Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Maybe it's all in the attitude?

Not applicable
Written by Southwest Customer Kim Seale   Two recent newspaper articles, combined with Southwest's newest ad campaign (to view "Coins" commercial, click here and open first ad), have caused me to reflect on the changing environment of air travel.  It seems to me that "the Southwest effect" is much more than just the downward influence on airfares when SWA begins service to a new city.  That is because I believe that Southwest Airlines, as a company, is about more than just low fares.  Sure, that is a big and very obvious part of what they bring to the market, but I see a larger, but slightly less visible aspect of what SWA has meant to the airline industry.  In my opinion, just maybe Customer Satisfaction is the true "Southwest Effect." The first article that caught my eye was one that was titled 'Fliers' gripes soar', and it talked about the increasing number of complaints being lodged against air carriers.  The author references "record-high airline traffic" (load factors) and its pressure on "flight delays, cancellations, rude airline employees, overheated airplane cabins, lost baggage and hours of frustration at the airport," which is more than just a mouthful of issues.  These things come together to indicate a severe degradation in the level of customer service being offered to the flying public by many of the airlines in business today.  The fuller the planes are, the less concerned some companies seem to be about trying to please the very people who are buying those tickets.  Although I am reluctant to name names, it appears that some of the AAmerican-based airlines that are Continental in their approach look as if they are United in their efforts to take passengers in their Jets of Blue, or other colors, through the US airways, from the Northwest part of our country, to the Midwest part of our country, across the Delta of the Mississippi and to all other Frontiers of the United States with less and less concern for those passengers' satisfaction.   However, this article went on to say that the airline with the lowest rate of complaints was…Southwest Airlines.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn't be, and it is because of Positively Outrageous Service.  Is Southwest perfect?  Are they always on time?  Do they always perfectly deliver a piece of luggage to its waiting owner in baggage claim?  Of course, the answer to all of these is "No!"  But, the difference is that when human mistakes occur, they are happening in the context of customers that already feel appreciated and pleased with the treatment they've gotten.  I've been on flights that departed late from their gate, and yet the flight attendants had people onboard laughing at stupid jokes and singing along with ridiculous songs.  The second article talked about the aviation collection at the University of Texas at Dallas that is primarily the remnants of Braniff's public affairs archive.  In that story, the curator of the collection along with a retired Braniff employee are interviewed as they reminisce about the bygone days of style, service and steaks in first class meals.  The article ends with the quote, "I can just imagine back in the 1960s and an airline said they were going to charge you for a meal – passengers would have flipped out."  That leads me back full circle to the new SWA television ads that feature a passenger having to feed quarters into a receptacle to access the ....  So many airlines these days appear eager to "nickel-and-dime" their passengers to supplement ailing bottom lines.  Upcharges for a snack, a fee to get headphones to listen to a movie and charging you to make a change to a ticket all add up to a lack of sensitivity to their passengers.  One particular AAirline recently informed us that to change an existing "free" (earned through mileage accrual) award ticket reservation booked in one passenger's name to another, without changing the flight numbers or dates, we would have to pay $100!  That seat was already saved in our name, but trying to 'give' the same exact seat to someone else when we were unable to use it was going to cost us $100, on a ticket that could be purchased for about $200.  A 50% premium for someone else to use that "free"seat! At Southwest, however, the atmosphere is one of providing service and pleasing the customer while having a great time doing it.  Other than a charge for alcoholic beverages, there are no additional fees to enjoy your flight experience on a SWA jet.  They consistently rate at the top of many passenger satisfaction polls, provide some of the best ontime performance of the industry and manage to keep making a profit while they're doing it.  The 'other' guys irritate their passengers, frustrate their employees, appear to run late pretty regularly and just keep losing money.  Their solution?  Nickel-and-dime the folks who fly with them!  Let's see, a strategy built around continuing to alienate the people who are keeping you in business.  What's wrong with this picture? It just seems like the attitude displayed by a number of air carriers is that they are doing US a favor by letting us ride on THEIR planes.  Is it just me, or has the cart gotten in front of the horse (proverbially speaking) somewhere along the way?   (Kim has been flying with Southwest since the early 70s both for pleasure and his business duties.)  
