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

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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  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:51PM (#47527237)

    Southwest has gone downhill fast in recent years. I guess their popularity went to their heads. I've been a fan of Delta recently.

  • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> 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 caladine ( 1290184 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:58PM (#47527297)
    For those not familiar with southwest: There is no assigned seating. People board in three groups, A (frequent flyers, people paying extra for early boarding), B and C (everyone else, numbered by check in order). Long story short, he bought the cheap tickets for his kids and wanted a free upgrade. He then threw a fit when he didn't get his way.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:21PM (#47527443)

    airports are reduced rights zones after 9/11

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

    by DexterIsADog ( 2954149 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:26PM (#47527487)

    Spoken like someone who doesn't have kids. He wasn't line cutting - he just wanted his kids with him so they could sit together.

    Yes, he "just wanted his kids with him", so he CUT THE LINE. Hey guess what OTHER way he could have had his kids with him? By getting on board with them in their assigned boarding spot!

  • 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.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:39PM (#47527619)

    How common is ad-hoc seating? Surely in most cases, seats are allocated at check-in.

    This story is about Southwest Airlines, and ad-hoc seating is all they do. I feel sorry for the unlucky bastard who gets on last and sits in the pilot seat. They really pack them to the brim now, and phone in the flying and beverage services.

  • by FSWKU ( 551325 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:43PM (#47527663)

    The way I read it, he had a 1st class ticket, but his kids were traveling economy. So he was trying to board them at the same time as first class, even though they were not.

    There is only one class on Southwest: Cattle Class. When you check in prior to your flight, you are assigned a boarding group and number. Groups are A, B, and C from 1 through 60. A1 through A15 are reserved for Business Select and other special privileges (including frequent flier miles). Other than getting to board earlier and have a wider selection of seats, they are all the same.

    According to Southwest's policy, people travelling together but with different boarding positions have the option to board together, provided the person higher up in line waits with the people further back. How this applies to families, I'm fuzzy on, but I would assume if you have a business select or other pass that allows boarding in the A1 through A15 group, it would make sense to have young children (say, under 10 years old) board with you. It seems like this is what the guy had done on several flights previously.

    What the gate agent did was apply the boarding policy in the strictest possible terms, which IMO was an asshole move. But it was still technically according to policy. Did he get lucky, or was this particular agent just being overly strict? Could be either or. Pulling them off the flight for a tweet, however, was completely uncalled for. Threatening to call the police unless he deleted said tweet was harassment, plain and simple. Plus, how in the hell did she figure out who it was so quickly? Was she on twitter while she was supposed to be working, or did some corporate wonk call the gate?

    I've been a customer of Southwest for a while, but how they handle this in the long run will determine wether or not I continue to be.

  • Re:Customer service? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:48PM (#47527693)

    SWA, the airline in this story doesn't do assigned seats - first come gets the best seats. That's why boarding order is important on this airline.

  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:49PM (#47527701) Journal []

    "A public place is generally an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which the public have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, whether by payment of money or not, but not a place when used exclusively by one or more individuals for a private gathering or other personal purpose."

    US airports are public places. Just because it is private property doesn't automatically mean it's not a public space. If you turn your home into a B&B, it becomes a public space, even though it is your private property. You can have private clubhouses and private airports but the moment you leave the door unlocked and put up a sign that you're open to the public, the presumption of privacy is gone.

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

    by grahamsz ( 150076 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:29PM (#47527953) Homepage Journal

    That annoys me too. I usually pay to check my bag specifically so I can feel entitled putting my camera/laptop bag in the overhead bin and getting a little more legroom for myself. Having to cram stuff at my feet because others are too cheap to check cases (or even gate check them when it's free) is frustrating.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:30PM (#47527967)

    Airports are NOT public places, particularly the Gates at airports.

    They are called places of public accommodation just like restaurants. There is zero expectation of privacy for the employees in areas where there is customer access. Members of the public have access to them. Specifically... any members of the public who have paid a fee and obtained a ticket.

  • by AcidPenguin9873 ( 911493 ) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @11:19PM (#47528249)

    Also, what type of asshole employee would separate a man from his two young children?

    The employee suggested no such thing. She said that the man would have to wait until his children were able to board, and then they could board together.

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

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @11:29PM (#47528309)

    I fly a lot, and pretty sure he was in the right. The version of the story I read was that he was a Southwest A+ member, which is their (crappy) version of a frequent flyer. You get free pre-boarding priority with that status. It is customary for it to extend to any minors traveling with you on the same itinerary.

  • 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.... []
  • What first amendment rights were violated? I'm absolutely serious about this; please point to any violation of first amendment rights anywhere in here.

    While you do so, remember that the first amendment restricts the actions of the *government* - that is, it prohibits the making of laws that do certain things - and has absolutely nothing to do with the private sector. Here, let me quote it for you (emphasis mine):

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    So, which law did SWAirlines cause Congress to pass that violated these people's first amendment rights? Go on, point it out please.

    Or were you just mouthing off about stuff you don't understand, trying to get people riled up about an issue that doesn't even exist? Because that... well, let's just say it speaks volumes about your intelligence (and that of the person who modded you up). Volumes that I doubt you would ever read, since apparently you can't be bothered to read (or at least, understand) one of the most important *sentences* ever committed to text in the history of this nation...

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @08:44AM (#47530133) Journal
    Also, what type of asshole employee would separate a man from his two young children?

    Here's the part most stories won't include about this incident. The father was an A passenger meaning he gets to board first. Southwest also has B and C classifications.

    Someone called in to the talk show I was listening who was also an A passenger and explained the complete process. A passengers board first, then B and C. However, since the person had children, despite his A status, he would have boarded between the A and B groups. That is Southwest policy and has been since whenever.

    This person attempted to circumvent the established policy by trying to pull a "Do you know who I am?" deal. All he had to do was wait for the A group to board then he could have boarded with his children.

    Instead, he was an ass and publicly gave the name of a worker who was doing what company policy was, though she probably should have explained the policy since obviously this guy didn't know, or didn't care, what it was.

    So there you have it. Asshole thinks they're someone important and tries to jump the line ends up being shown the door for his stupidity and whininess.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.