These days, it’s no big thing to turn to Twitter when you want to unleash some frustration. The format is so fast moving and so filled with people complaining that most of the time our vented anger gets lost in the shuffle. That wasn’t the case for one Minneapolis man who was ticked off about his mistreatment at the hands of a Southwest airlines gate agent.
On Sunday, Duff Watson was travelling home from Denver with his two daughters, ages six and nine, when he was asked to deboard a plane. The reason for the ejection? Well, let’s back up a bit.
Watson is what Southwest Airlines calls an “A-list” passenger, which means, not only does that make him better than you, but he gets to board the plane before everyone else (further proof of his awesomeness). Unfortunately for Watson, his two daughters are what Southwest calls “part of the herd,” which not only entitles them to no special treatment, apparently it also totally negates an “A-list” passenger’s perks. Watson was told that his daughters would not be able to board early with him, and that he would have to (ugh!) stand in line with all the other non-specials.
Watson told CBS Minneapolis, “In leaving I said, you know, ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list. I’ll be sure to tweet about it.” And tweet he did: “Something to the effect of, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA.” Apparently evil Kimberly S. is one of Watson’s 190 followers, because moments after Watson’s tweet, he and his daughters were asked to get off the plane.
“I was left, you know, very upset, very embarrassed, very humiliated,” Watson said. Watson and his daughters were not allowed to get back onboard the plane until the Tweet had been deleted from Watson’s account. Watson’s daughter, Lucy, who we imagine as a bright-eyed ragamuffin with an adorable little lisp, said the flight attendant threatened to call the cops, “I like thought something bad was going to happen,” the girl told reporters, “like my dad being in jail.”
This is actually a fairly rare stain on Southwest’s otherwise solid reputation (for an airline). To have one viral complaint (most likely caused by one crap employee) amid the kind of traffic the airline does is pretty impressive. For example, in 2013 the airline boarded an average of 11 million people and 16.5 million pounds of cargo every month. And, hey, while I’m licking their boot heels …
Earlier this year, J.D. Power and his fellas voted Southwest one of their 50 Customer Champions. According to the J.D. folks, customer champions, “demonstrate the highest levels of service excellence, not just compared with their direct competitors, but also across all facets of the customer experience.”
Southwest Airlines also ranked second among low cost North American airlines for overall customer satisfaction. Of course that’s like saying, “we’re the second most luxurious forced labor camp in North America,” but it’s better than being the worst forced labor camp in North America (ahem, Frontier). Even further, the airline is so loved (again, for an airline) that it actually has a devoted (and vocal) fanbase who are willing to stick up for the travel giant, a fact writer Bill McGee learned when he dared besmirch Southwest Airline’s reputation in an editorial for USA Today.
Watson explained that Southwest sent he and his family a voucher for $50 each, but that won’t change the fact that he and his family won’t be flying the airlines again.