“Southwest Sucks” Highlights the Complexity Involved in Airline Customer Service

I received an email from a reader who had a really poor experience flying Southwest. He wrote “Southwest Sucks” on his boarding pass, and he wasn’t allowed to fly. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well yeah, but it’s not that simple. I’m sure that’s how most media outlets would pick up on the story, but there’s a lot more to it. This is a great example of how hard it can be to deliver 100% great customer service at all times.

Let’s go over the whole story. This customer had just had a really tough week. He was traveling to a family member’s wake and because of problems on the outbound flight related to weather, he missed it. This was exacerbated by poor communication so he was not happy, as you can imagine. By the time he came back, he was already at wit’s end. He tried to explain his frustrations to the customer service agent at his gate, but she couldn’t make time for him and suggested he contact customer relations. He got frustrated and wrote “Southwest Sucks” on his boarding pass and sat down.

The next thing he knows, he was trying to board the airplane when a flight attendant refused him boarding and he had to take a different flight. Sounds like a pretty bad case of customer handling, right? Well, yes, but possibly no. We need to think about this from every angle.

From his angle, there’s no question that this was the topper at the end of a horrible travel experience. I actually connected him with Southwest, and they were very sorry to hear about it. They apologized that he had such a difficult experience and offered him compensation.

But that doesn’t mean the flight attendant who kicked him off was completely in the wrong. Though I haven’t heard any report from that flight attendant, the other crew members said that a family onboard complained to the flight attendant that there was a passenger in the gate area causing trouble and they wanted to make sure they didn’t sit next to him.

Now, if you’re a flight attendant and you have someone on the plane who says someone else is causing trouble, you need to take that seriously. You could end up stuck at 35,000 feet with someone who really is causing trouble and bad things can happen. So the flight attendant acted under time pressure and made the decision not to allow him to fly.

Had she known what the customer had gone through and why he was so frustrated, I would hope she would have gladly let him on and maybe even have given him a free drink for his troubles. But she didn’t know the whole story, and she really couldn’t. She had to make a judgment call, and it turned out to be wrong . . . but only with perfect hindsight. With the information she had and the time pressure she was under, it may have been the right thing.

But we can back up even further here. Had that gate agent simply been willing to listen to him for a minute, he may not have written “Southwest Sucks” on his boarding pass and none of this would have happened at all.

But we don’t know what was happening with the gate agent at the time. She could have been overwhelmed from issues she had earlier in the day. Maybe she had personal problems and just wasn’t on her game. We’ll never know, and it doesn’t necessarily matter. The point is that this kind of stuff happens to everyone. We’re all people.

The reality is that just like in airline accidents, it takes a million little things to come together to erupt into a customer service issue like this. It’s going to happen to every airline at some point, and the key is to see how that airline responds.

Southwest handled this very well, in the end. I sent the email (with his permission) to Southwest social media guru Paula Berg, and she jumped on it. She immediately reached out to find out all sides of what happened, and within a couple of days she was on the phone with the customer apologizing that he had such a difficult experience flying Southwest.

Will it make up for the poor experience? No, not completely. But I imagine that he will now consider flying them again because they showed that they do care about trying to make things right after the fact.


52 Responses to “Southwest Sucks” Highlights the Complexity Involved in Airline Customer Service

  1. David SFeastbay says:

    Like you said, we are all people and people love to over react and twist facts arounds. That seems to happen a lot, and not just air travel.

    But the way air travel is these days, you can be treated badly by airline personal, but you don’t have the right anymore to respond to your treatment while at the airport or in the air. If you do the airline employee can get pissed and have you arrested.

    Granted the flying public can be very hard to deal with, but so can airline staff. Seems to me the attendant at the door should have asked the gate agent if there was a problem and not just go by what some other passenger said. OK seeing ‘Southwest sucks’ written on the boarding pass could give the wrong impression, but I’m sure her fellow coworkers have said worse about their employer.

    So I guess the next thing we’ll hear from TSA and the Department of Homeland Security is that it will be a Federal Offense to write anything on a boarding pass/paper ticket/any airline document.

  2. David SFeastbay says:

    Oh I forgot to say, good move on adding the year to your blog dates that someone suggested.

  3. Benji says:

    What a great, unique post. Interesting story and well-written by you.

  4. Keith L. says:

    Cranky:

    Many of us that read your blog frequently, know that you really like Southwest. I remember that you even had your picture taken with one of their head honchos.

    I wonder if you would have “given them the benefit of doubt” if this incident happened on United Airlines? Would you have said it was another “United broke my guitar” moment?

