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Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet 928

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-some-good-costumer-service-work-there-lou dept.
CanHasDIY writes The old saying goes, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." A man learned the consequences Sunday, after Tweeting about his experience with a rude Southwest gate attendant: "A Minnesota man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent. Duff Watson said he was flying from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday and tried to board in a spot for frequent flyer privileges he held and take his sons, ages 6 and 9, with him, even though they had a later spot to board the plane. The agent told him that he would have to wait if he wanted to board with his children. Watson replied that he had boarded early with them before and then sent out a tweet that read 'RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA.' Watson told TV broadcaster KARE in Minneapolis on Wednesday that after he boarded, an announcement came over the plane asking his family to exit the aircraft. Once at the gate, the agent said that unless the tweet was deleted, police would be called and the family would not be allowed back onboard." He gave into the threat, deleted the Tweet, and was allowed to board a later flight. Southwest, as one could have predicted, offered a boilerplate "apology" and vouchers.
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Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:34PM (#47527099)

    Kimberly sure sounds like a cunt.

  • What?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:37PM (#47527127)
    So any online criticism of any company has to be a "happy" criticism? The "truth" is no longer welcome? What a screwed up world.
    • Re:What?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:22PM (#47527911)
      "Truth" You've obviously never seen the UK series Airline. Agents gladly *cause* people to miss flights. Never piss an agent off. They didn't criticize the company, but the company's agent. She got them back. oops, missed your flight.
    • Re:What?!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by felixrising (1135205) on Friday July 25, 2014 @12:56AM (#47528679)
      This is not new.... you can get yourself sued for writing a (honest but) negative review.... http://www.forbes.com/sites/in... [forbes.com]
  • Customer service? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Calibax (151875) * on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:38PM (#47527133)

    Pulling a family off a flight and threatening to summon the police seems pretty intense. They must have done something very bad. What? One of them tweeted about poor customer service before entering the aircraft? That's it?

    Did the SWA agent seriously think that threatening the family with not being able to fly and reporting the man to the police (for what?) unless he deleted the tweet would be the end of it? Did the agent think the whole thing would be erased from everyone's memory and it would be as if nobody complained? That's not the way it works. Now everyone in her management chain knows who she is, and not in a good way. Creating a PR incident like this will not go without notice. It's a variant of the Streisand effect.

    It's not important to the story, but at least one airline I've flown has figured out that it's good customer service to allow people who spend a lot of money travelling on their airline have their children treated to the same boarding privilege - especially as it costs the airline nothing to do so.

    • by ruir (2709173) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:42PM (#47527165)
      I would fire the agent for starters, and whoever was involved.
      • Re:Customer service? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aralin (107264) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:23PM (#47527453)

        More, she needs to be charged with extortion.

      • by fluffy99 (870997) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @11:25PM (#47528289)

        I would fire the agent for starters, and whoever was involved.

        The gate agent was correct in telling him he could move back in the line to join his kids, but they couldn't cut in line and move up to join him. That's the policy and they tell you this when asking you to line up. The guy was in the wrong and then whined on twitter about how they didn't bend over to kiss his ass. His tweet naming the person could be construed as harassment or slander.

        Pulling him off the plane was a poor reaction, even if the intent was just to just to ask him to delete the tweet or at least revise it to delete the persons name. I suspect the agent threatened to call security and have him removed because he continued to be an ass, but that would be a one-sided opinion just like the guy claiming they were rude and threatened him.

        • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday July 25, 2014 @01:12AM (#47528725)

          "that's the policy."

          yeah, we're robots with no brains. we follow orders. don't question stupid rules and never use human judgement. we are humans, but we should be thought of as cattle.

          yup, I fully agree.

          we should do what we are told and stop thinking. yup, I fully agree. that's pure wisdom. we need more people like you and me. world would be a lot better if we all just shut up and do as we're told.

          USA USA USA!

    • Re:Customer service? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:44PM (#47527179)

      Actually outside of the US it seems to be common practice to ask people with young families to board first anyway. It would be for two reasons, the first one is it looks good to look after the children. Second and perhaps the biggest is families take longer to get settled in, young kids need a lot of assistance and you generally have to carry an inordinate amount of crap. If you are blocking the aisle while you buckle seat belts and the like you are slowing the whole boarding process. So it makes sense - send them in with first and business class.

      • by msauve (701917) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:50PM (#47527233)
        That's all good reason for boarding them last - so they don't slow down those who can board quickly.
        • by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromoNO@SPAMmac.com> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:05PM (#47527357) Homepage Journal

          That's all good reason for boarding them last - so they don't slow down those who can board quickly.

          I promise the plane won't take off without you. What, are you in a hurry to cram yourself into an airline seat instead of enjoying the comfort of the airport lounge for another 10 minutes or so? Entitled much?