122 Comments
Not applicable
Darrell I find your comment interesting for a couple of reasons. "If you are in group C,with the policy of overfilling flightsÃ
Not applicable
Darrell, You really DO seem determined to view things negatively! You're really quite correct -- things are NOT perfect onboard all Southwest flights, any more than they are perfect in other areas of our lives. Whether or not it seems "fair", many times the benefits flow to those who show up sooner rather than later. The adage of "the early bird gets the worm" applies in lots of cases. Yes, the passengers who manage to check-in online earlier get the first choice of seats on Southwest planes. But, that is not any different than flying on any other airline. If you make a reservation of Airline A or B or any others today for a flight six months from now, you'll have a pretty decent chance of being able to virtually choose any seat on the plane. However, if you make your reservation a week before flight time, your choices of available seats will be significantly reduced. Also, I don't know if you've been to see a movie lately, but guess what? The early arrivers get first shot at where they want to sit. If it is a popular movie and you show up very close to show time, good luck in finding a good seat. Dropped by any popular dining establishments around 12:15 pm or 6:15 pm in a while? Believe me, seats will be hard to find, since they will be occupied by people who showed up at 11:45 am or 5:45 pm. As far as "rowdy children" go, yes, they can create an unpleasant atmosphere for everyone around them. But, once again, that phenomenon is not unique to Southwest Airlines. Consider restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and sporting events just to mention a few venues. If you are sitting in restaurant A and the neighboring table has some rowdy children, has it just become the fault of the owners of the restaurant that your peace of mind is being disrupted, or does the fault belong exactly where Jill has suggested: with the parents? Wouldn't it be just wonderful if we could create an environment where we wouldn't have to have 'rowdy children' around? While we're at it, let's eliminate folks who talk too loudly on their cellphones. Oh, and those people ahead of you in the express check-out lane at the grocery store who have 38 items in the 15-item lane. And the guy who cut you off on the freeway this morning. And the grumpy clerk at the convenience store should be banned, too. We all need to find the patience to cut each other a bit more slack. Remember that as we talk about banning those rowdy children that there were probably times that YOU were rowdy when you were young, too. How about the guy who cut you off on the freeway? Have you ever been involved in a medical emergency that required you to rush to a hospital? Are you glad that when you rushed your wife to the delivery room everyone didn't block your way and demand that you conform to their opinions of appropriate driving? Please try to consider that the Employees of Southwest are dealing with some of the most exasperating, unpredictable, irritating and maddening groups of creatures on the face of the Earth -- the ones who are called "people". I've seen Colleen's preaching about the Golden Rule turn an unpleasant situation into a much-improved one for everyone involved, but that at the end of the day, it is not a perfect world because WE are not perfect. Kim P. S. In case you're thinking I'm living in some utopian world of traveling, I assure you that I've spent many flights in the center seat, sandwiched between two large people, or trying to sleep in a seat that is being constantly kicked by a small person behind me. Somehow, I've managed to survive.
Not applicable
Ok...I'm a mom of two rowdies - and while I prefer to strap them in a car seat and turn up the radio to ignore them I must admit, there are times when you simply need to fly. I understand Darrell's point and it seems the issue of contention is based upon the notion he was in the C boarding line and by the time he boarded had to sit in a middle seat (I think his bags went on a vacation too). Had I been on his flight, I'd have loaned him my kids for pre-boarding! Then I would've happily sat in a middle seat next to someone else and pretended those rowdy kids weren't mine! The last time I flew with my children was several years ago - the experience was a nightmare for me and it wasn't because of the airline (it was Southwest of course) it was my children. My son was three and daughter was turning one. I was stressed thinking she'd scream for the takeoff and landing - she managed that fine but had some awful cough for the majority of the flight. So the cough was annoying for everyone around me - that started the trouble, then my three year old had to use the "potty" - Ever try to fit THREE individuals in the bathroom - one of which is just getting used to the idea of toilets? Well, the plane was bouncing around so I instructed my son to sit on the toilet, figured we would have less to clean up - low and behold - he missed. I was crouched down holding my coughing daughter in one arm and holding my sons legs with the other arm. I came out of the potty drenched in urine. Got back to my seat and a woman leans from across the aisle and politely suggested I use a little salt on my daughters tongue to get her to stop coughing. I must've stared at this woman like