    What about if it had happened on your other favorite “whipping boy” Alitalia??

    Just wondering :)

  5. Bob SFO says:

    I do a lot of business travel with airlines, and over the past couple of years, a lot with Southwest. When I find myself dealing with a travel related problem with airline personnel, I try to follow the rule of stopping, thinking and then responding, calmly to a situation. I almost always get my problem resolved. If the person that I am dealing with is under the gun, I simply ask them to stop and take a deep breath for a second and then try to respond again. That usually works. But I always start with controlling myself first.

  6. SEAN says:

    Who remembers the NW PR disaster a few years ago? A flight from Jamaica to Detroit via Tampa landed in a horiffic snowstorm & wasn’t able to reach the gate. After several hours the passengers became ressless & nearly rioted because nobody came to assist them. It was reported that some passengers were trying to open the emergency slides & the flight atendents worned that opening the slides is a federal crime & charges will bee braught. Meanwhile the pilot having no luck reaching NW officials made a bold dessision to call the CEO at his home & told him what are you going to do about this!

    It should be noted there were 35 aircraft sitting on the tarmack at that time unable to reach the gates.

    The news media after this posed the question what rights do air travelers have once the airplane door closes? The answer at the time was none. Technicly you are property of the government until the door opens at the gate.

  7. Brad says:

    I have been traveling for business and pleasure for over 30years, and what I fail to understand anymore, is the level of anger associated with incidents. While I understand that 8-9 hour tarmac delays have happened, I feel like they are so rare, as not to be made a “federal” issue. I don’t live in the world that many of the people who complain all the time do. I know that there are no guarantees. If you leave your house, you are open to the possibility of travel disruptions and disappointments. This anger I see now in airports and on airplanes is so unnecessary. I have been disappointed for sure, but did I make a scene in the gate house or on the aircraft…no. I was not raised to respond in this manner. There are other ways to do things. For the sake of the system and fellow travelers, please keep everything in perspective. Noting truly horrific ever happens and we all survive the missed connections, overbookings, and rude staff to fly another day and life goes on…

    • Donna b. says:

      It is people like you who accept the crap so the airlines keep getting away with more and more customer abuse. We all need to NOT accept the bad treatment, demand refunds if necessary and stand united against the poor treatment. Weenies like you are no help to improve the situation. You just sit back and take whatever abuse the airlines dishes out, so expect the crap to continue.

  8. FBKSan says:

    It’s great that this was resolved at least partially to the passenger’s satisfaction, but how much does this really tell us about Southwest’s overall customer service response? Along the lines Keith L.’s comments, what if the guy hadn’t contacted you but instead just contacted Southwest’s generic customer relations? Rather than forward the guy’s compliant (to a high-level employee from a prominent, well-connected blogger), an interesting experiment would have been to suggest the guy write in on his own. Then see how Southwest responds and only intervene after the fact.

    I see a lot of these consumer-champion type blog posts in which one consumer’s voice is elevated to unusually high levels via an established media/blog personality. But I’m always a bit sad for the hundreds of others out there who don’t get an ‘in’ and have to deal with the airlines (or whoever) through normal channels. Unless these one-shot events raise the tide for all boats, then I’m not sure they do all that much good.

  9. JK says:

    Working life, whatever your line of work, would be great if you never had to deal with the public. They, including myself, can be so impossible.

    We come to our flights in every condition imagineable, often not too good [reference: going to a wake]. And, weather happens; things break.

    Whatever we do, we hope we have planned for every contingency, in or out of our control. Yet, so often, it seems, the airlines act like this “problem” you have is the first such happening in the entire history of the company, and we haven’t a clue how to satisfy you.

    And, the basic business idea that the customer comes first is getting lost. “Remember dear customer, I have a boss; we have shareholders; we have rules; all more important than you!”

    And those “rules!” Why oh why did you ever come up with those rules? You knew, or surely should have known they would only, and forever cause grief for your customers. The damage is done, but please think about it the next time you try to “float” yet another fare, frequent flyer, or service innovation, which in truth is nothing more than a “gimmick,” which will only cause your customers more frustration!

  10. Robert says:

    Brad makes an excellent point. There are so many varibles that can arise when traveling that you simply have to go into it with the attitude of feeling lucky that the entire system works at all. I suppose this sounds as if I have low expectations, I don’t….but I think this is simply the reality of air travel in America right now. In my 25 years of traveling, there have been many disappointments, however, I have never once, raised my voice or “gotten into it” with an airline employee. I have had many conversations, but always treating the employee with respect. I would say that 90% of the time, if there was something that they were actually able to help me with, the problem was taken care of. Civility and manners can go along way in society.

