Travellers took to social media to joke about the “introvert’s worst nightmare”, provided by US music shop Guitar Center in a partnership with the airline.
The airline tweeted about the lesson, which saw each passenger left a ukulele in their plane seat and 20 minutes of instruction, saying: “We teamed up with @guitarcenter to surprise a flight full of customers flying out of Long Beach with a ukulele and a lesson.
“By the time they arrived in Honolulu they were pros.”
However, not everyone saw the promotion as a welcome surprise on a five hour, 50 minute flight.
“I wasn’t on this flight, but I would still like a refund,” joked one Twitter follower.
“An introvert’s worst nightmare,” wrote another, quoting Southwest’s tweet.
“I am a big fan of Southwest, but this might have made me homicidal,” replied journalist Tom Nichols.
“Yeah I would have probably ended up trying to open the door in flight,” agreed @Eddie_NYC.
“How many refunds did you have to give?” asked another user.
Other followers posted gifs of passengers being hit over the head by a guitar in the film Airplane!, or a toga-wearing John Belushi smashing up a guitar in Animal House.
“Me when my noise-cancelling headphones won’t work against 200 ukuleles,” captioned one person.
The tweet has so far garnered 148 quote tweets and 164 replies from fans and critics of the stunt.
According to a press release from Guitar Center, passengers were taught how to play the song “Hello, Aloha. How are you?” by instructors specially invited onboard.
“Above the clouds, passengers onboard the Boeing 737-800 aircraft all received a Mitchell MU40 Soprano ukulele, a Road Runner carrying case and a unique lesson in the sky,” said the release.
“Best-in-class Guitar Center Lessons instructors taught passengers how easy it is to learn to play the ukulele, one of Hawaii’s happiest and most familiar instruments.”
Southwest Airlines staff on Twitter remained perky, assuring followers that the experiment was well received by those on the flight.
“Ahhh, don’t be like that, Chris! Everyone on this flight had a great time!” wrote one representative from the airline’s account.
Southwest does not have a marketing team that knows how to say “No” to an idea. They only know how to ask, “What’s the best way to execute it?” 😂🏻 https://t.co/UTc0S3x52J
— Meredith B. (@OhHiMeredith) September 21, 2022
“Don’t worry, y’all, everyone put their ukuleles away after 20 minutes since they had already mastered how to play,” the airline added in a follow-up tweet.
Others praised the creative idea, with Rohit Koratkar replying: “Why is everyone hating on this?? I absolutely love this! I would have loved this experience! @SouthwestAir is the greatest!
Onnalee Riley added: “I love this!! I wish I had been on that flight!”
“I’m flying to Hawaii this weekend and would love a ukulele,” wrote a man named Winston.
Meanwhile, another simply commented: “I would sue.”
It’s not the only time inflight music has unleashed a torrent of scathing replies from travellers.
In April a video of a group of Evangelical Christians singing loudly on an easyJet flight went viral, with social media users calling the moment “intrusive and obnoxious”.
“Y’all about to meet him if you keep singing,” reads the top most liked comment on TikTok.
“This is a hostage situation,” wrote another horrified TikTok user.