          Yaz

        • Re:Customer service? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:20PM (#47527435)

          That's all good reason for boarding them last - so they don't slow down those who can board quickly.

          Huh? How does that produce greater efficiency? Let's see, we could:

          (1) Let families board with the first half-dozen groups of random people with various privileges ("Now let's have our first class..." [2 people board, a minute later] "Now let's have business class..." [5 people board, two minutes later] "Now let's have our elite Silver whoop-di-do members..." [no one boards, three minutes later] "Now let's have our Bronze not-so-much-whoop members" [2 guys from the back take 30 seconds to realize they were called and slowly make their way up, chatting on their phones the whole way]... etc., etc.).

          In that case, the families could get settled with almost no one else on the plane, and almost no one else in economy trying to find their seats.

          OR...

          (2) We wait until last, and the families join the end of the long line stopped almost at the gate itself of people waiting to get on. The families with more bags per person and more people to strap in and get settled in their seats per person then spend 10 minutes wandering up and down the aisles trying to find places for their bags and get their kids settled... while the attendants get increasingly testy as they have to go up and down reopening luggage bins and find a pillow for Jr. since he's asleep on Dad's shoulder and no one on the plane wants him to wake up when he's strapped in the seat. And the plane is now going to take off late because we needed 15 minutes to board 10 whoop-di-do members who didn't have to do anything, but now it's crunch-time for the parents who could have already been settled in.

          I completely understand why airlines do NOT let families on early, because they now charge people extra for those privileges. But if they were trying to maximize efficiency instead of profits, it would definitely make sense to move the families on when fewer people are obstacles on the plane.

        • Re:Customer service? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@[ ]mythe.com ['jws' in gap]> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @11:57PM (#47528433) Homepage Journal

          No, you really want them to board first.

          For the last year, up until last month, I was barely able to walk. I still had to fly for work. I boarded flights with the kids and anyone else that needed help.

          The parent doesn't just stow their stuff and sit down. They stow the kids bags, get the kids to sit down, shut up, buckles on, no you can't go to the bathroom, blah, blah, blah.

          For me, it took me about 4x as long just to get down the airway. A guy barely walking down the ramp with passengers walking normal speed definitely held up the flow, no matter how much room I tried to leave. I still got held up by the parents with kids, and I didn't care. I'd just sit on the nearest armrest until they were done.

          You don't want me, or the parents with kids slowing you down. People are assholes enough boarding planes.

          If you wait for them to board last, now you'll have parents trying to stow bags in the last few spots (if there are any), trying to get the kids in their seats at the same time, and having the kid(s) climbing over other passengers.

          For me, barely able to walk, if I had to take the window seat, that would mean everyone in the other seat(s) would have to move. Walking on a cane, I wasn't able to just squeeze by anyone, especially if there were no good seats available. It was still hard just to get *to* the window seat.

          And before any of you complain, since surgery I can walk fine. The cane is retired at least for another 30 years.

        • by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Friday July 25, 2014 @02:27AM (#47529015)

          Actually not really. Imaging you are a family of 4. Mum is leading the two kids and dad is carrying all the bags looking a bit like a stressed donkey. Try as dad might I can guarantee you that some of the seats are going to get whacked by those bags as you go down those incredibly narrow aisles. Now your choice. Would you rather the chair get hit with the bag or your face get hit by the bag. It's not on purpose and god knows parents will do everything (including drugging their kids) to not have them impact others but sometimes it will impact other people. You will only understand this when you have kids yourself.

      • Re:Customer service? (Score:5, Informative)

        by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:04PM (#47527347)

        Actually outside of the US it seems to be common practice to ask people with young families to board first anyway.

        Yeah, it often is within the U.S. too, particularly for infants and very young children. But I mostly see it used for parents with kids in strollers or whatever, not for older kids or even relatively small kids.

        If you are blocking the aisle while you buckle seat belts and the like you are slowing the whole boarding process. So it makes sense - send them in with first and business class.

        Yeah, the problem is the escalation of fee structures in recent years. 15 years ago your policy made perfect sense. But now most airlines charge for any checked baggage, which means more people stuff everything into larger carry-ons, and many planes don't have enough room to stuff everyone's bag in.

        So, everyone's worried about boarding early enough so that they don't have to have their bag stuffed 10 seats behind them, which will make them the last off the plane.

        But, of course, it isn't enough for airlines to charge fees for checked bags -- now they figured out that people don't want to worry about the hassle of finding space for their carry-on, so now for an extra fee many airlines will let you board early (with business class or whatever).