  11. CF says:

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    Seems to me the attendant at the door should have asked the gate agent if there was a problem and not just go by what some other passenger said. OK seeing ‘Southwest sucks’ written on the boarding pass could give the wrong impression, but I’m sure her fellow coworkers have said worse about their employer.

    There’s no question that things didn’t go as they should have. In hindsight, should the flight attendant have tried to ask some questions? Yeah, absolutely. She probably could have gotten the story and been comfortable with him onboard. But, we also don’t know what was happening on the airplane. Maybe she was running from a connecting flight and just barely got there in time to push the plane out. Maybe it was a full flight and there was someone that need attention so things got out of control. I’m not justifying what happened, but I am saying that there could have been reasons why she did what she did, even if they proved to be the wrong way to go with hindsight.

    Keith L. wrote:

    Cranky:
    Many of us that read your blog frequently, know that you really like Southwest. I remember that you even had your picture taken with one of their head honchos.
    I wonder if you would have “given them the benefit of doubt” if this incident happened on United Airlines? Would you have said it was another “United broke my guitar” moment?
    What about if it had happened on your other favorite “whipping boy” Alitalia??

    It seems that anytime I write something good about Southwest or another airline, there’s at least someone who thinks I’m doing it because I like them. That’s not true. In this case, it is true that the post came about because Southwest is willing to engage me. If they hadn’t, then I never would have been able to get the bigger story, nor would I have even had the chance to get help for this guy. Though there is some praise for the airline’s handling after the fact, the focus here is on how things can happen rather than trying to give one airline props over another.

    I actually have a good story related to dealing with the PR folks at United that will be up on BNET in the next week. It’s a positive story, and I’m not burying it simply because it’s United and not Southwest. Sheesh.

    SEAN wrote:

    The news media after this posed the question what rights do air travelers have once the airplane door closes? The answer at the time was none. Technicly you are property of the government until the door opens at the gate.

    The airline does have the right to kick you off their airplane for just about any reason if they so choose. (See Rule 35 in most airlines contracts of carriage.) It is frustrating for sure, especially when you get a pissed off flight attendant who just happens to be mean to everyone. It’s not fair in some circumstances, but ultimately, the captain has to have control of the ship and that does mean ultimate authority.

    FBKSan wrote:

    It’s great that this was resolved at least partially to the passenger’s satisfaction, but how much does this really tell us about Southwest’s overall customer service response? Along the lines Keith L.’s comments, what if the guy hadn’t contacted you but instead just contacted Southwest’s generic customer relations? Rather than forward the guy’s compliant (to a high-level employee from a prominent, well-connected blogger), an interesting experiment would have been to suggest the guy write in on his own. Then see how Southwest responds and only intervene after the fact.

    Very good point. Anytime I get a complaint letter from a frustrated flier, I do what I can to pass that on to the right people to help. In this case, I didn’t want to play a game when the guy had clearly gone through enough, but I certainly understand your point.

    My personal experience with Southwest is that they are very good when it comes to customer relations. I’ve written a couple complaints over the years, long before I had the blog, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at the response from that group.

    In fact, that’s how Paula Berg started her career at Southwest – in the customer relations group – and it sets the tone for a lot of what the airline does. Would he have received the same prompt response without my help? I don’t know, but he would have received a response and it would have involved the same detective work to find out what actually happened. I imagine others can chime in if they’ve had experiences with these guys that they can share.

  12. FBKSan / Cranky – I was just about to chime in…

    It’s a fair question. As Cranky stated, I began my career with Southwest Airlines in our Customer Relations Department, and I can confirm that every call, letter, and email sent to our Customer Relations Department, receives a personal and researched response. Of course, some matters require more research and time than others. And, if needed, gathering all of the facts, information, and reports from Employees can take several days – especially if the Employees involved are in flight and traveling around the country.

    In this case, I believe the issue would have received very similar attention and a very similar response. It just would have taken a few more days. Owing to the extremely bizarre and unfortunate nature of this incident, when Cranky contacted me, I was happy to expedite the matter.

    While Cranky is certainly a prominent, well-connected blogger, the truth is, I am just a regular rank and file Employee who was trying to do right by a Customer. And, in my experience, that’s not so unusual.

    Consider that Southwest Airlines alone carries nearly 100 million Customers a year, and most go home pleased with their experience.

    Despite the attention that these situations sometimes receive (…sometimes rightfully so), they are anomalies, which, to Cranky’s point, are typically the result of many little things going unusually wrong and adding up to a bad experience.

