Twitter War: Southwest Boots Passenger After Critical Tweet

Southwest employees are known for playfulness. We’ve seen them turn boring safety demos into comedy routines, play games with passengers, even sing during flights. Its people are a big part of the airline’s popularity. But a Minneapolis man claims at least one of those employees is rude, and tweeting about this got him booted from his flight – temporarily.

Southwest to passenger: Your skirt is too short

What the Tweeter Says

According to news reports, Southwest flyer Duff Watson who has A-List status – which includes early boarding privileges – was allowed to board early on a recent flight from Denver to Minneapolis, but his children (aged 6 and 9) were not. The man said he asked the gate agent if this was a new policy but didn’t get a direct answer. He then asked the gate agent for her full name, saying he was going to tweet about this, which he did after boarding: “Wow, rudest agent in Denver” which included her first name and gate number. Then he was told to get off the plane whereupon the gate agent told him because he was a safety threat (Watson’s words) he would not be allowed back on the plane until he deleted the tweet. He did so.

Southwest to passengers: No kissing

What Southwest Says

FareCompare has asked Southwest to comment and we were referred to the following statement:

“Southwest Airlines appreciates and is active in social media, and it is not our intent to stifle Customer feedback. Social media is a very valuable avenue for engaging with our Customers. On Sunday, July 20, a Southwest Airlines Employee and Customer were having a conversation that escalated about the airline’s family boarding procedures. The Customer was briefly removed from flight #2347 from Denver to Minneapolis/St. Paul to resolve the conversation outside of the aircraft and away from the other Passengers. Our decision was not based solely on a Customer’s tweet. Following a successful resolution, the Customer and his family were able to continue on the flight to Minneapolis. We are thoroughly investigating the situation. We have reached out to the Customer and offered vouchers as a gesture of goodwill.”

Note: The link to family boarding procedures suggests the gate agent may have been in the wrong. It states: “Those holding an ‘A’ boarding pass and traveling with small children should still board with the ‘A’ boarding group.” Maybe it depends on the definition of small children.

What it All Means (Maybe)

So, was this a case of a Southwest employee having a bad day (as we all have from time to time) or was the “escalated” conversation that bad? We don’t know. What we do know is this is just one more demonstration of the power of social media.

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Published: July 24, 2014