Southwest Airlines says it will take close look at complaints over SeaWorld partnership

SAN DIEGO - Amid mounting pressure created by the documentary "Blackfish," one of SeaWorld's top corporate partners says they will "listen" to concerns about the theme park and the calls to end a partnership.

On Wednesday morning, a group of animal advocates went to the Dallas headquarters of SeaWorld partner Southwest Airlines to deliver a petition.

"We want to make sure the voices of the 27,000 consumers who signed this Change.org petition are heard and their concerns are taken seriously," said Alexandria Beck, petition signer and protest organizer.

For more than two decades, Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld have teamed up to offer exclusive promotions that have directed Southwest passengers into SeaWorld parks.

The airline even put Shamu on the side of some planes.

On this day, protesters held up the image of Shamu, months after the release of the "Blackfish," a film critical of orcas living in captivity.

SeaWorld has disputed the claims and characterization portrayed by the film.

Amid other online petitions, seven acts, including Willie Nelson and Martina McBride, have canceled concerts at SeaWorld.

The film, shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, has sparked a social media frenzy, with some 67,000 tweets after a recent airing on CNN.

Now, a campaign is being directed at one of SeaWorld's most important corporate partners.

"When you get to the corporate sponsors, it's really going for the jugular," said San Diego State University marketing professor Miro Copic.

Copic said the "Blackfish" buzz will force Southwest to contemplate ending the partnership, which could hurt SeaWorld's bottom line.

"It might be difficult for Southwest to walk away, but they may be open to doing something symbolic like removing an orca from a plane," said Copic.

In a statement on its blog, the airline seemed to leave the door open for future change, saying: "At this time, our partnership with SeaWorld will continue ... we are in a listening and education mode with the goal of upholding our commitments as a good corporate citizen."

Southwest says it has a multi-year deal with SeaWorld. It is unclear when that deal ends.

Petition organizers told 10News they plan to check in with Southwest in a week. If the airline does nothing, 10News was told all options are on the table, from protests of Southwest to a boycott.

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