in a special surprise ceremony put on by the Southwest team. “There was a big banner, a board with my name on it and all the supervisors were here to greet me when I came into work,” shares Mark who was very thankful for the whole experience.

But as a humble gentleman might, Mark gives credit to the lady who taught him the sign language he knows – Phyllis Frelich, whom he worked with many years ago.

“[APEX] proudly recognizes Southwest Airlines flight attendant Mark Murphy with an APEX Silver Heart award for delivering a very unique and personal passenger experience that will forever shape how Leo and his family think of flying,” says Joe Leader, APEX CEO. And from all of us at APEX, we look forward to another year filled with heartwarming stories from the skies.