Earlier this week, I took part in a panel discussion at SXSW on “The Legal Ramifications Of Saying ‘I’m Sorry,’” along with a senior executive from Southwest Airlines who explained why his company believes it’s best to be proactive about apologizing to customers when a mistake has been made. A few days later, Southwest was given the chance to make good on its claim.
On Wednesday, a Muslim woman was removed from a Southwest flight after a crew member thought they had overheard the passenger say something vaguely threatening over her cell phone.
Before the plane took off from San Diego en route to San Jose, CA, the crew member thought they heard the passenger, wearing a head scarf, say something like “It’s a go” to someone over her mobile phone. This was apparently enough to make the woman a terror suspect.
“They weren’t even sure what I said,” the passenger, a graduate student, told reporters after the incident. She claims she only said, “I’ve got to go” because the plane was ready to push back from the gate.
“I was in tears,” she said. “I have lived in the United States 10 years. I am a U.S. citizen.”
After the woman was removed from the plane by Southwest staffers, it was determined that she was indeed not a threat. The airline gave her a ticket for the next flight to San Jose and a free travel voucher.
“We sincerely apologize for the customer’s inconvenience, and we regret that she was unable to travel as scheduled,” the airline said in a statement.
Regardless, the passenger says she gave the voucher away and will not fly Southwest again.