(Photo by Sergio Cardona)

(Photo by Sergio Cardona)

You've seen them at least once

during your traveling adventures. Shamu, an iconic symbol of SeaWorld, has been the featured paint scheme of three different aircraft flown by Southwest Airlines. Travelers are used to seeing the orange and blue paint on their aircraft filtering throughout airports across the nation. However once in a while you might catch eye of an oddly painted plane, with eyes, white spots, and the body of a killer whale. That's Shamu, SeaWorld's most famous symbol and face of their franchise.

flat,550x550,075,fAfter being in a relationship for over 25 years, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and Southwest Airlines announced earlier yesterday that their contract will come to a close at the end of the year. For years Southwest has come under scrutiny due to the alleged animal cruelty that SeaWorld has been connected to. ABC News reported that "killer whales, when in captivity, become more aggressive to humans and each other." This directly relates to the documentary titled "Blackfish" about the unfortunate and tragic death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau back in 2010.

USA Today stated the Dallas-based air carrier was approached with 32,459 signatures "for a petition asking the airline to help stop animal cruelty." It's not every day an airline can be indirectly connected with a sensitive subject such as animal cruelty. However given the situation, a community of animal rights activists put pressure on the airline to break its ties.

Since 1988 Southwest and SeaWorld have partnered up and advertised each other's products; Southwest offering package vacation deals to SeaWorld's locations, and the amusement park franchise putting their business all over three planes…literally. Three of Southwest's aircraft are painted with Orcas, a type of killer whale that's heavily utilized by the marine park, and is the species of the legendary Shamu. Advertising has everything to do with growing business. This can be seen from a child's point of view. We all know kids can be excited when they fly and travel; visiting grandma and grandpa, going to Hawaii or Europe. Chances are they've seen the "Shamu" or "Orca" schemed aircraft from the airline. While there are only three currently in that paint scheme, they fly everywhere. At that point, SeaWorld becomes a topic of discussion within families at the most unexpected of places, such as a plane. Hopefully, it'll lead to a potential visit to one of the locations throughout the United States. It's pure business in the making.

According to the airline's media department, "Southwest and Sea World of Texas introduced Shamu One, a Boeing 737-300 painted like a killer whale" back in 1988. The plane's first flight arrived in San Antonio, surprising passengers in the terminal, in addition to city government officials waiting to welcome the inaugural flight. Southwest reported that during that first year, the aircraft flew a total of 1.1 million miles up until its one year anniversary in 1989.

With this partnership coming to an end, notable animal rights activist groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed appreciation and excitement for the ending relationship. Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA, stated "Champagne corks were popping at PETA today when we heard that Southwest will no longer support SeaWorld and will repaint its planes." With this unfortunate end to a business partnership, it was a decision that didn't seem to shock either side.

ABC News elaborated that both sides had a mutual feeling when it came to the decision. Marilee McInnis, a spokeswoman for the major carrier, stated that "We … have engaged and heard from conservationists, SeaWorld supporters, and others on all sides of this issue…" In regards to the animal cruelty allegations, McInnis further said that Southwest has engaged in its "listening and education mode."

A statement from SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. indicated that it's sad about the break up but wishes its former long term partner well, "Southwest and SeaWorld have enjoyed their long relationship, and wish each other continued success."

After the end of this year, SeaWorld will continue to focus on its international presence in South America. Southwest, per the convenience of its passengers, will continue to offer vacation packages it advertises to SeaWorld's facilities.