    When that happens, we do our best to determine the root(s) of the problem, provide the Customer with an appropriate apology and explanation, and continue to refine our procedures and systems to prevent such problems from occurring again.

    Paula Berg
    Southwest Airlines

  13. Bill says:

    What the “let’s look at the other side of the story” approach fails to take into account is the extremely high likelihood that all air travelers encounter one or more problems the majority of the time these days. In other words, if the airlines were run anywhere even close to correctly, the incidents drop, people are less frustrated, less yelling, less stress. The article tries to let the perps at the airline off the hook essentially because the were overwhelmed themselves. The point is, they were overwhelmed by the faults in the airlines own systems. Systems which by the way, do not seem to be performing any better DESPITE the drop in traffic.

  14. Bill – do you really think that’s true? The DOT numbers for ontime performance, baggage handling and customer complaints seem to suggest otherwise. I fly almost every week, and regardless of the airline, I usually arrive ontime and without incident.

  15. Kathy says:

    Actually, I do blame the flight attendant. When I was one, I never took the word of a passenger about problems with another passenger. A 2 minute conversation with him would have resolved the issue.

  16. Kathleen says:

    What is so helpful in your documentation of this unfortunate event is that it illuminates how not making time to listen to a customer initially can compound everyone’s frustration to the point that it ends up taking much more time to resolve. Thanks for pointing out the nuances of situation.

  17. David SFeastbay says:

    @ Kathy:

    I agree with Kathy, the time it took to deny the passenger to board had to be longer then just asking the gate agents opinion on the matter. Also since everything was happening in the gate area, how would the flight attendant know what had taken place to have the finaly say.

  18. David SFeastbay says:

    Brett what was said about you getting better treatment is true and to be expected. With blogs, twitter, and everything else out there today, company’s must have their customer service people on the look out for anything coming in from certain ‘key’ people. It’s no different then the food critic from the local paper walking into a restaurant and getting treated better.

    We’d all like to have an ‘in’ with someone if we can get better treatment or something resolved. If using your name can help someone, then that’s a good thing. As long as the company involved doesn’t resolve something for you just to get a good write up on your blog then there shouldn’t be a problem.

    While people may think today you are being over nice to WN over this, it doesn’t mean next week you won’t call them on the carpet for doing something.

    I’ve worked face to face with the public before and know while you may do the basic job for everyone, there will always be people you may go the ‘extra’ mile for because of who they are or because they weren’t an ass like the person before them.

    So with that in mind,trust me, if I ever have a problem with an airline and think you could help, you’ll be hearing from me. :-)

  19. BJ says:

    I like the article. Too often when travelling we see people abusing staff who have no influence over the problems that are being encountered. Many people, as we well know, check their brains in with their baggage. Why is it that we wait patiently at a shopping centre but expect to be treated like gods when we are going on our $19 flight? Yes we don’t know all the facts but I’m with the agent. Having tired, drunk and/or abusive passengers makes the flight hell for the rest of us (the majority).

    However, not all staff are great at customer service. We have to accept that and get on with it. We also have to accept that if you want low cost flights then staff may not have time to give everyone what they want.

    What can we do? Chill out and enjoy life. The funniest day I ever had was when a hotel roof fell in on my room. Try laughing and the time passes a lot quicker and better.

  20. CF says:

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    I agree with Kathy, the time it took to deny the passenger to board had to be longer then just asking the gate agents opinion on the matter. Also since everything was happening in the gate area, how would the flight attendant know what had taken place to have the finaly say.

    I believe it was the flight attendant’s call because the family that complained about the guy was on the airplane and spoke directly with the flight attendant about it. I don’t know any further details, but maybe if Paula is able to divulge more then she’ll do that at some point.

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    So with that in mind,trust me, if I ever have a problem with an airline and think you could help, you’ll be hearing from me. :-)

    Well that’s certainly fine. I’m actually working on a new business here that will help people with some of these types of things. I’m hoping to launch after Labor Day.

  21. Bicoastal says:

    You are an apologist for WN. If this was United, you wouldn’t even try to put it in perspective, but you’d assume the passenger was correct.

