Southwest Nintendo

All images: Tomas Romero

Southwest and Nintendo surprised passengers with free Nintendo Switch consoles on a special gaming-themed flight to San Diego this week.

Although Comic-Con officially started yesterday, comic and gaming fans on Southwest Airlines flight 2246 from Dallas Love Field (DAL) to San Diego International Airport (SAN) on Wednesday afternoon got the party started early and APEX Media was along for the ride.

Although a few eagle-eyed passengers figured out that something was up before they even boarded the plane in Dallas – the posted warning that filming was going to occur during the flight and the cabin crew’s Mario and Luigi hardhats were dead give-aways for some – none of them guessed that every ticketed passenger on board would be deplaning in San Diego with a free Nintendo Switch gaming console and a digital download of Nintendo’s smash hit Super Mario Maker 2. And that’s exactly how Southwest wanted it.

Bringing new meaning to the term multiplayer, Southwest and Nintendo laid the groundwork for the super-secret, gaming-themed flight months ago. Nintendo even went so far as to create a customized, Southwest-specific Super Mario Maker 2 course for passengers to play in flight. Featuring Mario jumping on clouds, rainbows and colorful blocks shaped like airplanes, Southwest spokesperson Alyssa Foster said the bespoke Southwest Super Sky Challenge course took Nintendo designers more than 70 hours to create.

The fun got started after the beverage service when Foster popped on a Super Mario hardhat and headed to the front of the cabin. Announcing a raffle for a free Nintendo Switch and a $500 Southwest Airlines gift card for any passenger who played a round of the Southwest Super Sky Challenge on one of the dozens of Nintendo Switches her team was passing out, Foster was greeted with a chorus of cheers. Especially from the flight’s many Comic-Con-bound passengers who appeared to be very eager to “get their geek on” before the convention. Quicker than you can say Joy-Con controllers, the shades were drawn and the cabin lit up with the glow of Super Mario Maker 2 gameplay.

But the real treat came a few minutes later when Foster announced the winner of the raffle and then went full-Oprah on the crowd by announcing that everyone on the flight was going home with both the game and a Nintendo Switch of their very own.

Passengers also received photo ops with the man of the hour himself, Super Mario, who was waiting to greet them at the gate when they arrived.

“We have been partners with Nintendo for a couple of years now and every time we partner together we really work to see what kind of partnership we can build that helps promote their product but also ties into Southwest and travel,” Foster told APEX Media just before touchdown in San Diego.

“So, today, for example, we gave away the Nintendo Switch which is perfect for travel. We call it the perfect travel companion. You can bring it on board, play it on the go … we really built this promotion as something that works for both Nintendo fans and Southwest customers.”

Taking the promotion from the sky to the ground, Foster noted that Nintendo is hosting a similar challenge at Comic-Con this weekend. Anyone who plays the Southwest Super Sky Challenge course on Super Mario Maker 2 has the chance to win a $500 Southwest gift card, a Nintendo Switch and the game.

“We also have an online sweepstakes, running through August 14th, that features daily Nintendo Switch giveaways and a grand prize of four Nintendo Switches, four digital downloads of Super Mario Maker 2 and roundtrip travel for four to anywhere Southwest flies,” added Foster. “So, even if you weren’t on the flight or you cant make it out to San Diego for the convention, you can still be a part of the fun!”