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Southwest helps teacher turn mock trip into reality after viral video

The company also gifted all of the first-grade teachers and the school principal with round-trip tickets to use anywhere that the airline flies to.
First graders on a Southwest airplane in their Dallas hangar.
Posted at 4:24 PM, Nov 13, 2023

After a first-grade teacher in Texas had a TikTok video of her classroom’s mock flight to Mexico go viral, Southwest Airlines stepped in with a special experience to help show the students what it was like to be on a real commercial airplane. 

The initial video posted by Sonja White, an elementary school teacher in the Dallas area, showed her meticulously preparing a fun learning activity for her students to give them the realistic experience of flying on an international trip. She took pictures of each student to create their pretend passports, had them “board” their mock Southwest flight in class — complete with safety instructions — then played YouTube videos to make them feel like they were flying, and passed out “in-flight” snacks. 

Once the class “landed” in Mexico, the students went through customs and exchanged paper money to use at a souvenir shop White created, and ate at a restaurant set up inside the classroom, which included authentic dishes provided by some of the students’ parents. 

White’s video of the class activity got millions of views and the attention of Southwest Airlines, who decided to plan a real field trip for all the first-grade students at the school.  

The students started their trip at the Southwest Dallas Maintenance Hangar for a behind-the-scenes tour of how real airplanes work. They then boarded a Southwest Boeing 737 MAX 8, which for some was the first time they had ever been on a real plane, Southwest said.

Just like with the mock setup in class, the students interacted with flight attendants, took their seats and were served a special snack. They also got to do some fun activities, like constructing a Southwest plane made of paper. 

An actual pilot hopped onto the plane with the students to teach them more about aviation and told them inspiring messages like “always follow their dreams” and “stay true to your heart.” Afterward, the students were able to see real planes taking off into the skies from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. 

Lastly, the students were greeted by cheering Southwest employees in their headquarters building before being treated to a little fiesta complete with a mariachi band and Mexican food for lunch, carrying on the theme of their original mock trip. 

Southwest said as a thank you for helping to shape future leaders, the company gifted all of the first-grade teachers and the school principal with two, round-trip tickets to use anywhere that the airline flies to. 

“Southwest is honored to have had the opportunity to create a unique aviation experience for the first-grade students, just as Mrs. White did for her class. Who knows... maybe there's a future Southwest Employee in this group of sweet kids!” the company said on its website.