OAKLAND — Passengers of Southwest Airlines flight 292 were surprised Monday when Golden State Warriors players and coaches traded places with airline employees, handling Southwest job duties at Oakland International Airport.
Players Stephen Jackson, C.J. Watson and Richard Hendrix, along with coaches Sidney Moncrief and Russell Turner, assumed the roles of flight attendants, baggage handlers and tarmac traffic directors in a cross-promotional effort for Southwest Airlines' NBA-themed aircraft, Slam Dunk One.
"The Warriors are some of our oldest friends," said Scott Yamasaki, marketing manager of Southwest Airlines for Oakland International. "We like to team up every chance we get."
Travelers and airport employees watched, smiling, as the polo-wearing pro athletes ushered in the plane, loaded luggage, scanned boarding passes and made preflight announcements.
After a quick tutorial from an Oakland International ground crew, Watson grabbed the directional wands and waved Slam Dunk One into gate 32 with only "a few hiccups."
"I think the pilots were messing with me," said Watson, a guard.
"I think you just need to stick to basketball," said Jackson, laughing.
Later, while Jackson welcomed Southwest passengers over the public-address system, the Warriors' second-round pick, Hendrix, a forward, scanned boarding passes as Burbank-bound travelers entered the plane.
The players handed out lanyards, blankets and raffle tickets to passengers for a chance to win an autographed Jackson jersey.
Warriors cheerleaders and the Southwest Hoop Troop — who regularly provide entertainment at Warriors games — passed out airline vouchers and game schedules while cameras flashed and fans approached the players for photographs.
"It was fun," Hendrix said. "It's cool to come down here and be a part of all of this."
Southwest passenger Brian Seguin of Oakland said the Warriors' visit was a nice surprise.
"Airports need more stuff like this," he said, "It helps keep everybody smiling."
Before takeoff, Jackson boarded the plane to make last-minute announcements, wish the passengers a safe journey and tidy up a bit.
"You don't mind me moving your bag, do you, sir?" said Jackson, shutting the NBA logo-covered overhead compartments and preparing passengers for takeoff.
"No," a passenger replied, "just as long as you don't mind giving me your autograph."
When asked about what's in store for fans in the coming months, Jackson replied, "We're starting off on a runway, so you know we're taking off this season."
In service since 2005, Slam Dunk One is part of Southwest's specialty fleet of commercial aircraft. The specialty fleet also includes several state-themed planes as well as planes representing Ronald McDonald House and Shamu, a killer whale at SeaWorld San Diego.
Slam Dunk One's custom paint job features a basketball swishing trough a hoop and its interior features logos of all 30 NBA teams.