By Josh Cohen
Nov. 6, 2017
ORLANDO – Many would agree that a vacation doesn’t truly start until you walk out of the airport and that the end of a trip is when you check your baggage and print out your boarding passes before returning home.
For some Orlando vacationers and business travelers coming and going on Southwest Airlines on Monday, that didn’t apply. That’s because these customers got a special surprise welcoming at Gate 120 of the Southwest terminal at Orlando International Airport from a pair of NBA fan favorites.
The Orlando Magic’s Arron Afflalo and Bismack Biyombo swung by the airport to greet and interact with passengers. They also assisted Southwest staff by collecting boarding passes, making schedule announcements and marshalling the aircraft.
“It was fun because I get to interact with a lot of people, people that don’t get to see us,” Biyombo said. “I was truly excited before we even started. For me, it was a great experience. I am really excited for the people here and I hope we get to do it again.”
The teamwork shown exemplifies the bond between the Magic and Southwest Airlines. Last week when the Magic hosted the Chicago Bulls, Southwest employees supported the Magic by assisting the on-court Southwest Flyaway Challenge in the first quarter, flew the in-arena Southwest Airlines blimp, distributed Southwest Airlines rally towels to the first 6,500 fans and watched the players shoot-around pregame from courtside.
“We love to celebrate our partnership with the Magic,” said Mackenzie Means of Southwest Marketing. “People just love these kinds of things and this is what Southwest hospitality is known for, just doing things a little bit different, putting smiles on people’s faces and just going that extra mile.”
Afflalo appreciates every opportunity he gets to step out into the community and intermingle with fans. He chose to return to Orlando, where he had two of the best years of his professional career from 2012-14, largely because of how much he bonded with the people of this area. Signing autographs and taking pictures with those that have supported him is a way for him to show his gratitude.
“It was amazing,” Afflalo said. “The (Southwest) staff is great, very hospitable. I enjoy every moment engaging with the fans.”
Magic Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw, STUFF the Magic Mascot and the Orlando Magic Blue Crew also participated in the fun. They played games with passengers waiting to board their flights and handed out Magic and Southwest swag and other souvenirs.