Thursday, December 12, 2013
Hello Gumptionistas, As I am preparing for holiday travel next weekend to visit my husband's family in Minnesota, it reminded me of the not so fun experience with Southwest Airlines last year. I was re-reading the letter I sent last January and can only hope that a good experience is just around the corner. The results of this letter were that we received a refund for the early boarding and also two $50 vouchers for future travel. It was interesting to refer to my now husband as 'boyfriend' as he wasn't even a fiancé last January! Here's to safe and pleasant travels for everyone! Mr. Gary Kelly, CEO, Southwest Airlines Dear Mr. Kelly: I am a frequent business flyer, and Southwest has always been my preferred airline. I am not sure what has happened to your customer service, but it has recently failed me several times. I am so incredibly disappointed with Southwest that I felt inclined to write to you. As an executive myself, I thinks its very important that I know what is going on in my company, and often my customers are my eyes and ears. This is a rather long story, so I am going to abbreviate as much as possible. On December 30th, my boyfriend and I were flying back to Burbank, CA from Minneapolis, Minnesota. When we arrived at the airport, we were notified that our flight was delayed. An hour later, the gate agent announced if anyone was flying into Burbank to come to the counter. We were told that because of the delays, we would not make our connecting flight in Phoenix. Options presented were stay overnight in Minnesota or stay overnight in Phoenix. We asked if there were available flights into LAX or Orange County and were told “no.” We asked if there was cab fare or rental car vouchers available and were told “no.” We asked if there was a voucher for a future Southwest flight and were told “no.” We asked if there was any compensation for the inconvenience of not only not flying out that day, but being stuck in MN for another night and was told there was not. We took the option of staying in MN since we have family there and therefore, did not cost Southwest anything. The gate agent printed out our boarding passes for MN to Phoenix for the next morning, but said she was unable to print Phoenix to Burbank. When we saw the boarding pass, it said that we were boarding at the end of the B line. We had paid $10 for early boarding, but were told that whatever the computer spits out is what we get. The agents have no control over it. On December 31st, when we tried to do self-check in, it would not allow us to check in our luggage. After 15 minutes, we were finally acknowledged by an agent. She looked at our tickets and said that the agent, who rebooked us the day before, did it incorrectly. She not only booked us going in the wrong direction (BUR to MSP), but also put us on an illegal connection, so our luggage wouldn’t make it. She called a manager over and they apparently “fixed” it, but we were still advised that we would have to go back to the airport in Burbank to get our luggage later in the evening. We asked if she could help us board sooner or in our original boarding group since we paid extra for it, but was told there was nothing she could do. We were very frustrated, and she offered no help. We proceeded to the gate and the woman that rebooked us the day before was there. She said she remembered us and actually printed out our boarding passes for our connection when she came in at 3AM. I told her what had just happened downstairs, and that we were told she had rebooked us incorrectly. She said that the other agent didn’t know what she was talking about, that she booked us correctly, it was a legal connection, and our luggage should make it. She apologized for the mishap. We asked about boarding sooner and she said no problem. She would tell the boarding agent to let us board with preferred seating. She was the most helpful person that day. She also told us that we would be refunded for the $10 early boarding fee. When we arrived in Phoenix for our layover, we asked the agent there if we could board early. We explained the situation and the fact that the MN agent let us board with preferred seating, etc. She told us that she was not authorized to do that. We explained again, very politely, that we just wanted to board early, in our original group, so that we could sit together. She refused. She said, “the only people who can authorize that is the corporate office.” I said, “apparently MN can authorize it too.” Another person unwilling to help. We boarded at the end of the B line and we did not sit together. At the end of the flight, I asked the flight attendant if there was a way to tell if my luggage was there or if I needed to just wait for it. He sarcastically said, “now how would we be able to do that.” I responded, “I am not asking you to do it, I am asking if there is anyone at the Burbank Airport who can tell if my luggage arrived with this flight.” He then apologized, as he knew he was out of line, and said that he didn’t think so. I just want to know what the problem is with your Customer Service. Out of 5 Southwest employees we engaged with, only one was helpful, and she happened to be the one that got thrown under the bus by another agent. When you have a mission statement such as “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit”, you damn well better be able to stand by it. While I’ve always been a big proponent of Southwest’s philosophy, I think you are really failing. I love that Southwest doesn’t nickel and dime their customers, however, I do feel when I am paying for something, I am getting better service. I flew Suncountry Airlines on my way to MN, because Southwest was unavailable at the day/time I needed. I had pulled a muscle in my back two hours before my flight and could barely walk. They went so far out of their way to assist me. I was so impressed with their customer service, their attitude, and their courtesy. We paid about $400 each, one way for our Southwest tickets and were completely inconvenienced with no viable options, the day before New Years Eve. We had to call and have my boyfriend’s 78-year old father drive to the airport in the snow to pick us up when you couldn’t accommodate us, and then turn around in 14 hours and take us back to the airport. While I understand that the holidays are busy and weather conditions are out of your control, good customer service is always within your control and the behavior of your agents and staff was unacceptable. Since we were bumped from our original flights, I would like to be compensated in addition to being refunded for the early boarding costs. I would consider some type of vouchers for a future Southwest flight, for two people, to be acceptable. Your attention to this matter would be appreciated.