Above And Beyond: Southwest Melts Customer's Heart After Deicing Snafu

Dan’s family changed planes in snowy Chicago while on their way to sunny Orlando. Before taking off, their Southwest flight spent three hours awaiting deicing on the tarmac. Dan’s family took the delay in stride.

The pilot kept us informed (he even said at time he would pull back into the gate if we were there much longer) and the flight crew were very helpful and understanding. No one got upset, we all just tried to make the best of it.

After returning from Orlando, Dan did not complain about the delay to Southwest. That did not stop Southwest from apologizing…

(Photo: isotopp)

Dan’s email:

My family flew to Orlando on Wednesday, April 11 on Southwest Airlines. We had to switch planes at Chicago Midway. Well we got stuck on the taxiway for three hours waiting to get de-iced. Actually it was not as unpleasant as it could have been. The pilot kept us informed (he even said at time he would pull back into the gate if we were there much longer) and the flight crew were very helpful and understanding. No one got upset, we all just tried to make the best of it.

Today I had a nice surprise when I brought in the mail. Every one of us, my wife, daughter, son, our niece and myself received a letter from Frederick T. Taylor, Senior Manager of Proactive Customer Service Communications (can you believe such a department exists!) apologizing for the delay, and telling us they will examine their planning and execution (or lack thereof) his own words) at Midway to avoid similar ordeals in the future. Also enclosed with the letter were roundtrip passes to anywhere Southwest flies, valid for one year.

We didn’t complain about the delay and I wonder if anyone else did. This was totally unexpected and has made me a loyal Southwest customer and I want to share it with everyone. There are companies out there who go above and beyond.

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/soutwestletter-thumb.jpg?w=500&h=743
Vouchers for everyone in the family? Not too shabby for an unsolicited apology. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Comments

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  1. Tophernet says:

    This is why I REFUSE to go to any city that Southwest doesn’t serve. Simply put, they have the BEST employees and customer service!

  2. Scazza says:

    Its sad that out of hundreds of airline stories, so few are positive. Glad to hear SW doing something great for the customer.

  3. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Damn! I love you, Southwest!

    I didn’t get anything from US Air when my flight from Philly was delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours, and still nothing when we had to return to the airport to make an emergency landing because the plane caught fire.

  4. Wow. I felt all tingly inside after reading this post. Just, awesome.

  5. bendsley says:

    How great for you and for Southwest doing that. I fly them whenever possible.

    My parents had free (layover/bumping rewards from last year) round trip tickets to go to Tennessee and wanted to take my son. Their tickets were with American. American wanted to charge over $1000 for a 3yr old to go from Texas to Tennessee and back. Obviously, this was a little pricey for something like this. Anyway, my parents called Southwest and they gave a 15% discount for each of my parents’ tickets and gave my son his ticket for free. NOW THAT IS SERVICE.

    Rock on Southwest. Keep it up.

  6. mrdelayer says:

    For some reason, I thought of a transplant patient’s heart being carried in a cooler on a plane and Southwest managing to screw it up somehow.

  7. LAGirl says:

    @mrdelayer: heh heh.

  8. timmus says:

    Listen to the cluebird, United.

  9. geekaren says:

    Southwest is unique in that they offer great pricing as well as excellent customer service. Simply put, Southwest rocks!

  10. dev444 says:

    I agree that Southwest Airlines has excellent customer service in that they have personally called me before when I sent a letter recommending a new feature on their website.

    My question is, why would they send a “memorandum” to a customer? It seems like we’re missing part of the story.

  11. Contrast to United, who still has not replied to my written correspondence three weeks after I wrote and called them.

    Take a note, “Untied” Airlines.

  12. That logo freaks me out, though. A heart with wings? Yeek. But what a fantastic outcome.

    It’s also interesting that Southwest is headquartered in “Love Field” in Dallas, TX. Because “Love Field” is an awesome Elvis Costello song. But you knew that, didn’t you?

  13. fabmandan says:

    Its me, Dan, the one who sent in this story. I forgot to mention that our flight back home arrived 20 minutes early!

  14. geofffox says:

    My wife and I are loyal Southwest fliers. Years ago, we switched to the Southwest Visa card. The administering bank is a p-i-t-a, but the card’s benefits are amazing. Southwest has the lowest needed mileage/credit card points for a free trip. I have booked as late as the night before – with no problem using my mileage!

    My daughter is a college student. We charge her tuition… so we really rack up the miles. Enough so, last year, we qualified for a companion pass. It seems too good to be true – but it’s not.