  22. Both sides of the arguement is correct, LCC’s have created a barrier in that Public Relations simply don’t exist, it is the cost factor of less personnel (foot soldiers) to deal with the problems plus the factor you can’t even speak directly to anyone any more, (JetBlue?), on the other side of the concourse the passengers are simply too demanding and are constantly venting and if everything doesn’t come up 120% they get on their high horse and start demanding when it is usually their own fault, no ticket, late, no passport, excess baggage charges..so on, more communication on both sides will start to help (Airlines need to make sure of their rules very are clear), but the attitude barrier on both sides is really the main problem…personally I think the flight attendant made the right call in the circumstances, and too easily do they give in to aggressive demands with sorry’s and free tickets and accommodation after, If the airline is at fault then fair enough, but if the passenger is a pain in the **** then you don’t need them, (certainly not flying free)

  23. Bill Ward says:

    A few years back there was a TV show called “Airport” that featured Southwest employees and their dealings with travelers. Based on what I saw of Southwest customer service on that show – which presumably was meant to highlight the good side of the experience – I will never fly that airline. The style of being informal yet officious which I saw represented again and again was a huge turn-off. I’ve flown Southwest once, years ago, and it looked like it was run by a bunch of amateurs.

    And to not even have the piece of mind of a seat assignment?!?! I had enough of that flying standby with my parents (United employees) as a kid.

    If I’m not flying United, I’ll stick to Frontier or Virgin America, both of which have shown me professionalism and courtesy, not the fake-friendliness of Southwest.

  24. John says:

    Southwest is my hometown airline; they are leaps ahead of the monster over in Fort Worth (AA). Do they make mistakes? sure, but this WASN’T a mistake, this was a cautionary action that should be taken. What if this guy was drunk and decided to storm the cockpit or attack a flight attendant.

  25. frank says:

    @ John:
    ===========================================

    WHAT WAS THIS? A cautionary measure? OR A MISTAKE BY SOUTHWEST EMPLOYEES?

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/13/travel/main3257959.shtml

    A second young woman has come forward to claim that Southwest Airlines employees made her cover up on a recent flight, leading jet-setters to ask: Will my outfit fly?

    Setara Qassim said a flight attendant confronted her during the trip from Tucson, Ariz., to Burbank, Calif., and asked whether she had a sweater to go over her green halter-style dress.

    Qassim, 21, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles she was forced to wrap a blanket around herself for the rest of the flight. She complained that if Southwest wants passengers to dress a certain way, it should publish a dress code.

    Last week, 23-year-old Kyla Ebbert said a Southwest employee pulled her aside as she was preparing to board a plane departing San Diego for Tucson in July and told her she was dressed too provocatively to fly.

    Ebbert, who took her case to NBC’s “Today Show,” said she was allowed on the plane after adjusting her sweater and short skirt. She said she was humiliated and felt the stares of other passengers who had overheard the verbal dressing-down.

  26. CF says:

    @ frank:
    I don’t know about the second incident, but they really screwed up with Kyla, that’s for sure. They probably should have let her fly, but they made a bigger mistake by letting the PR get out of hand.

  27. Jim says:

    I have never flown on WN. Not for any particular reason. They just never went where I needed at the time I needed to.

    I have no problems with policies or practices being applied by WN, provided everyone gets the opportunity to use them to their own benefit.

    The next time I see a colicky baby being trundling along on the jetway all I plam to comment that I have concerns that the baby will cry and disturb my flight. Surely, my expectations that the baby and their family will be VDB’d are not unreasonable? Right, I mean the whole plane benefits when there are crying babies aboard.

    Or, if I want an attractive pax to show more I can just ask for it? Wow!

    Now, that’s an airline I can get behind.

    C’mon, denying boarding solely on the basis of another pax’s comments without taking anytime to find out what happened is absolutely inexcusable and irresponsible. I don’t care how harried the FA/GA’s day had been. If you’re going to take an action with significant consequences like that you need to stop and think. You owe that to your self, your employer, and your customer.

    I think somebody at WN should be disciplined.

    Jim

  28. Drew says:

    I think I am the only human being on the planet who thinks Southwest is overrated. Everyone raves, and raves and raves about this company, but I just don’t see it.

    For starters, where do they fly? Nowhere. Prague? Honolulu? Athens? Puerta Vallarta? (My trips the last 18 months). They don’t fly anywhere significant.

    Second, the places they do fly, you have to fly w/out knowing what seat you’re in. It’s all steerage. I said it before: If Southwest implemented ASSIGNED SEATING, their revenues would go up. I once thought that the “every man for him/herself seating” was cool, but that was then, and this is now. I’m a grown man. Southwests boarding and seating process is a MESS.

    Third: The “Southwest is cheaper” argument is a fraud. I live in a major Southwest hub (Houston) and, nine times out of ten, Continental beats them.

    Fourth: Scheduling. Southwest has horrible schedules. Continental has much, much better scheduling than Southwest, which is pathetic, considering I live in a Southwest hub.