she was crazy - I carry a lot of things, but salt is not one of them. She must've read my look and she dug around her purse and guess what! She had a little packet of salt! Desperate to try anything to get my little one to stop coughing - I put the salt on my finger and stuck it in her mouth. She stopped coughing! Then immediately threw up all over me. At that moment I would've given anything to be in a car - but instead I was stuck in the middle seat with a one year old on my lap and my son trapped in a window seat. I had another hour on the flight and I remember thinking how awful I smelled. So - I know it is a terrible notion to be on a flight with children. I know some kids are not very well behaved - but consider the energy a child has and cooping them up on an airplane isn't much fun for the parents either. Perhaps the next time you notice those rowdy kids, pay extra attention to the parents - especially those making the trip alone with little ones - it isn't fun for us and we feel the pressure and annoying looks. We don't like it any better than the rest of you. Thought you'd enjoy insight from the other side...one day you may have to travel with kids...empathy goes a long way.... Jenny
Not applicable
Well, I'll risk Kim's ire at attacking his utopia. The case in point involved a woman who was in the A group who was literally incarcerated by a man and his undisciplined children. And who was, to her face, ridiculed by the stewardesses on the flight with one of them making a comment in my hearing: "maybe she should just hire her own ....private airplane." I fly Southwest because they provide reasonable fares and frequency of travel to locations that I need to access. I don't appreciate being villified as one of the "Darrells of the world" because I think that pollyanna views of the airline are false. Brian can be as smug as he wishes, but all customer service literature says your record is judged not by the positive comments you receive,rather by your response to the negative feedback that you get. Truth, SWA is a good airline and I wish them all the best in a very competitive market. But, they can't afford to be come complacent, or to believe their positive press. Open seating seems to work for some, but for many--those non-early birds who get screwed rather than getting the worm--it does not. And even for the early bird, there seems to be no control for handling unruly customers, including unruly children. So, villify me all you will, I will still fly SWA; but I will voice my complaints as well. For the last time, Darrell
Not applicable
Darrell, It may feel as if you are being "vilified" - feelings are what they are - emotions we can only experience as our brains and hearts allow. Yet, as an outside participant, I can only say I hardly see you as being "vilified" what I do see is a man, who found the perfect venue to share his story, his feelings and discontent about a system that failed his expectations. Wouldn't you agree, being able to write a "public comment card" is something very few organizations feature on their sites? The blog aside, I would imagine your comments are not being ignored. The issue of unruly passengers (regardless of age) is something I'm sure the airline is continually trying to educate their staff members in handling appropriately. You and I, we don't know...but we can let Corporate know when there is something we like or don't like. For the blog, I must say your post has generated quite a lively discussion - passion and debate and it is wonderful. I know you said you would keep sounding off and you would keep flying SWA. Take notes, let them know what is happening on the flights, because truth be told - how will they know if we don't tell? Open seating or assigned - that may not change but what about how FAs and other staff handle unruly passengers...and what classifies unruly...may have some play - It seems the FA should've just left the woman alone, and moved on to another passenger who wouldn't mind helping accommodate the man and his children. Did the FA ask the woman to move so the man and kids could sit together? Or was the issue the woman asked for help from the FA and was then ridiculed? I'm not that old, but I've decided I've earned the right to call it as I see it. I wish more of us would be so bold - perhaps the next time, you can, as you feel comfortable, say something directly to the FA - not mean - not arrogant - just factual...and humor doesn't hurt...let her know, the woman shouldn't be a target simply because....(insert the issue)...and explain how you might deal with the kids....maybe you could've formed an alliance with the woman (kinda like Survivor right?) - teamed up to outsmart the system...who knows, its not really my point...or was it????? Not trying to stir the pot, just trying to understand what's in it... Keep posting - I enjoy it! Jenny Frasco
Not applicable
