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Does Southwest Airlines LOVE Drunk Passengers but HATE Kids and their own Flight Crews?

Southwest Airlines, how profoundly you have DISTURBED me to the core. According to Jim, an airline aficionado, in recent months Southwest Airlines has received multiple citations for allowing drunken passengers to board their planes. Now, I understand why.

July 1st, 2oo7

I arrive at Burbank Airport with my cousins Cheetah (age 14) and JT (age 12). I am the specially designated ESCORT as Cheetah and JT are flying home – unaccompanied – to reunite with their parents in Phoenix, Arizona. They are on Flight 733 from Burbank, California to Phoenix, Arizona. Their flight, departing at 8:50 p.m., is the last of the day.

After window shopping at the CNBC store (great 50% off deals on luggage, by the way) and refueling JT with a Dr. Pepper, we mosey on over to gate A-4 to the A boarding line. We are the 10-13 people in line, respectively. We are having a good time and all is going well. I should point out that people waiting in the A line typically have a good set-up because the A line is usually against a wall or a row of seats. So one should make the assumption that anyone sitting in these seats is indeed in the A line.

Well ambling, almost stumbling, over comes a sunburned monstrosity in an orange and white striped tanktop (hereby referred to as OW Tank). JT is a bit anxious, as he gets when anyone “cuts in line”. But we tell him to chill. In fact I give OW Tank the benefit of the doubt saying that perhaps she doesn’t know how the lines work. After all, it’s been a great visit so far and I’m trying to keep it on a positive note.

So JT chills and Cheetah and I are talking about something or another when low and behold, OW Tank starts blabbing on and on and on to JT about something. Like one-sided weird conversation blabbing about how young he is and about how she just went to the Warped Tour. And doesn’t JT know this band and what a “retard” and how “full of shit” he is.

I initially try to redirect the convo to me, passive-aggressively pulling JT out of the conversation and ignoring OW Tank. But ultimately I can’t ignore the warning signals marked by the slurred foul language. I tell Cheetah and JT to gather their things. OW Tank then breathes on me, “I’m 25, I feel so old.” And there it is, the deep, rank, whiskey breath of a person who is undoubtedly smashed.

I direct Cheetah and JT over to the pre-board area and eventually get the attention of gate agent EARL. I explain to him about the drunk passenger making inappropriate conversation with JT and won’t he please let him on at the end of the pre-boards as they’re unaccompanied minors and in the A group anyway. That way we can alert the flight crew to keep OW Tank away from the kids. Earl responds with, okay, I guess I can let them pre-board but you really need a blue pre-board pass. (Um, okay, I’ll be sure to request one the next time a drunkie is harassing kids in my charge. Idiot.)

Earl needs a refresher in Southwest Airline’s Mission Statement:

The Mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and Company Spirit… it is another way of saying, “we always try to do the right thing!”… We want you to have confidence in our airline and Employees… We tell our employees that we are in the Customer Service business – we just happen to provide airline transportation…

Earl obviously doesn’t get it. I calmly (and I do say calmly because anyone witness to my interactions with the Southwest Airline Employees will attest that while I was disturbed, I was highly calm and rational) go over to the desk where a blond gate agent is and explain the situation to her. The blond gate agent directs me to RICHARD, the customer service supervisor, who “fortuitously” happens to be right next to me.

I explain to Richard that:

  • these two unaccompanied 12 and 14 year old kids are passengers on this flight
  • while waiting in the A boarding line, a drunk passenger said inappropriate things to the 12-year old.
  • I need to ensure that the drunk passenger does not sit next to these kids

Richard responds that:

  • I am the only witness to the drunk passenger and that is not enough to take any sort of action
  • He cannot ensure that the drunk passenger will not sit next to the kids because it is open seating and the drunk passenger can sit wherever she so chooses
  • He will not call the flight crew and explain the situation to them and tell them to keep an eye on the kids because if they suspect that the drunk passenger is drunk, they will not let the drunk passenger on the plane
  • The kids are, however, invited to board the next flight which is tomorrow morning.

I try to express how disturbing his logic is but the lines are moving fast, OW Tank is already on the plane and these kids HAVE to get on this plane (lest their ongoing travel plans will be put in peril.) I make the sign of the cross over my heart, hug the kids, tell them to let the flight crew know if the drunkie tries to harass them again, and watch them disappear onto the tarmac. Thank god these kids are mature enough to know how to do the right thing.

So there you have it, as iterated by RICHARD, the SWA CUSTOMER SERVICE SUPERVISOR, Southwest Airlines:

  • Takes little value in the single EYEWITNESS testimony concerning disturbances which could put their flight crew and passengers in peril.
  • Values getting their “Customer Service” Representatives off of their shifts in time more than they value the safety of their flight crew.
  • Cares more about getting DRUNKS harassing children on their planes than they do about the generally SAFETY of CHILDREN, much less the general PASSENGER POPULATION.

Shame, shame, shame on them.

UPDATE – July 2,2007

This morning, I had a reassuring conversation with a Corporate Southwest Airlines Customer Service Representative who expressed equal shock, horror and empathy at the recitation of what happened last night. She typed up an incident report and suggested that I additionally send a letter to the airline detailing the concerning situation. Check and check.


One Response

  1. […] 24, 2007 Today, I received a letter from Southwest Airlines regarding the incident in which a drunk passenger assaulted a minor. Their response: I am deeply disheartened to learn of the frustration and disappointment you […]

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