    Denver? Bet my life that I could find a cheaper, more convenient, flight on another airline than Southwest.

    New York? See Denver.

    My point: Cranky, I know you love Southwest, and I love your blog, but let’s be real here. The airline is far from perfect.

  29. Bill says:

    @ Paula Berg – Southwest Airlines:
    Yes, I think it’s true. I have flow regularly for business before, during and following 911, and things have continued to spiral down. Traffic reduced? Then cut flights, cut staff, jam planes, let the passenger take the hindmost. The point of my comment was that t makes no sense (to me) to defend the attendants involved because they were “overwhelmed”. If so, it was because of the inefficient systems and poorly staffed airports the airlines maintain. Let me just say this: If I did my job the way the airlines do theirs, I’d be fired, and I’d deserve it.

  30. struss says:

    i used to be on the front lines, during the late ’60s and thru the ’70s in the West for an airline that doesn’t exist anymore. been there, done that. i’ve been called every name, and combination of names, that i can think of, and had a name tag ripped off my shirt. and the flying public wonders if we get a little gun-shy?

  31. David SFeastbay says:

    Well Cranky after this blog, if Darius Chappille contacts you for help getting a refund or something from WN, don’t help him. He was the guy on a Oakland – Las Vegas flight yesterday that caused the plane to return to OAK so he could be arrested.

    After the flight took off he started yelling, exposed himself to a woman, hit her, hit another woman, hit her husband, got completely naked, and then threw up.

    I guess he was dressed ok (up until he took his clothes off) and didn’t write ‘Southwest Sucks’ on his boarding pass so was able to board the plane. So if a WN employee doesn’t think you are dressed right or “act” right they will not let you on the plane, but a 6’1” 300ish pound man looked ok to be let on board and then did all this.

    The girls with the skimmy clothing I think is funny. WN should have polled the passengers on the flight to see if they were dressed right to fly. I bet I know how the vote would have turned out. Straight men and lesbians would have said skimmy outfits were ok, women traveling with their husbands and boyfriends would have voted no, and gay men wouldn’t have cared unless their outfits were not coordinated and stylish……..lol

  32. Steve says:

    Drew wrote:

    I think I am the only human being on the planet who thinks Southwest is overrated. Everyone raves, and raves and raves about this company, but I just don’t see it.
    For starters, where do they fly? Nowhere. Prague? Honolulu? Athens? Puerta Vallarta? (My trips the last 18 months). They don’t fly anywhere significant.
    Second, the places they do fly, you have to fly w/out knowing what seat you’re in. It’s all steerage. I said it before: If Southwest implemented ASSIGNED SEATING, their revenues would go up. I once thought that the “every man for him/herself seating” was cool, but that was then, and this is now. I’m a grown man. Southwests boarding and seating process is a MESS.
    Third: The “Southwest is cheaper” argument is a fraud. I live in a major Southwest hub (Houston) and, nine times out of ten, Continental beats them.
    Fourth: Scheduling. Southwest has horrible schedules. Continental has much, much better scheduling than Southwest, which is pathetic, considering I live in a Southwest hub.
    Denver? Bet my life that I could find a cheaper, more convenient, flight on another airline than Southwest.
    New York? See Denver.
    My point: Cranky, I know you love Southwest, and I love your blog, but let’s be real here. The airline is far from perfect.

    It’s kind of like Sear’s and Macy’s…they’re basically the same but both aren’t for everyone.

    It seems you’re implying that Continental is perfect, I’m guessing you weren’t on that jet in Rochester nor the one coming to Houston from Brazil?

  33. Drew says:

    Steve,

    Of course not. Continental has issues like every other airline.

    But I’m really tired of, every time an airline has a problem, people shout: “See, this would NEVER happen if they had flown Southwest.”

    Which is fine, but, again, where do they go?

  34. CF says:

    Drew wrote:

    My point: Cranky, I know you love Southwest, and I love your blog, but let’s be real here. The airline is far from perfect.

    I have no idea where you get the idea that I think Southwest is perfect. I have had plenty of criticism for them over the years, but I certainly do like to fly them. This whole post was simply supposed to be an inside look at how things may be different than they appear. It wasn’t supposed to be an ad for Southwest, yet some people have apparently taken it that way.

    frank wrote:

    @ Jim:
    I agree with JIM. 100 PERCENT. First of all, why are Southwest Flight Attendants throwing off passengers from flights? Isnt that the Captain’s decision?

    Yes, but the flight attendant likely told the captain about her concerns. In that case, a captain is unlikely to overrule her.

