The internet is still abuzz with speculation over the whereabouts and meaning of the silver monolith, which was found by Utah officials in November before disappearing almost as soon as it was discovered. Some proposed that it was an installation by a “new wave” artist. Others theorized that it was put there by aliens, à la “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Southwest Airlines, however, is offering one of the only plausible explanations for its disappearance.
Earlier this week, the Dallas-based airline tweeted out a photo of the monolith, albeit edited to look like one of the numbered posts that assist with seating at a Southwest Airlines gate.
“Sorry y’all, we needed it back,” the airline wrote in its tweet, jokingly suggesting that the carrier was responsible for the monolith’s disappearance.
The tweet has since been shared over 8,000 times and earned almost 70,000 “likes.”
“Now that is funny,” wrote one Twitter user.
“And… just like that… you remind me why you are my favorite airline,” added another.
Southwest Airlines later revealed that Twitter user @iotapup was responsible for both the idea and the photo, which had originally been posted a few days before.
But despite Southwest’s lighthearted take on the monolith, the airline still took a moment to offer a word of warning to its followers and Twitter commenters: “It's all fun and games until we hear HAL 9000 on the intercom,” wrote Southwest, referencing yet another foreboding entity from “2001.”
In a statement shared with Fox News, Southwest (very admirably) kept up the act, further detailing the initial loss, and then rescue, of its missing "boarding monolith."
"When we discovered one of our boarding stanchions was missing from our Las Vegas operation (the 16-25 one no less, maybe one of the top ten most difficult pillars to replace), we immediately went looking for it," a representative for the airline told Fox News. "Once it was discovered in the middle of the desert, we had our team of experts extract it under the cover of darkness, so as not to cause a scene, and return it safely to the airport. We know many people were sad to see it leave the desert, but we just want to remind them that they can visit the monolith anytime, by going to Southwest.com and booking one of our low fares."
The carrier continued: "The Southwest travel journey is a distinct one. We strive to create an experience that resonates with our Passengers. Whether it be the outstanding Hospitality, the lack of bag fees, or the iconic boarding monoliths, we are glad to see our fans rally around these shared experiences. We all need a good laugh this year, so we were happy to facilitate one."
The actual monolith, a three-sided metallic structure estimated to be between 10 and 12 feet high, was first discovered by state wildlife employees who were counting sheep from a helicopter on Nov. 18. This past week, however, Utah’s Bureau of Land Management confirmed that the “illegally installed structure” had been removed by an “unknown party” on Nov. 27, although not before several adventurers were able to determine its location via Google Earth and attempt to visit the site.
Fox News' James Rogers and David Aaro contributed to this report.