    Anytime I fly, my companion (my wife) flies free. When I say any time, I mean using my free Rapid Rewards tickets, my wife still accompanies me for free (just TSA charges). We flew to Vegas that way last month.

    Oh – and when you qualify for a free tickets, Southwest sends you a book for free inflight drinks (aka liquor)

    I am a huge Southwest fan.

  15. anderswright says:

    Ah, a comment on this. Actually, the NY Times wrote a feature on this guy just scant weeks ago, discussing his rise from lowly office dude to serial apologizer. He now knows everyone in the company, and anytime something goes wrong w/Southwest, he’s immediately on the case, deciding whether or not to write apology letters. Apologizing, literally, is his full-time job.

  16. Slytherin says:

    Just proves why I love Southwest!

  17. jgodsey says:

    WOW. has hell frozen over.
    and no i don’t love southwest, their policy is that people are sheep and don’t need any legroom.
    i always get cramp when i ride with them.

  18. moorie679 says:

    Southwest Rocks…… I fly them whenever possible (too bad they do not do international flights) I hope they expand their service to other locations…

  19. GearheadGeek says:

    I’m not sure it’s fair to say that Southwest thinks people are sheep, it’s just that they’re the SkyBus. I’ve been flying Southwest nearly since they started, since they linked Dallas and San Antonio so cheaply that it was less expensive to fly than drive in the early ’70s (on the weekend specials), my first plane trip was to visit my grandparents with Mom. The flight attendants were still stewardesses then, and were wearing hotpants and gogo boots.

    There’s a reason Southwest makes money… they know how to run a business and how to keep customers.

  20. delphi_ote says:

    Make sure the voucher actually says “free flight” on it before you get too excited. Oh, wait. We’re talking about a real airline, not AirTran…

  21. AgentMOO says:

    Did they warm his icy heart with a cool island song? No, wait that’s not right… they must have cooled his warm heart with a hot island song? no, that’s not right either…

  22. Paul says:

    The article title totally threw me off on this one. I thought Southwest had screwed up with a donor heart meant for somebody’s heart transplant! Hooray for Southwest for not literally melting somebody’s heart. You know Verizon would have, given the opportunity.

  23. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:


    @jgodsey: I think it depends heavily on the type of plane. Normally I don’t have leg-room issues with Southwest, but I had a recent flight on a 757 “overwater” from Vegas to MHT, and I thought I was going to have to get my legs amputate at the end of the 5 hour flight. With that rare exception, I’ve always had good experiences on Southwest (and that had to do with the plane, not the service).

    The whole open seating thing can be annoying if you end up in B or C gate, but you just have to be early to the airport or print out your boarding passes the night before on-line. All the airlines have pretty much turned into flying Greyhound buses, and for the price..especially on Southwest…I’ll live with it.

  24. ingridc says:

    The NY Times wrote a piece about Fred Taylor Jr. and his position as the “chief apology officer” for Southwest Airlines. I found it an entertaining read: Article here.

    It’s an archived piece so hopefully that link will come up with the full article. If not, you could always try the NY Times Select option previously mentioned here.

    I heart the Consumerist!

  25. zolielo says:

    Cary please watch the language… You do know what snafu means, right? Might seem common to use it as a term but a lot of people, e.g. FAA, can get quite mad…

  26. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @geofffox:

    Agreed, the SW companion pass may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. My fiancee and I had one for a year, and we took 1-2 trips a month all over the country that were either ~$250 (if we bought a ticket) or $10 (for TSA fees when using a free ticket) roundtrip for both of us. We really miss not having it now, hope to get another one sometime!

  27. deltasleep says:

    Too few businesses value a relationship with their customers! The average airline customer has been so pummeled and abused that it really takes a lot less than this to befriend them- but this makes a friend for life. Kind gestures are few and far between.
    The computer business is that way too- I’m a loyal newegg customer after they accepted a return that their policy said they shouldn’t, even thought it was MY fault and I told them.

  28. pestie says:

    I can’t even remember the last time I flew any airline other than Southwest. They have never once screwed me on anything, and they’re always so nice it almost hurts.

  29. pestie says:

    @zolielo: OK, what does the FAA’s tolerance for non-family-friendly language have to do with anything?

  30. zolielo says:

    Just something which happened to happen and was on the top of my mind at the time. Still Carey please keep consumerist family friends.

  31. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @zolielo: Would FUBAR have been better?

  32. pestie says:

    Not everything on the whole internet needs to be sanitized and given brightly-colored rounded plastic corners. People here swear all the time, up to and including dropping the F-bomb. I don’t think you’re going to have much luck attempting to impose your puritanical morality on the rest of us.

  33. zolielo says:

    lol