Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Entertainment are ending their 25-year-old marketing partnership at the end of the year, officials with both companies said Thursday, as the airline has been urged by animal rights activists to terminate the relationship. Three Southwest airplanes with SeaWorld animals painted on their bodies will be returned to Southwest's traditional livery.
SeaWorld officials said the decision was mutual. "Southwest and SeaWorld have enjoyed their long relationship, and wish each other continued success," the statement said. 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. Since the documentary, several entertainers have pulled out of planned performances at SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. parks.
— The Associated Press