A delayed flight was worth the wait Thursday for one Sacramento frequent flier, who departed his flight from Austin, Texas, to cheers from a crowd that gathered in Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B.
Gary Smith was the lucky 12 millionth traveler at the airport this year, and airport staff, Southwest Airlines and Visit Sacramento collaborated Thursday on a gateside celebration.
Smith was greeted with a balloon arch, cupcakes and plenty of fanfare when he departed his flight from Austin. Smith also received 12,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points, 12 free days of parking at the airport and a gift basket from Visit Sacramento full of locally curated goodies.
Smith, who lives in El Dorado Hills, said had no idea what was waiting for him in the terminal.
“I’m so excited, so surprised,” Smith said. “They just told me I was going to be interviewed about being a frequent flier.”
Mark Haneke, air service development manager for SMF, said that the airport wanted to celebrate 12 million passengers, a significant increase over last year’s total of 10.9 million passengers.
“It’s a huge milestone for us, a great opportunity to thank the community for their loyalty flying with us,” Haneke said. “And next year will be even bigger and better, with all our new services.”
The airport recently announced it would be upgrading amenities in Terminal A next year, including luxury lounges and upscale shopping options.
Smith said that he flies out of SMF almost every other week, and has been flying on Southwest for years. He was in Austin to visit his daughter and her family for the holidays.
Smith said he plans to use his new rewards points to take a trip to Hawaii with his wife.
“As soon as Southwest starts flying there, that’s where I want to go,” Smith said.
Southwest announced earlier this year that it will begin a nonstop service to Hawaii from Sacramento and other major California airports, flying to all the major Hawaiian airports. The service was slated to begin late this year, but flights are not yet on sale.