Ukes on a plane: Southwest surprises passengers on Honolulu-bound flight with ukuleles


Southwest Airlines ushered in the return of fun, in-flight promotions Friday by partnering with Guitar Center to gift surprised passengers on the carriers Long Beach to Honolulu flight with ukuleles and live, in-flight music lessons.

Honolulu-bound passengers at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter at Long Beach airport on Friday may have suspected they were in for an unusual flight when they spotted a Southwest ramp agent randomly strumming a ukulele at the gate.

But the real surprise came moments later when they boarded the plane to find a complimentary Mitchell MU40 Soprano ukulele and colorful, Hawaiian-themed Road Runner carrying case waiting for them on every seat in the cabin. The team of black and red-shirted Guitar Center employees and the videographer onboard were also, clearly, a sign that this was going to be no ordinary flight to Hawaii. 

Long known for taking their trademark Southwest hospitality to new heights with cool, in-flight  Surprise and Delight promotions, the carrier’s partnership with industry-leading Guitar Center to bring the aloha spirit to their passengers through music represents a post-pandemic return to form for the carrier with heart. 


“Surprise and Delight activations have been core to Southwest from really our very beginning,” Southwest Airlines spokesperson, Alyssa Foster told APEX Media on the plane moments before the impromptu ukulele lesson.

“And they can be partnerships with other brands to bring something unique and fun to our customers onboard, or they can look like our Live at 35 concerts that we’re known for. But since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, we kind of had them on pause, just to really make sure that our employees had the time that they needed to focus on our operation and the comfort and well being of our customers onboard. So, we are really excited to bring them back today!”

And even before a trio of Guitar Center’s best-in-class instructors took to the intercom to lead the in-flight ukulele lessons, Foster said the curiosity and excitement level of the passengers onboard was palpable. 

“You can see everybody kind of wondering what’s happening and everyone’s really excited to have something a little bit different onboard today,” added Foster. “And really, it’s also kind of another marker back to normalcy [through] something that really is so unique to Southwest and the special way that we show hospitality.”

Adding that Southwest and Guitar Center have been planning on teaming up for a while, Foster said finding the right timing and route was essential. 

“This was perfect for us because we’ve got a great focus on Long Beach and our Hawaii service. And then for Guitar Center, you know, the ukulele is such a great travel instrument and such a big part of the culture in Hawaii … so, it came together really well for both brands.”

Upping the ante considerably, passengers were also treated to a mini in-flight concert from TikTok ukulele guru/musician, Aryy (@Aryyzona), who walked the cabin serenading passengers with a mix of both classic and original songs on her ukulele.

“I just got an email from Guitar Center like two days ago, telling me about this idea asking me if I wanted to be a part of it,” Aryy told APEX Media mid-flight. “And I was like, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life! So absolutely, yes, I’m interested, and I’m available!”

Passengers, many of whom continued strumming their newly-acquired ukuleles long after the in-flight music lesson and concert ended, seemed to agree.