  35. How Orwellian this all is. Whether the airline over reacted or the customer did in fact deserve to be removed from the flight to me isn’t the issue.

    The ugly, filthy truth in this incident is what it says about society in general. All anyone has to do is raise a flag to a service provider about someone else in the vicinity and suddenly everything short of criminal charges are pressed without due process.

    That grieving customer did not receive due process in any form from the airline because someone else’s sensibilities were offended.

    Airlines have failed miserably in situations such as this, from race (Arabs after 9/11) to nursing mothers and other instances that once were treated with great delicacy and respect.

    Now I fear for anyone who has to fly following the death of a loved one that some schmuck on the same flight will decide the poor soul is too distraught and emotionally volatile to be on the same plane with them.

    That is a horrible, terrible, disgusting and unforgivable shame.

  36. SAN Greg says:

    Those who know my posts know that I am no fan of SWA, but I have to say that some of the attacks posted are unusually bitter. FA’s are only human and even if they have one tenth of the amount of “bad days” as some, they will still have bad days. Forgive and move on.

  37. @ Drew:
    “For starters, where do they fly? Nowhere. Prague? Honolulu? Athens? Puerta Vallarta? (My trips the last 18 months). They don’t fly anywhere significant”.????

    Isn’t Southwest a Domestic USA Carrier?….Honolulu maybe, but to fly to Greece on a local 737?????, I hope you turn up at the right Teminal Drew (Its the International one by the way)

  38. Pete Mitchell says:

    Southwest does suck! Who is the flight attendant to deny boarding based on his opinion? Thats what you get when you fly the “big trailer park in the sky”.

  39. All I can say is that they need to actually take the time to get the full story. DO NOT give any more power to the FN airlines, they have us by the you know what already. I am sick of people making excuses for the airlines, I really am. If there was an issue with a passenger in the boarding area, then you need to take care of it there and GET THE FULL STORY. Don’t wait until it is time to board and deny a person that right. All that does is make you and him look terrible and causes an even bigger scene like this. Had they done the RIGHT thing and got the story, then this would have never happened, bottom line.

    Here is yet another example of the ignorance….. Southwest really need to learn to take care of those people who are under extenuating circumstances a little more. I mean come on, I have been flying for over 9 years every week of my life, & I can count a number of times that someone passed away, a family event, a life event, something (…in this case a car decided to run over & break my foot in while on a work trip… Now I am laid up in the hotel & really just want to get home to be with my wife. Will they even look to see if they can accommodate me on an earlier flight? Nope, won’t even do standby because I didn’t pay full fair! I never pay full fair on Delta, America, Continental; even before I had status, they would make an exception or two… especially when one walked up in crutches & a cast.

    You claim 2b the peoples airline. Act like it & show some humanity.

    Until then, I will leave the cattle call boarding to the birds

  40. WHY should any of us take poor customer service and condone it. Was on a fliht the other day from Den to vegas, ask the attendaent for a tomoatoe jusice with a slice of lemon, she responded You need to fly United for lemon, not real bright these guys, really makes you wonder about us putting our lives in the hands of these burger flippers

  41. pat says:

    I just got off the phone with Southwest after waiting on hold (for the second time today) in excees of 45 minutes. All I wanted to do was fly home early one my precious rapid rewards free flight. I tried to change the flight early today to go home today and the website kept giving me an “Oops” message saying that the site couldn’t help me currently, please try back. So I called this afternoon. After 40 minutes on hold, my call inexplicably got disconnected (probably a cell phone issue). So I decided to forego the flight today and try to change my late flight tomorrow to and earlier one. From about 7:00 pm until 10:45 I tried to change the flight online, only to get the “Oops” message again. So I called. The automated attendant told me the wait was betwee 17 and 20 minutes. 45 minutes late I got an agent… who told me that my old Rapid Rewards did not entitle me to a seat on any of the earlier flights (although I could have bought tickets for the same price that my flight was displayed as costing). All of this after watching months worth of “Red Tape” advertisements telling me that there were no restrictions to award travel… The agent explained that these ads were only applicable to new award travel… The fact that I was trying to use old awards (sorry for being a long term customer) precluded me from the “Red Tape Free” restrictions…

    I have flown well over a million miles in the lst 15 years (United 1K for 6 years) and I am completely frustrated with the fact that all of the airlines have continued to squeeze their prime customers. I thought from previous experience with Southwest (I live in Boise and always use them to fly to Seattle) that they wer the lst of the good guys (even though I hate the cattle call process)… Bue, alas, the new “No Red Tape” Southwest is just as bad as all of the rest have become… And now it even takes 40 – 60 minutes to have their agents explain that to you…

