The incident reportedly happened in Dallas when a passenger attempted to board his flight early (as was his privilege as an A-List Southwest flyer), only with his two young children in tow. The gate agent wouldn’t allow the children to board with him, saying they’d have to wait and board later.
Step 1: The gate agent could have instantly created a happy customer by allowing the trio to board early, thus upholding Southwest Airlines’ reputation for first class customer service. I can’t imagine Southwest people being that rule bound.
Step 2: The passenger threatened to Tweet about the “rude” agent, which he did after eventually boarding the plane with his two kids.
Step 3: The situation then went from bad to worse after the agent saw the Tweet: the Airline then threatened to remove the family from the plane.
Step 4: The person who asked them to get off the plane (presumably the gate agent) threatened to call the cops.
Step 5: The children began crying, and the family left the plane.
Step 6: The Airline said they could get back on the plane if the passenger deleted his Tweet.
Step 7: He did. And they flew on to Minneapolis along with the other passengers, who must have wondered what bad stuff had come down around a dad and his two kids.
Step 8: Back home, the passenger contacted WCCO, where an Emmy-winning reporter knew a good story when she heard one and ran with it.
Step 9: Southwest apologized to the passenger via email and gave him three $50 vouchers for future flights, which likely never will be redeemed because he says he won’t fly Southwest again.
Step 10: Some number of other would-be passengers also will decide not to fly Southwest because bad news always travels faster and farther than good news.
It may be that the gate agent was tired and hassled at the moment she made her choice to bar the children from boarding early. But then she compounded her poor decision by making further unwise demands of the A-List passenger and his children. So be it. But, as those of us who fly with any regularity know, the moment airlines should be prepared to shine most is when the going gets tough.
Because anybody can come up a smile on a blue-sky day.
TakeAway: No matter how diligently a business works to create (and communicate) competitive advantage based on superior service, it all can come crashing down in a moment if your people don’t live that truth every day.
Tags: Southwest Airlines, customer service, WCCO
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner
About Brian Faulkner:
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Brian also is a three-time Emmy award-winning Public Television writer / narrator and is principal writer and narrator of UNC-TV’s popular "Our State" magazine series, on the air since 2003. His distinctive sound has been heard on many hundreds of radio spots and client videos since the 1970s. People say he has a “Mercedes voice” and sounds a bit like Charles Kuralt, which Brian considers a welcome ... but happy ... illusion.