Southwest Airlines has always been committed to making their passengers’ well-being their top priority, and that goes for the communities they serve as well. As Community Affairs & Grassroots Senior Specialist, Kelly Knox is one of the key individuals responsible for upholding that commitment while helping Southwest Airlines expand their impact, and she could not be prouder to do so.
For nearly a decade, Kelly has been dedicated to standing by the company’s values, while working her way up through different departments. Kelly got her start as an intern on the Community Affairs & Grassroots team after graduating from Florida State University. After her internship, Kelly was hired in a full-time position in the Customer Relations Department. She eventually made her way back to Community Outreach. Now, Kelly works with organizations that are doing their part to make the community better and finds a way for Southwest Airlines to support their efforts.
Kelly is passionate about expanding the organizations Southwest Airlines works with, building on the existing relationships Southwest Airlines has in California, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, and Nevada, and figuring out how to increase their impact. Given the current climate, there is a lot of opportunity to bring communities together. An important aspect of Southwest Airlines’ approach to community outreach is that they cater to the needs of the region instead of providing blanket solutions. Kelly is particularly proud of managing the development of their Hawaii partnerships by making sure they entered the market in a culturally relevant and socially responsible way.
When Southwest Airlines opened in their Hawaii markets, Kelly and her team spent a year and a half talking to locals before they began their services to better understand their needs. By taking the time to sit down with residents, they learned that a large problem for islanders was the unaffordable cost of interisland travel that had been created by a single-carrier monopoly. While it might not seem so monumental to those who live on the mainland, this kind of restriction on flying makes it nearly impossible to visit friends and family on other islands. For Southwest Airlines, the establishment of more affordable interisland flights was very meaningful. Looking back on the ceremonial blessing of the Hawaii station and first touchdown of their aircraft, Kelly recalls “tears of joy, hugs and cheers” immediately demonstrating the importance of people being able to stay connected to one another.
In addition to helping establish the Hawaii operations, Kelly was also part of the historical establishment of Southwest Airlines’ flights to Cuba. In fact, she was on three of their inaugural flights to Cuba (Varadero, Santa Clara and Havana)! Reflecting on the momentous occasion, Kelly describes it as “incredibly historic moment for our two countries that was warmly received by the people of Cuba.”
Kelly firmly believes in the power of the impact we can have on one another, which motivates her to overcome challenges and always support others. This belief ties in with her “encouraging but challenging” leadership style and her passion for championing causes and community initiatives through Southwest Airlines.
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