BUT . . . I’m going to do it because they’ve failed to do the thing that has made me a raving fan of theirs.
Southwest Air has ALWAYS been (in my mind) a superb company with fair fares, great customer service, on-timeliness, and doing the right things when go wrong.
They failed on all accounts this week when I accompanied my daughter along with her service dog (Golden Doodle) to the ticket counter. My daughter has flown with this service dog other times with no issues, but THIS time, the Ticket agent stalled . . . She told us that because the flight was “full” the service animal could not fly unless we were to buy a 2nd seat.
I asked: “If the flight is full, how can you sell a 2nd seat?”
She responded that on all “full” flights, they always have 2 extra seats . . . and those extra seats go to Stand-by passengers if not otherwise taken.
She then went to the back and returned with her “Supervisor” who was all about proving that they were right and we were wrong . . . That this large dog could not fly without purchasing the 2nd seat – even to the extent of looking up the regulation (which changed in September 2018).
We made this reservation over a month ago and daughter called them and gave them all of the information about the dog . . . So . . . They knew that the dog was coming AND what Kind of (and size) dog he is.
During this whole scenario, my daughter was getting more and more agitated – shaking – scared . . . After all, her NEED is to have this dog with her as prescribed by a Doctor.
Not only did Southwest Air employees at the Ticket counter grossly mishandle this scenario, but then proceeded to sweep the whole thing under the rug expecting it to go away. This scenario was unconscionable . . . These ladies behind the ticket counter didn’t care . . . no empathy or compassion . . . stone cold . . . and they demonstrated this by dragging things out – 15 minutes of playing around with the computer (Couldn’t figure out how charge for the 2nd seat) . . . and the boarding time was getting close – 15 minutes to get through security and to the gait.
As of the writing of this post, I have discovered that Facebook has deleted my initial post to Southwest Air which tells me that Southwest Air flagged it and had it taken down . . . which further irritates me.
Why would they not address the issue head on with me?
Instead, they choose to engage with me and send me the voluminous “placation” Direct message with no further follow-up. Below is my exchange with “Grayson” on Direct Messenger.
Wednesday 1/2/2019 6:18 PM
I originally posted this story on my personal Facebook feed and tagged Southwest Airlines . . . Within minutes, I received a comment from Southwest Airlines asking me to send the details of the flight to them via Direct Messenger.
Below is the exchange that ensued:
“Thanks for following up, Barry. I’m truly sorry for the frustration and stress that was caused today. Would you mind explaining a little bit more about what happened? Is Curley a large Service Animal? -Grayson”
Me: “This is reference the facebook post I sent regarding my Daughter’s flight to college. She has high anxiety and is in the care of a Doctor who prescribed a Service Dog for “Compression Therapy” in the event she has an issue. We did all the things we’ve done in the past – Notified SWA that she would have a large Golden Doodle with her. Thank God I walked in with her to check baggage – the 2 ladies behind the desk said that there is a new ADA reg that applies, and that she could only have the dog on the flight if we pay for an additional seat “because the flight was full” – They were so busy looking up the “Proof” of the law change, they had no compassion whatsoever. If I had not been there, she would have had a meltdown because they were requiring buying another seat, and SHE did not have the money to buy another seat . . . I paid for an additional seat, and then they took another 10+ minutes trying to figure out how to do this in the computer system. Finally, one of the ladies said she would print the boarding passes and hopefully get it right by the time she got to the gate. I know she got on the plane, but it left the gate an hour late and is not landed yet, so I don’t know anything else. I felt “bait and switch” She has flown without issues with this dog. I’m a business owner, and I know that policies change, but you cannot penalize retroactively on folks who bought tickets before the policy took affect. The worst part of the whole thing for me is this is the first time I’ve flown SouthWest and felt the employees didn’t care. No one likes surprises when travelling, and this was a BIG surprise.”
Grayson: “I appreciate those details, Barry. There was a change to our policy in September 2018 which was communicated on http://Southwest.com. As it pertains to (This) situation if our Agents feel that a Service Animal is unable to be accommodated in the space of a single seat the Passenger may be required to purchase an additional ticket. Although Flight #()_ was nearly booked to capacity not only ensures that Curley would have enough room, but allows us to adequately plan for the number of seats that will be occupied on the aircraft.
Nevertheless, I recognize that the handling of the situation as a whole left much to be desired. Customer perception is very important to Southwest, and we expect our Employees to deliver topnotch Customer Service at all times. We hire folks who exhibit Servant’s Hearts, Warrior Spirits, and Fun-LUVing Attitudes—people who we trust to make a great impression on our Customers. We believe our Employees play an integral role in our Company’s success, and it is up to them to set our airline apart from the competition. I apologize that we left you with less than stellar memories on this occasion. Please know that I have relayed the details of (your) experience to our Senior Leaders for internal review.
We try our best to always provide pleasant travel experiences, and we are sorry that this last trip was anything but that. We would certainly enjoy another opportunity to serve (her) and Curley under far more favorable circumstances. -Grayson
My response: “Thank you! Perhaps a tweak in protocol when there are service animals registered and the occupancy hits 85% a message goes to those people as a warning. At least it wouldn’t hit them at the ticket counter. The current system seems to set everyone up for failure.”
Grayson: “That’s a great suggestion, Barry! I’ll be sure to pass that on as well. We want our Customers to be prepared and informed when they travel with us, and I appreciate your feedback, so we can improve in that manner. -Grayson”
That conversation was Wednesday Jan 2, 2019 . . . as of this writing, I’ve had no other communications from Southwest Airlines.
I can tolerate a certain level of being under-served because it’s all too common, but adding indifference to it is infuriating.
After all . . . There must be other airlines who care and fly where I want to fly.