Flying the friendly skies got a little more exciting for passengers onboard the inaugural flight of Southwest Airlines Tennessee One Monday (Feb. 22) when Chris Young and Cassadee Pope gave a surprise performance between Music City and Memphis when they sang their fast-rising single “Think of You” as part of Southwest’s Live at 35 concert series.
The mile-high gig was part of the events celebrating Southwest’s 30th anniversary in Tennessee. Festivities kicked off with performances on the ground by Sony Music Nashville newcomer Maren Morris and Republic Nashville band A Thousand Horses. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and Gary Kelly, chairman/president and CEO of Southwest Airlines, spoke at the event before Kelly introduced the Southwest’s newest specialty plane, Tennessee One, a Boeing 737-700 painted with an artist’s rendition of the Tennessee flag. The plane is one of only 11 state-themed aircraft in the Southwest fleet.
“I am 30 years old and this is the 30th celebration of Southwest being in Tennessee and it’s just so cool to be on this plane,” Young told passengers, which included Southwest employees, Nashville dignitaries and special VIPs. Standing just behind the cockpit, he delivered the chart-topping title track of his fifth album I’m Coming Over. Cassadee Pope joined Young to perform their hit duet, “Think of You,” while they braced themselves during some light turbulence.
“I fly Southwest a lot,” Young told Billboard after the performance, which will be aired on Southwest’s website. “This is such a cool opportunity. There aren’t a lot of people who have had a chance to do Live at 35. I was so excited about it.”
“Chris is from Tennessee,” Pope chimed in, “so it is extra special to be on Tennessee One. It’s beautiful and we’re excited to ring in the 30-year mark for Southwest being in Nashville.
In addition to participating in Southwest’s Live at 35 concert series where artists surprise passengers with an in-flight performance, Young admits he’s had some other great memories of flying Southwest. “Me and Dierks Bentley ran a Southwest plane out of Jack Daniels before it got to Vegas one year for the ACMs,” Young shared with a laugh. “I feel that might have been where ‘Drunk on a Plane’ came from. Granted it wasn’t just me and him. It was me and all my crew and him and all his crew, but literally halfway through the flight they got on the PA and said, ‘We are out of Jack Daniels! Stop asking!’”
Pope has also had some interesting in flight experiences. “A man recognized me and he was very drunk. He invited me to his sister’s wedding as his date,” she says. “It was really sweet, but I told him I was flying to go to a show. I told him I was sorry, but I was busy or I would totally go.”
Young will have an opportunity to drain a plane of Jack Daniels again when he heads to the Academy of Country Music Awards [ACMs] April 3 where he is up for four awards as artist and producer for his No. 1 single and album, I’m Comin’ Over. “I’m so pumped. Being able to have multiple nominations like that is something I’m still pinching myself for,” he says. “Four nominations [including] two as a producer. This is the first time I’ve been a producer on a project so that’s really special. I’m really blown away. I’m looking forward to Vegas this year.”
Among the other passengers onboard the inaugural Tennessee One flight were newly engaged Tiffany Johnson, outreach coordinator for the nonprofit Soles for Souls, and Lee Turner, who plays keyboards in Darius Rucker’s band. The couple met at baggage claim in the Nashville Airport in August 2014 and got engaged at baggage claim at the Newark Airport while on a Christmas trip to New York last December.
“I wanted to do something that wasn’t expected but yet had significance to our relationship. It was really important how we met and I figured I could go to Southwest and they’d help me out,” Turner says of popping the question by enlisting the help of Southwest employees in attaching a sign that said “Tiffany, will you marry me?” to Johnson’s suitcase. She saw the luggage and sign as it came around the baggage carousel in Newark. “The people at Southwest were just amazing.”
“Even when we landed from New York,” says Johnson, “when we came back home a couple days later somebody met us with a cake and a card that said ‘Congratulations!’ It’s been so sweet.”