This Woman Raged at Southwest Airlines on Facebook. What Happened Next Wasn’t What She Expected
Not every passenger complaint on social media finds sympathetic ears.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Airlines can make people angry.
And these days, when you're angry, there's only one socially acceptable way to react.
You go on social media and, well, express yourself.
In the process, you hope to find sympathy and supporters.
The next step, you hope, is that the airline will apologize and perhaps even compensate you.
It doesn't always happened that way.
A week ago, I was directed to a Facebook post in which a Southwest Airlines customer expressed her infinite distress.
She addressed her rather long post to the airline. (I have redacted her name and the names of her family members.)
The Facebook post went like this:
I am so unbearably livid right now I cannot stop shaking. We rushed and ran to get to the airport which, with three little girls is not easy. We were paged and 45 seconds after that we made it to the gate. The people working the #southwest counter could have been helpful. Instead, they decided to be mean, rude and not helpful at all. They refused to open the door or even call the pilot and let him make the decision which is all we asked. John and Melanie laughed at us and told us they were not going to do anything. When I tried to call the pilot they called security to arrest us! Mind you I am holding a baby, [child 1] is screaming and [child 2] is in tears while the police is asking for our IDs. I hear that the 'crew' (John and Melanie) do not want us on 'their' plane.They do not feel safe. Am I going to throw my baby at them? I might go all Tim Horton's on them (with Child 1's [excreta emoji deleted], not mine). We finally decide we are just going to leave and go back home since they refuse to do ANYTHING to help and Child 1 runs off. [Husband's name] takes off after her and the police start yelling at him!! This is the worst experience we have ever had and we can not believe #southwestairlines employs people like these. Customer relations is closed on the weekend but I am dying to place a formal complaint. I acknowledge we were late but the plane, even though the door was 'officially' closed, stayed attached to the gangway for 14 more minutes! To top it off, we can't leave the airport because all our bags, including our car seat, are on their way to Denver. At least they made it on time. Southwest, I am so disappointed in the lack of empathy, professionalism and basic human decency in your staff and your apparent policies.
You might think, then, that she was inundated with sympathetic replies.
You might also think that the perfect complement for vodka is sand.
The responses to her post from Southwest Airlines followers weren't kind.
Instead of sympathy, they offered her bile. Instead of solidarity, they tossed invective, even decrying her children's names.
I'm withholding her name because she took her post down. I tried to contact her to ask why she'd done so and whether she'd had any further interaction with Southwest, but she didn't get back to me.
I also contacted Southwest.
"Once we turn in the weight and balance and close the door, we are unable to reopen the flight for passengers," an airline spokeswoman told me.
I admit I had some sympathy with the passenger.
If it was, indeed, true that she and her family got to the gate within 45 seconds of being paged, it seems odd that the airline would have already closed the doors and then even call the police.
Moreover, I had a very bad experience with Southwest myself not so long ago. The airline kept emailing me to tell me my flight would be delayed for quite some time. The plane took off earlier without me -- and several others. In that case, too, the Southwest staff were entirely unhelpful.
Then again, I worry that those who read this woman's post felt they saw through her anger.
Perhaps they found a contradiction between her insistence that it was only 45 seconds between being paged and arriving at the gate and her admission that they were, in fact, late.
Perhaps, too, Southwest inspires far more loyalty among its customers than do other airlines.
When you take to social media you shouldn't always assume that the reaction will be the one you expect.
People are strange, you know.