I love you. I’ve loved you since I was an undergrad student studying business when I learned about your disruptive business model, unique company culture and commitment to customer service.
Admittedly, I’ve never loved the “open seating” model and feeling like I’m being herded onto the plane (I’m from Kentucky, so I have to use the animal/farm comparison). In recent years, as I learned of your groundbreaking customer of size policy I have committed to flying your airline exclusively in order to both help make my own flying experiences better but also to put my money where my mouth is and support a business who accommodates people like me and makes our lives better/easier.
I love you so much I even wrote a blog post about air travel and touted your airline as a game changer and life saver for plus size travelers.
There have certainly been hiccups and some awkward encounters as I’ve used your customer of size policy but in general I’ve always been treated with respect and kindness.
Today was very different, and given all the praise I’ve shared about Southwest I only think it’s fair that I share this story too.
I flew from CVG to Islip airport on Monday with plans to return home the following Tuesday. After a rather terrible week overall, I was relieved when a change in my schedule allowed my to return home today instead of Tuesday.
I called my company’s travel agency this morning to change my flight. They made the call to Southwest and with me on the line confirmed the change. I received confirmation emails from both the travel agent and the airline of the change.
Upon arriving to the airport, I checked in and was asked if there had been a change to my reservation. I confirmed there had been and was sent on my way with my boarding pass and second seat reservation through security and to my gate.
I pre boarded the flight and upon scanning the ticket there was an issue. I was asked to step aside while the gate agent helped all other pre board passengers. After all other pre board passengers were on the flight I was told to get on the plane and that the gate agent would figure out the issue with the ticket.
After the full flight was boarded I saw a southwest employee point to me and say “she wasn’t counted as two”. A few minutes later the gate agent (an older female) came onto the plane and yelled in front of everyone that I wasn’t supposed to be on the plane and that my flight was Tuesday, not today.
I tried to explain that my flight was changed and that I had a confirmation but she forced me to grab my belongings and get off the plane.
As I exited I saw another passenger getting onto the plane.
I was told to go to customer service where a woman named Lisa proceeded to ignore me and talk on her walkie talkie about putting me on a different flight (although there were no others tonight).
When she finally acknowledged me, she angrily told me I was on the wrong flight and couldn’t travel.
I tried to show her my phone with the email confirmation and she yelled at me not to put my phone in her face (although it was nowhere near her face) because it hurts her eyes when people try to show her things all day. ” She refused to look at my confirmation email but I read her my confirmation number. She proceeded to tell me it’s not an accurate confirmation although I was reading it from a Southwest email.
I was starting to get visibly upset and was shaking and near tears as I was desperate to get home and was frankly shocked by the way I was being spoken to and treated.
A flight attendant was standing next to me and Lisa at the gate rolled her eyes and said to her (not me) that she was going to let me on the plane “as a courtesy”. Last time I checked, when you pay for a flight and pay to change it…. it’s not a courtesy to be let on it. Especially after you’ve been humiliated and berated by two separate employees.
I was shaking and nearly in tears by the time I made it back to the plane to find that my seat was taken by the passenger who was getting on the plane as I was escorted off of it. The flight was full so there were no other seats with an open one next to it although I had reserved two.
I then again was humiliated when I had to stand in the front of the plane full of people who were being delayed because of my incident staring at me while I waited for a flight attendant to help.
Thankfully, she felt sorry for me and asked the person who was given my seat to move and he was gracious enough to do so without complaint.
So, now I sit here on the plane in tears with this being the icing on the cake of one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a long time. I already dread my connecting flight in Baltimore tonight and hope I don’t experience the same issue with my ticket there.
I am beyond grateful for the decision Southwest made to implement this customer of size policy but I am truly devastated by the humiliation I just experienced and the way I was treated, particularly by the customer service representative.
I love to travel… it’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life. I am also required to travel for work. I don’t have the luxury of saying I refuse to fly this airline again. But I am so beyond disappointed right now with the breakdown in systems, communication and customer service I experienced today.
I KNOW you’re better than this, Southwest, and I look forward to hearing from the airline about how you’ll ensure this never happens to another traveler ever again. All ticket agents, gate agents and customer service personnel need consistent training on the customer of size policy and how to tactfully resolve Southwest errors without humiliating passengers.
I look forward to a dialogue & resolution.
Note: I felt obligated to share this honest and emotional open letter to Southwest on the blog because it would be dishonest for me to sing the praises of the airline in one post and fail to share this extremely negative experience that happened so soon after the “praise post”. I will provide updates when Southwest responds. I am hopeful that appropriate action will be taken.
Also, I’m posting this from my phone at the airport as I await my next flight because I plan to share the link with Southwest via Twitter. There are just a few too many characters for me to tweet my thoughts directly. 😉
Please disregard any typos or strange formatting. I’ll revise accordingly when I’m able.