Darrell, Thank you again for your thoughtful and meaningful input to this discussion. Please accept my apologies for my use of the term "Darrells of the world" if you saw that as an insult. I assure you that I was not trying to villify anyone, but was using your name as a reference to people who shared your opinions about Southwest Airlines. I continue to feel that you have every right to hold, and to share publicly, whatever opinions you choose to have about SWA. My personal sense, though, is that you are viewing the glass as "half-empty" instead of "half-full". There is NO question that Southwest is by definition not perfect simply because it is made up of human beings who are imperfect. I've never attempted to whitewash any of their mistakes or to sweep them under the rug, but still maintain that the difference is how they handle those issues, or as I titled this blog, "maybe it's all in the attitude". Yes, getting wedged into your seat by surrounding human vises is not anyone's first choice when they travel, and in addition to having occupied that center seat as often as any other randomly selected passenger, I've also had plenty of flights where I was the only one occupying the three seats in my row. I contend that it all evens out in the end. I think I can safely say that Brian is not smug, nor is my middle name "Pollyana", but we are both realistically honest in our assessment that as imperfect as the SW Employees are, they TRY harder than the employees of any other airline to make each Customer's experiences pleasant and enjoyable. As to your comments about kids -- I'll paraphrase a famous saying: "Alas, we will always have unruly kids with us..." Best wishes to you, Darrell, REGARDLESS of which airline you choose! Kim :-) Jenny, How is your paper coming along? Kim 🙂
Not applicable
Kim, The best part about this paper is the ability to get side-tracked and wrapped up in reading the endless stories and comments in this blog! As I sit surrounded by a pile of papers and books - I always find myself reducing the window to Word and coming back here! I had an idea for the paper, and as most of my projects start out - they go in an entirely different direction. I just let the paper go, where it leads and this time it lead me in the direction of relationship building. Our society has changed - from a time of small villages where everybody knew everyone - we have large metropolitan and suburban areas where you are lucky to even see your neighbor spending time outside. Holiday shopping, once a joy has turned into a nightmare with corporations feeding the frenzy by only offering a limited quantity of items at rock bottom prices. People are called nasty names, beat up, shot and even killed because of greed. People like me, avoid the shopping centers and malls and would rather shop online because frazzled and rude employees who could careless and people that would rather drop the door on you than hold it annoy me! So, basically, where does this lead us? We don't spend time developing relationships (I'm just as guilty) and I'm beginning to think, we don't know how to even develop them! When was the last time you walked in the grocery and had a meaningful conversation with the cashier? Most of the time people are annoyed if you are talking as it slows the line way down. How about in church? When was the last time you took the time to walk up to someone you do not know and introduce yourself? In business, when was the last time you sat down with a front line employee at lunch to see how it was going? (I think of the Friends episode with Ross and Joey). I know people in sales and they are always very personable, it is what makes them good salesmen. But what about those who provide a service like mail delivery or trash pick up - do you know who they are? Chances are you don't .... Yet, there are organizations out there who try to establish relationships. In the US just 8 percent of the total Fortune 500 companies have blogs (Walsh, 2006) and Southwest....well is blogging...and building relationships internally and externally. Customers have the opportunity to comment on everything - from service, seating, snacks, Employees, the weather, football - just about anything. Employees have the same freedoms too (who knew an entire page could be written about candy corn) and this expression offers the opportunity to build relationships. We all have something to offer positive and negative... there is always something at stake in a relationship - that is what makes this so risky! I'm in love with Southwest. If I lived in Texas - I'd be banging on the front door for an interview. The entire organization captures what the human spirit is all about. Life. Love and the Pursuit of Happiness. To borrow (and expand) from your earlier post Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Increased Profits = Happier Employees! It is such a simple equation...yet, the answer lies in human relations. That is the process of my paper - use your social capital to its fullest, manage your knowledge and share what you know (greater understanding of the bigger picture is necessary) and manage it all with love. I'm still writing and have to present on the 7th. I'm planning to turn this project into something larger as there is so much to cover (and uncover) that I cannot even begin to say I have a great understanding with only three months of work. Hey, aren't you glad you asked? Take care, enjoy the holiday season and where ever you travel - may you have a safe journey. Thanks for your incredible insight and quotes - I love reading your posts. Jenny
Not applicable
Is it common practice for Southwest to limit the dates in which you can reserve a flight? I am worried that Southwest is having issues. I am holding out hope that I can reserve with Southwest for this summer...but I fear I am going to lose out on other early reservation discounts from the competition if they don't open up their dates soon.