        So, it makes it really hard for the airlines to "give away" that option to families to board earlier, when somebody else in coach paid $35 or whatever that day for that privilege. In addition, there seem to be a lot of folks out there who assume that anyone travelling with a small child on a plane must be an evil person wanting to annoy other travelers deliberately by bringing a kid on board (when the reality is that most parents know they usually only travel with small kids on planes when there is no other reasonable choice). So, it will just lead to even more (unjustified?) feelings of unfairness if these parents are given seemingly special privileges.

        It's the same crap that causes people to cut people off or not let people merge in traffic. Sometimes it's worth a really insignificant sacrifice to let everything flow better, and letting the kids on early would probably make the entire boarding process faster and smoother. But most people would probably just resent it... and so airlines don't do it anymore.

        • Re:Customer service? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by msauve (701917) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:08PM (#47527369)
          " everyone's worried about boarding early enough so that they don't have to have their bag stuffed 10 seats behind them"

          I blame the assholes who have seats in the rear, but stuff their carryons in the front because they're too lazy to carry them up and down the aisle.
          • by Cryacin (657549) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:35PM (#47527583)
            I have a great solution for this. Everytime I see this happening, I take the bag down and pop it on the floor on a vacant seat. Eventually the bag makes it into the overhead lockers... somewhere.

            Enjoy your flight Mr. Type - A person, and then enjoy finding your damn bag because you left it out of your sight.
            • by jittles (1613415) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:36AM (#47530083)

              I have a great solution for this. Everytime I see this happening, I take the bag down and pop it on the floor on a vacant seat. Eventually the bag makes it into the overhead lockers... somewhere. Enjoy your flight Mr. Type - A person, and then enjoy finding your damn bag because you left it out of your sight.

              I think I've been on a plane with you sir, and I salute you wholeheartedly. One time a guy game from the back of the plane mid-flight (fasten seat belt light is on due to turbulence mind you), walks to the front row and starts looking for his bag. He can't find it and starts going through the overhead bins. He gets halfway through the plane on one side before a flight attendant came up and asked him what he was doing. He said someone stole his bag off the plane and went crazy. Flight attendant finally told him to sit down and to not look for his bag again or they would land the plane and the local police would help him find his bag when they hauled him off (this due to his belligerence). It all makes sense now!

      • Re:Customer service? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Friday July 25, 2014 @02:44AM (#47529083)

        Also I would add. I have done a large number of long haul flights with my two girls and I learnt something from a pilot I met once. His advice was carry the kids car seat and put them in that. So now you will see me wheeling a compact fold up pram with two car seats precariously balanced on top of them as I make my way through the airport. When I get on the plane the car seat gets strapped into the chair and the kid into the car seat.

        Two big reasons - 1 the can't get out of those. 5 point harness and a kid proof clip. 2 the first time my eldest had a seat of her own was the worst flight of my life. She would fall asleep in her chair and slump against the airplane seat belt. It would slowly loosen off till she fell out of the seat. Can you imaging the horror of a 2 year old who keeps being woken up every 15 minutes on a 24 hour flight... Oh dear god.... I spent 5 hours on the last leg walking back and forth in the crew area carrying her as it was the only way to stop the screaming.......

    • Re:Customer service? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DaHat (247651) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:46PM (#47527189) Homepage

      Did the agent think the whole thing would be erased from everyone's memory and it would be as if nobody complained?

      To play devils advocate... maybe.

      While from time to time we hear stories like this of some employee who acts in a rather bad way PR wise... how often do you think similar events happen and that we never hear about them? Probably a lot more.

      The morning after a canceled connection flight I had a gate agent threaten to call security on me for using the word 'safety' with regards to my knees being impacted against the seat in front of me on the upcoming flight.

      Granted... it was an excuse for her as she didn't like my attitude (I didn't like having to employ it), I didn't call the media or tweet about the incident, I just pledged to avoid that airline in future... and later upgraded it to a blanket ban after the next time I used the airline (4 years later) a similar event happened where my connecting flight was cancelled and trapping me in the same airport.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Creating a PR incident like this will not go without notice.

      Yes... but what will the effect be? Will people avoid Southwest Airlines? Can they (afford to) avoid them? Or do they simply avoid any criticism since they know that will invite retaliation?

      I think the US is already past the tipping point, where stories like this won't cause a backlash so much as accomodation. People can only be treated as helpless subjects of the powers that be for so long before they internalize the attitude, after all.

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:40PM (#47527155) Homepage

    How did Southwest find out about this tweet?

    Do they have a team of people sitting around watching a Twitter feed, so that if anyone mentions Southwest they can pounce?

