Family Gets Kicked Off Flight After Father Tweets

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A father traveling with his two young daughters says he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Minneapolis-St. Paul because he posted a negative tweet about a gate agent, and wasn’t let back on the airplane until he agreed to delete the message from Twitter.

For one Minneapolis man, flying from Denver to the Twin Cities was anything but smooth on July 20, 2014. As an “A-List” Southwest member, Duff Watson had priority status allowing him to board his flight early. Although Mr. Watson’s two young children had been allowed to board early with him on previous occasions, on this day, his children were denied early boarding.

When he asked if the policy had changed, the gate agent avoided the question and said, “I am not going to change my mind.”

During the conversation, Watson asked for the gate agent’s last name. She replied with, “You don’t need my name for anything.” Watson warned her that he was going to post the exchange on Twitter. And that he did. He immediately tweeted about the incident.

‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA’

When you tweet to companies, sometimes you expect a tweet back in apology. Watson got more than that. Soon after boarding the plane, the agent in question asked for the family of three to deplane. The agent stated that she felt threatened because her name was used in the Tweet, and that the tweet had to be deleted. Watson Tweet 1

Watson’s daughter, Lucy, recalled “She said ‘I’m going to call the cops.’ I, like, thought something bad was going to happen, like my dad being in jail.”

Southwest released a statement reading:

“A Southwest Airlines employee and customer were having a conversation about the airline’s family boarding procedures that escalated. The customer was removed from flight #2347 from DEN to MSP for a period of time to resolve the conversation outside of the aircraft and away from the other passengers.”

After deleting the tweet, the Watson family continued on the flight to Minneapolis.
Watson, however, was not happy with the customer service and tweeted twice in the days following the incident.

Watson Tweet 2

Watson said the airline apologized by email and gave each family member a $50 voucher.
Later, the airline released another statement:

“The customer and his family later continued on the same flight to Minneapolis. We are thoroughly researching the event and, if necessary, will counsel those employees involved. For the customer’s inconvenience we offered vouchers as a gesture of goodwill.”

Watson Tweet 3

But, the damage is done. None of us would have been made aware of the situation if company policy and training had been followed appropriately.  This was not about social media, but about boarding procedures. The fact that it played on social media only highlights the need for consistency in training, policy and procedure.

Update from SWA 7/24/14 at 10:37 AM

We’ve reached out to the Customer and had a very productive conversation. We’ve apologized and our Company and Employees are ready to move forward serving more than a hundred million Customers annually.

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.

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