SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

Credit: Getty Images

CHICAGO - APRIL 05: A Southwest Airlines passenger jet prepares to land at Midway Airport on April 5, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Southwest Airlines said it has finished inspecting its grounded 737-300 series planes and of the nearly 80 planes five of them have cracks in the aluminum skin. The inspections come after Southwest Flight 812 had to make an emergency landing when a piece of its fuselage skin was torn while on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento. The discovery prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing to require emergency inspections on a portion of the 737 fleet manufactured during the 1980s and 1990s for the same fatigue cracks in the fuselage like the ones on the Southwest jets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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by Mike Schneider, Associated Press

KMOV.com

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 12:24 PM

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Entertainment are ending their 25-year-old marketing partnership, officials with both companies said Thursday, as the airline has been urged by animal rights activists to terminate the relationship.

The partnership won’t be renewed at the end of the year when the current contract expires. As part of the partnership, three Southwest airplanes had various SeaWorld animals painted on their bodies. Those planes will be returned to Southwest’s traditional livery.

SeaWorld officials said the decision was mutual. SeaWorld wants to concentrate on growing markets in Latin America and Asia, the marine park company said in a statement.

“Southwest and SeaWorld have enjoyed their long relationship, and wish each other continued success,” the statement said.

SeaWorld has parks in Orlando, Florida; San Antonio and San Diego.

Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said it was a business decision as the airline intends to focus on international service.

Earlier this year, animal rights activist held a rally and dropped off a petition at Southwest, urging the airline to end the relationship. The activists cited the documentary “Blackfish,” which explores what may have caused the killer whale Tilikum to kill SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

The documentary argues that killer whales, when in captivity, become more aggressive to humans and each other. Since the documentary, several entertainers have pulled out of planned performances at SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. parks.

Regarding the pressure from the activists, McInnis said Southwest has been in “listening and education mode.”

“We ... have engaged and heard from conservationists, SeaWorld supporters, and others on all sides of this issue,” McInnis said.

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