    If so, good job guys! You really saved the day here. SWA stock is going to go up tomorrow for sure! :^)

    • by hduff (570443) <hoytduff.gmail@com> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:45PM (#47527181) Homepage Journal

      AFAIK, he told the agent he made the tweet, so his "I'll show you" attitude figured into the equation. The agents' "You're not the boss of me" attitude was also a part. Result: Two asshats vie for the title of "Biggest Dick". And they both won.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Well, I can definitely say that the person who threatens to bring guns into it is the bigger dick.
  • by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:52PM (#47527245)
    Asking customers or others to leave a business has put way too much power in the hands of people unable to handle it. Situations like this deserve a court hearing. At times it may even be in opposition to the Americans With Disabilities Act. For example a stroke victim or a person suffering a mental condition may exhibit unpopular behaviors as a direct consequence of their condition just a Turret's syndrome might cause cursing or obscene utterances. Businesses as well as individuals have to suffer the effects just as the person who bears the illness suffers the effects. Depending upon who is doing the looking even drunken or drug induced behaviors may be a disability. We can not have a pretense that the behavior of an ill person is somehow not part of that person as control is often beyond any abilities that they may have to resist the behaviors. As long as they are non violent I can't see any business denying them access.
  • by Enry (630) <enry.wayga@net> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:52PM (#47527247) Journal

    Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. But this immediate rush to blame/defend lets rumors fly around while the truth takes its time.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:00PM (#47527313)

    After all, he committed several unforgivable sins in a police state:
    1. Being critical of authority
    2. Having an opinion about authority, instead of accepting it as god-like
    3. Communicating said opinion

    I see sedition, inciting violence and refusing to let proper authority mishandle him. Of course, if he let them call the police, he would probably have been shot.

  • by MorePower (581188) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:01PM (#47527323)
    For those who don't know, boarding order is critical on Southwest. You don't get a seat assignment, its first-come-first-serve, like riding a bus, once you get on the plane.

    You get a boarding pass with A 1 thru 60, B 1 thru 60, or C 1 thru 60 and everyone boards in that order. The A people get great seats and C people get crap (center seats, back of the plane, no seats together for people traveling together, etc).

    Frequent fliers get to skip ahead board between A and B groups (assuming they didn't have and A anyway) which still has lots of good seats free. Families traveling with children 4 or under also get to board before the B group (so they can get seats together).

    This guy probably had high number B or C tickets and wanted to use his "A-list" frequent flier status to board early and get 3 seats together with his kids. But his kids didn't have "A-list" status and where too old to qualify for family boarding so they would have wait for their high boarding number to get on the plane.
    • by phizi0n (1237812)

      ie. their boarding system is utter shit to begin with.

      • Works Fine For Me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:30PM (#47527535)

        ie. their boarding system is utter shit to begin with.

        A matter of opinion. It works very well if you pre-print your boarding passes 24 hours before departure time. I have *NEVER* had anything but A or B.

        Southwest (who still does not charge for 2 checked bags) has always treated my wife and I well. We have traveled with our grand children many times.

        If you know and follow the well established and well know rules for obtaining your boarding pass and boarding the jet, it's a very smooth process.

        But on the other hand, if you're an "entitled power flyer", your asshole attitude will get you nowhere.

    • by trout007 (975317) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:31PM (#47527543)

      Don't forget that you can upgrade to A-List for $12.50 a ticket. If it's that important to board with your family pay for the upgrade.

  • 2nd tweet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ogive17 (691899) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:06PM (#47527361)
    I would have made a 2nd tweet that Southwest threatened police intervention due to the 1st tweet then asked for the city police (not the airport police)
  • by fightinfilipino (1449273) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:16PM (#47527413) Homepage

    my guess is that things were not as one sided as this story leads to believe.

    just because a passenger is a customer that should be treated with respect does NOT mean that the passenger doesn't have to follow crewmember instructions. if the passenger was being particularly difficult because he had his two snowflakes in tow and did not want to abide by Southwest's procedures, he should not be allowed on the plane.

    given what's happened recently in aviation, one would think safety is important. safety shouldn't be shrugged off merely because a passenger whines when he doesn't get out of the ordinary preferential treatment.

    • How does making the passenger delete a tweet improve safety?

  • by Nutria (679911) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:29PM (#47527517)

    to tweet her rudeness after you land.

  • *Ding* (Score:4, Funny)

    by Snufu (1049644) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:17PM (#47527879)

    Intercom: "You are now free to get the fuck off mah plane."

    We also would have accepted:

    Intercom: "You are not free to tweet about our customer service."

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:26PM (#47527939)

    If there was any good chance of a reasoning being on the other end of her call to the police, it would have been worth it to let her call and then have the LEO "explain" to her the (unfortunately rare) consequences of filing a false complaint, then watching HER be arrested for disrupting the flight. As it is, of course, ...

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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