Dad's tweet gets family removed from Southwest flight

One father sent an angry tweet to his Twitter followers and Southwest Airlines after a bad customer experience. It resulted in him and his kids being temporarily removed from the flight. Is Twitter the best customer feedback option?

Danny Johnston/AP
In this June 19, 2014 photo, baggage carts are towed to a Southwest Airlines jet at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Ark., as the Boeing 737 is serviced.

"Choose your words wisely" might be the best travel advice for one Minneapolis dad who was temporarily kicked off a Southwest flight with his kids after sending an angry tweet about his boarding experience.

According to ABC news, Duff Watson, a father of two, is an "A-list" level passenger with the airline, which includes early boarding for flights. However, Southwest asks families to board after the A group has completed boarding. When Mr. Watson tried to take his kids with him on the plane early, the gate agent in Denver held firm to the rules and told the family that they had to wait. According to reports, their exchange became a little less than friendly, and Watson tweeted about the incident from his @DuffWatson twitter account.

“I tweeted something like, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,’” he told ABC News.

Once aboard the plane, Mr. Watson was asked to de-plane with his kids, and was told by that same Southwest gate agent that she felt threatened. The gate agent told him that he would have to delete the tweet in order to re-board the plane. The father did eventually delete the tweet, but only after enduring the embarrassment of being removed from the plane and having his children scared.

The family was eventually allowed to re-board the plane and head home to Minneapolis, and the incident is currently being reviewed by Southwest, who has since lost a loyal customer.

“The point is not the order of boarding, the point is how she responded,” Watson told ABC news.

The bigger point for everyone involved might be the patience we need to have on both sides of the counter when traveling with kids, or working with families. And when it comes to customer service complaints, Twitter might offer the fastest delivery, but 140 characters might not convey the full gist of your complaint. 

I've tweeted customer complaints to airlines before, and have been challenged to convey a complete idea that doesn't make me sound like a total troll. Case in point, my husband and I were on a mid-day American Airlines flight in January with our toddler that included a violent cop show as in-flight entertainment, which seemed like a poor choice for a flight full of families. Tried as I might, my tweet to the airline didn't nearly sound as explanatory as I wanted it to.

What should have been conveyed as a message along the lines of: "Dear American Airlines, I would like to ask who made the choice to show late-night prime time cop shows with scenes of graphic violence on a mid-day flight? Is there some customer demographic evidence that shows these flights to be occupied by mostly adults? I only ask because I have a small child and I felt the images were quite violent for anyone under 18."

Instead turned into this on Twitter: "@AmericanAir how about NOT playing late-night prime time thriller cop dramas on mid-day flights with families?"

In my opinion, looking back at my tweet, I sounded like a lunatic. American Airlines was polite to respond with a canned "thank you for your feedback" but I am not entirely sure if the person reading their feed understood that I speak in complete sentences. That's the trouble with Twitter, and lots of our short-hand communications these days. A lack of space, combined with with exclamations and emoticons can lead to something that resembles a digital version of a ransom note.

Customer complaints might be worth a follow-up email, or even a phone conversation after the flight. And as this one father learned (and hopefully the gate agent as well), it might have been worth a little extra kindness on all sides to ensure no turbulence before take off.

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