Not applicable
I've always enjoyed flying SWA, especially the friendliness and positive energy I've found among your employees. Still being active in the airline industry (49 years and counting), I can appreciate the approach SWA takes to customer service. However, I ran into a situation at Seattle's SeaTac airport which I think could be improved. I'm a senior (hence the 49 years of active airline service) and because I didn't have check-in luggage, I used your E-Ticket check-in machines. All went well until I tried to print the boarding passes. It told me to "see and agent", and lucky for me, one was standing beside me as well is right behind my machine. The agent next to me told me that because I was a senior, the agent, behind the counter would have to verify my age by checking my ID. No problem, I thought. When I offered her my ID, she said I'd have to get into the other non-E Ticket check in line, which was about a mile long. Of course, when I finally got to a counter, the agent did, in fact, check my ID, as they do for ALL passengers, and I got my boarding passes. Matching this experience to other of the many airlines I fly --both Domestic and International--I'll admit that this was a first. Why the agent behind the electronic check-in machines, who is there to check bags and help folks with their check-in process, couldn't have just check my ID and printed out my boarding passes, is beyond me. Perhaps a change in proceedure could not only remove the confusion and stress from a passenger, but smooth the check-in process along, as I not only took up time at the e-check-in machine from another passenger, but caused work for two agents instead of one. Keep up the good work and look forward to flying with you guys again, but the next time I guess I'll not waste my time by going to the e-ticket machine first. Frank
Not applicable
Hi Frank, Don't worry, there is a solution where you can use the Senior Fare and checkin online or at a kiosk. All you have to do is visit this page at southwest.com and verify your age ahead of time. Brian
Not applicable
I AM SEVERLY DISAPPOINTED IN SWA!!! IT IS THE MONTH OF FEB 2007, AND THEY RUN COMMERCIALS ADVERTISING A "WONDERFUL" FARE STARTING AT 49 EACH WAY THEY FLY, ONLY TO HAVE A "BAIT AND SWITCH" TACTIC!!!! WHEN I GET TO THE WEBSITE, NOT ONLY IS THE FAIR STARTING AT 169, BUT IT GOES UP TO 339, THIS IS SO SHADY FOR CUSTOMERS!! I HAVE TWO BABY GIRLS I WANTED TO HAVE COME TO CALIFORNIA FOR THE FIRST TIME, I HAVE NOT SEEN THEM IN 2 YEARS!!! SO I PHONE THE MOM TO SAY BOOK THE FLIGHT ONLY TO FIND OUT FROM HER THAT IT WAS NO WERE WHAT THEY ADVERTISED, SHAME ON SWA, SHAME, THAT IS SO WRONG!!! I REALLY WAS SO HAPPY THINKING I WAS GOING TO SEE MY GIRLS, AND YOU GUYS CRUSHED ME!!!! THANKS!
Not applicable
You really need to review your southwest vacations website. You cannot book more than one room at a time. Two couples would like a room each. Having checked with customer support they confirmed this to be the case. So I have now booked with Southwest Vacations who have the technology to service my business. For an airline that gave us great service at an affordable price I am amazed you are behind the eightball on technology. Brian
Not applicable
Whops, I meant America West Vacations Brian
Not applicable
Brian - Thank you for your comment concerning www.southwestvacations.com. We do understand your expectations and those same concerns have been expressed in a recent site survey. Southwest Vacations is working to improve the Customer experience for all current and future Customers. At this time we are unable to provide a release date of the NEW www.southwestvacations.com but know that we are challenged to improve the Customer experience that you so deserve. Jeremy Tompkins - Southwest Airlines - Marketing Operations.
Not applicable
But my mom will be visiting soon & she is 80 yrs. old. Very sharp & very physically great, but she hasn't been in an airplane for quite sometime. What do you suggest anyone??
Not applicable
I am talking about SW Airlines, not Brian who is doing some Southwest vacation share plan
Not applicable
I will never go to SW whatever... What's wrong w/you?
Not applicable
ALSO NO SALES
Not applicable
Huh? Wanna buy a time share condo in Odessa, TX?
Not applicable
Patti, Good luck with your Mom's visit, but you don't have to worry about Brian. He discontinued that Southwest share plan after several unsuccessful attempts to get cute young blondes to share his seat with him. He kept getting smacked in the head. But, I happen to have a bridge that I'd sell ya... External Blog Boy
Not applicable
I just flew to Houston Texas on 8-14-07. All went well. But on the return trip on 8-22-07, my suitcase, which is made of hard plastic, was completely broken. I purchased this suitcase because it would handle rough handling at the airport. In fact, the only way it could have been broken was that they had to drive over it. It is completely destroyed. Southwest has a problem. I will never fly with them again. The tickets were very reasonable, but if you figure the cost of a $200 suitcase, they don't compare. They were also an hour late on the takeoff, which put us one hour late of our goal. But the destruction of my suitcase burns me up. I recommend you fly someone else....Ken Eeds...541-672-6785!
Not applicable
We just flew from Love Field to Vegas (our 1st time from Love Filed) on 5-3-08 and we return on 5-7-08. We enjoyed it a lot better than when we flew American Airlines at DFW. I'll take Southwest Airlines anyday