So Southwest Airlines has found itself in another social media pickle. While not the whole KevinSmith situation, this time the airline has reportedly removed a passenger for tweet. According to NewsMax.com, a Minnesota man was removed from a flight after he posted a message about a rude gate agent that included her first name and last initial. The story has a happy ending though, because eventually the man and his two daughters were allowed back onto the aircraft to fly home.
So why the fuss? According to USA Today, the man in question is an A-List elite member of Southwest’s frequent traveler program, which entitles him to priority boarding on a flight. The issue arose when the gate agent refused to let his young daughters, ages 6 & 9, board the flight early with him. After stating that his daughters had been permitted to board other flights, the gate agent stood her ground.
According to the policy posted on Southwest.com, the gate agent is technically correct after reviewing the policy about A-List priority boarding not being offered to family traveling on the same reservation without the achieved status. From a technical point of view, if the traveler in question wanted priority boarding for his daughters he should have purchased the $12.50 Early Bird Check-In option or made other arrangements with Southwest.
All the “Technical” stuff aside, a father is not going to board a plane and leave his 6 & 9 year-old daughters behind at the gate and wait for them. That’s a touch unreasonable IMHO. Should the situation have been handled differently, I would say yes.
I’m not going to gush on the whole: it’s obvious the guy flew with Southwest a lot to achieve that status and loyal customers should be rewarded thing. There is another side to that coin about frequent flyers believing they are above the rules because they use the airline all the time. Hey, most of us spend a lot of money at Wal-Mart and we don’t get treated any different than anyone else.
The situation here is murky because Southwest offers family boarding after the “A” group has boarded the flight; however, the situation of the tweet complicates things entirely. Should an airline have the ability to kick someone off the plane for simply publicizing what they perceived as lousy customer service? Um, no.
Since Southwest offered $50 vouchers and an apology to the passenger here, it seems pretty clear that the airline thinks the situation could have been handled differently. It’s ugly all the way around, and if you were an airline making a mark as a “family-friendly” one, you would probably want to treat a loyal customer a little better. Would any of the passengers have an issue with two children boarding with their father? I’m going to guess no.