  42. raju says:

    im no fan of sw, in fact, they upset me by messing up their rewards program, i have one last free flight with them, and im done choosing them…i had a bad experience with usair recently, they left early and without me…but with my bags. in the end, the gate agent didnt have time for me either, so i was getting more upset to the point that she gave me time to find proof that they left way too early. because of this, she bumped somebody else on the next flight (sorry to that person) and gave me a seat to get to phx. i asked for a voucher since they were looking for volunteers, and they involuntarily-volunteered me….she had to clear it with her boss. i left the airport to smoke and she actually came out to find me and give me a max voucher of $450 that they were offering others….gotta love to hate some small airports (SAT)

  43. Pingback: Southwest sucks | Info007cleanin

  44. EARL Wesson says:

    So how long have you worked for Southwest?

  45. Matt says:

    totally unacceptable. not a shred of justification for this flight attendant’s behavior. Southwest does suck, worst airline I’ve ever had the misfortune of flying. Moreover, airlines, airports, their staff and security in general all suck. What a bunch of retards. The jobs pay almost nothing which is why they have no quality candidates applying, it is frustrating to have this collective pack of mutants bossing us around, alternating between treating us like children and terrorists. God I hate flying, wish I never had to. And it would be fine if it weren’t for dealing with all the fuktard people that work in that industry.

  46. OK. Try to explain this. Booked a Vegas vacation for me and my wife for her birthday. Booked with southwest. The offer said “included 2 free tickets to Soul to Soul Show” I upgraded to a Lux Suite at the Venetian. When I arrived they knew nothing about show tickets. Since then I contacted the credit card bank and they contacted SW. I was told that that was an offer and not a contract. So they can offer something but unless you get a contract you have nothing. What a rip off. I still have the offer paper work if anyone would like to see it.

  47. Korey says:

    Ok let me tell you a little story about South West airlines. I got to the Denver airport last night to catch my flight from Denver to my home in WI. The plane was 2 and a half hours late so my friend and I went and eat and had a few beers. Finally we boarded the plane at 10:00 PM 3 hours after my original boarding time. We took off and my friend and I had befriended a new person sitting with us so we began to talk and have fun. I was sitting in the last seats on the plane so we were very close to the stuarts (Dawn). I asked Dawn about 30 minutes into our flight if we could get water and her reply was “are your serious the seatbelt sign is on” rude rude rude. I continued to listen to music and carry on with friends.. We were singing and laughing maybe loud at times but not rude in any way. about a hour into the flight she came to us and asked what we wanted and we told her she took over 25 minutes to get us our drinks and when she did it was with lots of attitude. Considering that the plane was late and it was by then 11:00 at night I have flown enough to know that the reason for the wait for service and the seat belt sign being on was because they were flying a lot faster then normal so the plane would be shaky. But that should not have been our problem right?? I paid last minute over $1,100 for our tickets Really?? so any way we kept listening to music in our ear phones by the way and joking…yes we had drinks yes we may have been loud at times. The plane is landing and we get to the airport and the flight attendant (Dawn) gets on her walkie talky and asks for security to come on the plane. Now before we landed I had asked Dawn for another water and I said” may I have another water” Her reply to me was you need to call me Mam…So that tells you how things were going on with her. So security comes and takes me off the plane down the stairs to the Sheriffs office. They tell me that Dawn said people were afraid of me and began to tell me that I was rude and thats why I was there. I stated that I had not threatened anyone and I never called anyone a name in fact I was threatened and belittled. They told me they were going to take me to Milwaukee jail and kept telling me how rude I was and in considerate for being loud on the plane. Now listen I sat in a freaken airport for four hours after working 12 hour days in the last week. I wanted to get home to my family but I could not because of South West’s crap. Had the plane been there or maybe had they send another plane in those hours of wait this would have never happened. The Sheriffs after being rude and keeping me in the room for over an hour let me go and wrote me a ticket for DC. I never called a name I never hurt anyone and I get a ticket because the flight attendant did not like me. Oh I forgot to say that when she was on the phone with security I asked her if she was talking about me and her reply to me was
    “maybe if you would learn how to shut your f******* mouth I wouldn’t be”

  48. Southwest Airlines = A$$holes

  49. Geary Pellegrini says:

    Sadly, it seems to me that Southwest, once the innovative and fun airlines, is flying in the wake of those big, impersonal, uncaring airlines that we have come to dread.

    There was a time when I would have paid extra to fly Southwest and avoid the others, but now there are no others; Southwest is marching lockstep with the corporate dinosaurs.

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