In 2012, Southwest Airlines launched the "Free Hobby" campaign, which sought approval from the City of Houston to expand services by starting international air service at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport to accommodate the region’s increased economic and population growth. Facing opposition campaigns from competing airlines, “Free Hobby” demonstrated grassroots support for the $1.6 billion generated annually and the 10,000-plus jobs created by the proposed expansion.
To support Southwest’s efforts, an advocacy microsite — FreeHobbyAirport.com — served as an online communications hub for Houston residents, Southwest advocates and other supporters of the Hobby expansion. Within a week-and-a-half, FreeHobbyAirport.com became a one-stop shop for advocates to learn about the proposed expansion, register their support, share articles and take action through the site’s embedded CapwizXC legislative advocacy tools.
The site was instrumental in disseminating campaign messages and generating support for the cause, generating 33,682 signatures in support of expanding Hobby Airport to include international flights. This was easily the largest grassroots campaign the current Houston City Council members had ever seen, according to many of their public comments. The “Free Hobby” effort became a rallying cry for tens of thousands of Southwest employees and Houston residents, businesses and community leaders.
The overwhelming level of response from numerous stakeholders was enough to persuade the Houston City Council to approve the measure 16–1.