Here’s a glimpse into my life with Sarcoidosis. My husband needed to visit his father in Florida and we took a free flight with Southwest where I accrue points through frequent visits to the Cleveland Clinic. I go all the way to Cleveland where my insurance covers less because it is there that I found a doctor who understands this rare disease.
So on that particular day, as I am never sure how I will feel, I was too weak to stand through the line at security and chose to go in a wheelchair instead. When I finally made it to the gate, I was first in line. A few minutes later, a person (who being of a different race kind of made me feel reverse-discriminated) got pushed in front of me by a similar race employee. I said nothing because the guy in the wheelchair looked pretty bad and by all means he should have entered the plane first. But then another employee started measuring our carry ons (purchased recently at TJ Maxi specifically because they conformed to Southwest’s size policy). He then forced us to check those bags rather than allow us to carry them on. Now I was boarding the plane second, the bags were size compliant, AND my medications were inside!
Being a bit upset at this point-I NEVER check bags after lots of lost luggage issues, I tweeted my displeasure. This was picked up by Southwest’s twitter account and they apologized and offered something in return. I never found out what the something was , however, as they immediately redacted the offer and sent my problem to a higher up person at the airlines. I was asked to take pictures of my medication and my luggage, etc. and submit those-which I did. I was told that it would be a few weeks before hearing anything, and here’s what I received today (note-despite what the letter says, we were among the first to board and sat in the front row):
Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns about your and Jeffery’s travel on December 16.
We were saddened to hear of your frustration at being asked to check Jeffery’s bag when boarding your flight in Baltimore. Please understand that there are times when the amount of available stowage space does not permit every Customer to carry on their belongings, and some items may have to be gate-checked. In researching your concerns, I see you and Jeffery were among the last Customers to board Flight #3797, which was a full flight. I surmise that insufficient space remained for Jeffery’s bag and our Employees determined it was necessary to gate check his item. Nevertheless, we apologize for your inconvenience, especially if you felt our Employees should have made an exception based on your disability.
I want to take this opportunity to advise you that your concerns are governed by federal regulations; specifically, airlines are required by law to provide a dispositive response when Customers have a disability-related complaint. In your case, we did not fail to comply with federal regulations in providing you and Jeffery with equivalent service as our Customers. Regardless of whether we lived up to the “letter of the law” however, we humbly acknowledge that your Customer Service expectations were not met.
It is worth noting that all Southwest Airlines Customer-contact Employees must complete initial and recurrent disability awareness training. We realize this is a very sensitive issue, and it is certainly not our intent to make any Customer feel embarrassed or self-conscious while traveling with us. Any time a Customer calls into question the performance of one of our Employees, our reputation is at stake, and we most certainly could not—and would not—enjoy the success we’ve known if we approached such matters cavalierly. Being rude to a Customer is inappropriate—regardless of whether or not the Customer has a disability—and Southwest Airlines expects our People to be polite. I can promise you that Southwest expects its People to behave in a professional manner, and we certainly apologize if the manner in which our Employee addressed you lacked sensitivity or consideration.
We are fully committed to providing our Customers with affordable, dependable, and genuinely friendly air travel, and we will continue to do our very best to meet or exceed our Customers’ expectations. It would be our pleasure to welcome you onboard again soon under more favorable circumstances.
A sappy reply, don’t you think?