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Southwest Play Gate


Create a service to improve an existing brand.


Make the flying experience more positive for families with children.


Everyone has had daunting experiences in the airport. As a group, we shared our own personal stories about what we’ve been through. Collectively, we’ve suffered long layovers, ran through airports to get to connecting flights and slept overnight in a concourse after a flight was delayed. We decided to focus on families because through any consumer journey, pain points become extra painful when a child is involved.

Online Research

We conducted a series of extensive research to solidify who we wanted to serve specifically, where and through which airline or airport. We decided to veer away from designing for an airport because an airline would be able to expand into multiple airports if necessary because several already have their own exclusive Sky Clubs.

Southwest is the “friendly” airline and known for great customer service. They put the customer first. No change fees. No bag fees. No hidden fees. They focus on doing things with love. Even in the 70s when Southwest was listed on the NYSE, their ticker symbol became LUV.

RDU is a great airport choice for several reasons. It’s a smaller airport with Southwest, great for a pilot test. It has a high number of layovers and nearly 22% of flights are delayed -- so people will have time to play and engage with us.

Families have larger ticket purchases than single flyers and typically book well in advance. 

These factors together combined to create the sweet spot we began working in. Focus on serving families flying Southwest at the RDU airport.


With millennials having children, the family customer segment is set to see tremendous growth over the next 10 years, bypassing couples and singles in the same segment​.


We decided to design for single parents traveling with children, thinking that if we designed for the single parent, we’d also cover two parents.

However, as great as they are, we noticed that they offered little to families during the airport experience, causing them to lag behind competition like JetBlue. We wanted to focus on Southwest to elevate the experience for families.

Why Southwest?

Why RDU?

Why Families?



In Person Research

We started by making a journey. There were several low points in any airport journey, including security, navigating concourses and waiting at the gate.

Keeping in mind that everything gets more difficult with children in tow, we then segmented the standard journey and sent a survey to parents. The survey asked parents to explain what they were doing, thinking and feeling at each stage of travel. 

  • Packing

  • Flight Check-In

  • TSA

  • Arrival at Gate

  • Boarding

  • In-Flight

  • Deplaning

  • Baggage Claim

  • Leaving the Airport

By far, to the parents, the worst stage was waiting at the gate with children.


Our main persona is Michelle Holland. She is flying from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to Orlando International Airport to meet up with family and go to Disney World. She is flying with her 2 children with no extra help for the very first time.

Introducing Joy on the Fly!

User Testing Phase 1

Our ideal play gate was sketched out for user testing. After brainstorming amenities that would be nice to have and researching other play spaces, we came up with this space that included cribs, bean bags and activity tables. The sketches were sent to parents, nannies, pediatricians, and play space owners for the first round of user testing.

The users suggested a variety of things to add and take away. Most notably, they suggested the cribs be taken out for sanitation purposes and so the children could wear themselves out to sleep on the plane. Furthermore, the users suggested a space to situate belongings since they would have baggage and more individualized seating. The rest of the feedback is as follows:

  • Add

    • A sanitary station

    • Breastfeeding cubicles

    • A space to situate belongings

    • An enclosure for crawlers/runners

    • Televisions and tablets

    • Headphones for noise sensitive kids

    • Individualized seating

  • Take Away

    • Cribs

    • Bean bags (unless they are leather)

User Testing Phase 2

With our wealth of feedback, we mocked up a 3D version of the play space via Roomle. We returned to the same users who initially reviewed the space for more suggestions. and suggested walls instead of a gate for the play area and a dedicated space for teens. Ironically, this time we were told to take away the individualized seating.


  1. Melissa Poe (Experience Designer)

  2. Jeremy Stokes (Experience Designer)

  3. Me 

My Roles

  • Research

  • Interface Mock Ups

  • Chat Bot Construction